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What is Shiatsu?

What is Shiatsu? This is not a very commonly known modality and I hear this question a lot.

Wataru Ohashi explains in his book "do-it-yourself Shiatsu" the Japanese word Shi means finger and atsu means pressure. Shiatsu is also called acupressure. It is oriental bodywork where particular points of the body are pressed to ease aches, pains, tension and symptoms of disease. These points are energy pathways through the body and can be tender when the flow of energy is blocked. By manipulating those points the energy circulation gets enhanced. Tender energy points however are not usually where the complaint is. For example to relieve a headache points might be stimulated on the arms or legs.

I like to describe shiatsu as being a modality between massage and acupuncture. It addresses soft tissue concerns without needing to get undressed. This is a great advantage for those who feel shy about receiving massage. Similarly people who may have a fear of needles (as are used in acupuncture) can still go deeper and address issues beyond those addressed by massage alone. The session is based on the accumulated knowledge of 5000-year-old Chinese medicine.

Similar to 5-element acupuncture the person is evaluated based on the knowledge of the 5 elements: metal, earth, fire, water and wood. During the intake, the meridian (or energy) stretches, and the touching of the hara (the pulses found in the belly area), the practitioner evaluates the person's elemental balance and how it relates to the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. If one element is too dominant or too weak over a long period of time tendencies and imbalances in a person could develop into diagnosable diseases. Western medicine treats these diseases with medication. But eastern medicine looks to strengthen or sedate the elements to bring them back into harmony, to prevent disease and to give the person a sense of overall well-being.

Shiatsu is best used to maintain health and vitality, to strengthen internal organs and to prevent energy from getting blocked in the first place. Additionally Shiatsu can address physical discomforts and symptoms like sleeping disorders, digestive problems, muscular discomfort or headaches. On an emotional level, it can bring excess emotions like anger, fear, grief, worry and sadness back into a normal range. It can help bring life into focus, seeing the bigger picture. In general, it can be a great support during life changes such as a job change, a move, a divorce, an illness, finding one's life purpose and goals. Caregivers can also greatly benefit.

The Session
Shiatsu is traditionally performed on a floor matt dressed in loose comfortable clothing. Antje often will use the massage table to perform a shiatsu session. Allow 120 min. for your first session. The fee is $145 for the first session and $120 for a 90 min. follow-up session and $ 100 for a 60 min. follow-up session. Please give 48 hours notice if you need to reschedule your session.

Antje practices at Camden Whole Health, Camden, Maine at 91 Elm St. (Rt 1,)

Call for an appointment: 207-542-4285,or email at

To read more detailed about a typical Shiatsu session read Antje's article 'What is Shiatsu?' in the Inner Tapestry.

Antje Roitzsch is a Shiatsu practitioner and Massage Therapist. She attended Downeast School of Massage in 1999. She spent seven months in New York City advancing her Shiatsu study at the Ohashi Institute in 2005.