Excerpted from "The Book of Ch'i: Harnessing the Healing Force of Energy," with permission of Tuttle Publishing.

The main thrust of shiatsu treatment is preventative. It is an intervention designed to encourage the flow of ki [also spelled "ch'i"] around the body. A balanced flow of ki sustains good health. Shiatsu stimulates blood circulation and the lymphatic systems, helping the body to clear itself of lactic acid and other unwanted toxins. The stimulation of the internal organs, endocrine and autonomic systems, encourages them to function healthily. Investigations have indicated that applying pressure to the tsubos [Japanese for acupressure points] releases the body's natural pain killers, endorphins and enkephalins. By receiving regular treatments the body is toned, toxins are cleared, and energy flow is evened, so that our mind can work with our body's fullest attention.

Shiatsu can also be effective in treating special ailments and conditions. Practitioners' case notes and studies demonstrate many successful interventions to help patients with a variety of conditions. These vary from strains, chronic back pain, stress, and anxiety to the relief of asthma and bronchitis. Shiatsu makes its diagnoses according to the theoretical principles of classical Chinese medicine. It is not surprising therefore that it will treat the same tsubos for the same conditions as the acupuncturist, but with thumb and finger pressure, palming, and stretching, rather than the insertion of needles.

The sensitivity in the practitioner's hands and body can modify and adapt shiatsu technique to relieve almost all conditions. However, while shiatsu may be able to relieve many conditions, it cannot cure a tumor or heal a diseased tooth. It will stimulate and revitalize the body's energy, bringing a balance to body and mind that will help you fight the cancer. With a toothache, more immediate pain relief may be brought. The tooth can be anaesthetized by squeezing the deltoid muscle at the top of the shoulder for pain in the upper jaw or by firmly squeezing the pectoralis major muscle found close to the front of the armpit. However, you will still need to get [proper dental treatment]. When the shiatsu practitioner offers a specific treatment focused on a particular ailment, it is to generate the healing process through the stimulation of ki in that area, alerting and mobilizing the body's natural defenses. It is through this holistic process that shiatsu provides the best circumstances for the body to heal itself.

There are of course contraindications to the use of shiatsu, such as in the case of infections that may be spread around the body. The diagnostic process should alert the practitioner to any situations where treatment needs to be modified or avoided altogether. It is therefore essential that you provide a complete picture of your health to the practitioner before embarking on any treatment process.

Shiatsu, as befits a holistic philosophy of life, is an energetic system of health care which looks at the state of the receiver's mind as well as the body. The practitioner is dedicated to the purpose of healing the whole person, requiring experience, patience, empathy, and compassion. Although it can take many successful interventions to treat acute illness and bring relief to pain and stress in the body, its greatest benefits come from regular treatment. Therefore, it requires a commitment to treatment and a willingness from the receiver to take a reasonably long-term view of its effects on any particular condition. Immediate benefits will come from toning of the body and the easing of tightness and strain in the muscle groups, energizing the body. An energetic body will naturally make you feel alert and alive, stimulating the mind and renewing its capacity to deal with stress and the vicissitudes of everyday life. The more frequently you receive treatment, the more likely it is that you will become attuned to your own body and how to care for it. An essential part of this body maintenance program will be the self-treatment routines and exercises that the practitioner will teach you.

As with any other health professional, the more familiar the shiatsu practitioner becomes with your particular condition and personality, the more likely it is that he will be able to help you. Equally, your confidence in the practitioner is vital. The openness with which you receive the treatment and the likelihood of your heeding their advice depend on this confidence. Shiatsu can be given to you without your belief or commitment, but it will probably not be such a redeeming experience without your co-operation. When empathy flows both ways, the true healing of mind and body can be attempted.

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