Leg Length Check: How do we use it in shin tai?

The leg length check that we use in shin tai is used for assessing soft tissue stress in the body and also alignment of the pelvic structure. Usually the assessment for soft tissue stress is done in prone position (face down), while the structural assessment is done in supine (face up).

The leg length check is a valuable tool to feel into the body and gather information to guide treatment

Assessing Meningal Stress

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When doing Central Channel we use the leg length check to assess soft tissue stress in the body, especially meningal stress patterns. The receiver is in prone position (except in some advanced central channel work) and the assessment of leg length discrepancy is done at the heels. While holding the feet in the leg length check position, look down at the most inferior level of the heels and determine which side, if any, is ‘short.’

Keep in mind that the leg length check is not actually a check of leg length itself; it is an indicator of soft tissue stress patterns in the body, especially the meninges. Restriction and unsymmetrical torquing of the resulting tension patterns throughout the body can cause one side to appear shorter than the other. This assessment is usually done in prone position so that the sacrum is more free floating and possible structural misalignments there are not dominating the reading.

Why do we check at the heels in this case? Compression that could be present in the joint articulations between the interior malleolus and the calcaneus bone of the heel is considered a valid part of the leg length reading and should be included in the assessment. This goes for any shin tai work that is using leg length check as an evaluation of soft tissue and meningal stress in the system. For those of you who have studied advanced central channel work, this applies when doing the check in prone or supine position. It can be of value to notice if there are compressive forces between the malleolus and heel and keep an eye on how this can change.

Assessing Structure

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We check leg length at the internal malleoli when assessing the structure, because it gives the most accurate reading of pelvic structural alignment. In this case we do not want to include the effects of compressive forces within soft tissue of the ankle bones in our evaluation, because we want the reading to be giving information primarily about the alignment of the structure, not the soft tissue system. We do this structural check in supine position so that the sacrum is stabilized; this makes meningal/soft tissue effects from everything above the sacrum less of a factor in the reading.

Central Channel Diagnostic Tools

Let’s review the evaluation tools we can use when doing central channel work. These diagnostic methods are used to gather information about the body and serve as guides to treatment:

  • Motion - observation around and in the body for movements and impressions

  • Radiation - check by scanning with hand or 3rd eye

  • Achilles Tendons - gentle palpation to assess tension and symmetry; notice the qualities in each side: tension, stiffness, asymmetry, curvature, etc. - this can give information about the stress level and stress history in the system

  • Leg Length Check - traction, dorsiflexion, eversion, adduction - all in one fluid motion

  • Critical Point/Alert Response - the critical point is a sensation, it catches our attention

These evaluations can be used on their own or all together. When the body is in pre-phase I or phase I motion, they are used in a more deliberate, systematic way in order to facilitate the more linear treatment to proceed effectively. As restrictive patterns begin to loosen and release and life force circulates and creates more motion, these assessment tools tend to be used more fluidly as they present themselves to the practitioner.

Leg Length Check Details

The Leg Length Check is an evaluation to get information about the amount and type of stresses in a receiver’s system. Usually the short leg is ‘apparent’ and not actually shorter than the other. This becomes clear as the stress patterns release and the ‘short’ leg becomes equal or longer and stays that way for longer periods of time.

A true short leg is possible, but not that common. In our experience, it is anatomically present in less than 5% of people. Working with someone with a true short leg demands more focus, as you will be adjusting your reading to see ‘equal’ differently than usual.

 
 

The leg length check takes practice and finesse to do. Do not take it for granted! It develops over time, can always be improved, and you will learn new facets of it as you gain experience. Let’s go over the 4 parts of the leg length check:

  1. Traction - just enough to take out the slack;  connect up through the meninges into the occiput; make sure not to push in after the initial tractioning (this is a common mistake, even among experienced practitioners)

  2. Dorsiflexion - flex to the easy motion barrier

  3. Eversion - do not butterfly the feet outwards

  4. Adduction - do not need to force feet all the way together, take the adduction firmly into to the easy motion barrier of the movement and then assess from there

These four parts eventually become integrated into one smooth motion. It is a good idea to break them down sometimes and do the leg length check very deliberately in order to check on your technique.

Another aspect to consider is that the quality of the leg length check changes depending on what phase of motion is happening in the body. More motion = a less deliberate, physical leg length check.

  • Phase I motion: the check is more mechanical and clinical; all 4 parts are incorporated deliberately

  • Phase II motion: the check can be done by gently doing a version of the four motions right above the heel (instead of wrapping your hands around the feet); there is less physical movement of the feet in order to do the check and it is more of a feeling

  • Phase III motion: the check is more implied and sometimes quite light and quick

In Conclusion

The leg length check is a valuable tool to feel into the body and gather information to guide treatment. We can use it to understand the type of stress and history of stress in someone’s system. We can get a clear impression of where restrictions are and how they reverberate through the body. We can be guided with precision as to the where, how and when to make contact during a treatment. We can perceive when stress patterns release and allow life force to circulate and adjust and enliven a person’s body and life. Putting some of our attention on this assessment method in order to keep developing it is worth the focus required!

The Practitioner-Client Relationship & the Phases of Motion

The Client-Practitioner Relationship

Do you ever wonder why you relate differently to each client that shows up in your treatment room? Of course, personalities (ours and theirs) play a big role, as well as circumstances, conditioning, expectations, etc. But there is another, rarely identified reason for why we vary our approach in working with each client: the phase of motion that is currently prominent in their body. In other words, the amount of life force flowing through someone’s system determines not only how we do bodywork with them, but how we relate to them. Most of the time this is done unconsciously; by doing it consciously we can interact in ways that promote effective treatments.

The 3 Phases of Motion & Treatment Approach

If you have studied Shin Tai work, you have heard about the ‘phases of motion’ or ‘phases of resonance’ that are broadly delineated as Phase I, II & III. Motion throughout the body reveals the internal life force and healing power that is flowing through someone’s system. We learn to identify specific motions that indicate restrictive forces are releasing and the life force that has been trapped is circulating more freely.

These motions can quite general, such as increased breath amplitude, or very specific, like lateral rib motion. They are broadly grouped into 3 categories, I, II & III. Identifying the dominant phase of motion at any time during a session becomes a guideline for how the practitioner applies technique.

The motion in the receiver’s body is an effective guide for how to work in order to give an effective, efficient session. For example, if there is ample motion in the thoracic/cervical spine, and ribcage, but little movement in the hip structure, the practitioner may work to mobilize and align the hip joints and sacrum so that motion/life force can distribute down through the pelvis and into the legs.

In our last article we mentioned that when there is less motion in the body, the practitioner needs to do more hands-on, physical techniques in order to introduce adjustments in the body. We are initiating change from the ‘outside - in.’ As movement increases, indicating release of compressive forces, the client’s own inner life force begins to do the ‘work’ of the treatment more. Now the practitioner gives less physical input. For example, a vertebral adjustment during Phase I motion requires more time and a deeper touch that one done during Phase II/III resonance.

Using motion in this way is quite unique in the bodywork world and one of the things that makes shin tai work so effective. Although being aware of motion in a general way is common, it is another thing to go into it with such detail and use it as a framework for how to proceed during treatment. This capacity of the practitioner to perceive motion in this way helps to amplify life force deep within the body and heightens the potential to introduce deep change. Applying this principle of identification and perception of motion to the client-practitioner relationship can increase efficiency and effectiveness in a similar way.

Motion & the Emotions

Dealing with client interactions before, during and after treatments can have quite a learning curve. Usually bodywork training focuses on theory and technique, without much education on how to relate to those who will show up in your treatment room. It can be one of the most challenging parts of doing treatments and one of the main factors in building a thriving practice. We would like to offer insight into using the phases of motion as a tool to better navigate interactions with clientele.

During pre-phase I/phase I motion, a person’s body is in a more restricted and dense state. The hara may feel like it is in separate ‘pieces,’ with some areas being tight and others very loose. The spine feels rigid with little wave motion into the head or down into the legs. When the body is in this condition, the emotional and psychological state is usually in a similar state expressed at these other levels: more separate and polarizing, rather than synthesized and functioning together.

Opinions might be strong and defensive. People and situations and the overall world view is seen in a polarized fashion with little room for open listening. Perceptions and beliefs tend to be more narrow. Because there is literally less space in the body, there is usually less ‘space’ in the emotions, beliefs and perceptions. As a practitioner, you can use this awareness to guide your choices in how to interact with the people who come to you so that you can work more effectively and enjoyably with them.

The Practitioner-Client Relationship…. or is it?

Phase I

Some clients will come to you with a list of symptoms and a litany of explanations and questions. They want a condition cured so that they can get on with their life. Perhaps they have a herniated disc in their lower back or menstrual issues or migraine headaches. The symptoms or diagnosed condition have the focus of their attention and are usually a large part of the conversation.

They relate to you like a traditional medical practitioner or doctor, wanting to be ‘fixed’ and then requesting a ‘prescription’ afterwards that will keep them well. They are in a painful place and really need assistance. They do not necessarily want to change any behaviors or lifestyle choices at this point. They see illness/pain as something that comes from outside themselves and that needs to be eradicated. There is little motion (of the type we define as Phase I-III) presently in their body. The short leg tends to stay on one side. This is a ‘Phase I’ client.

It is important to relate to this person as a client/patient as that is a framework that feels the most comfortable to them. Keep a professional attitude and firm boundaries. Make an appointment and call it a treatment. Speaking in terms of anatomy and western physiology will make more sense than going into a monologue about lung energy, the role of diet in reproductive health, or chakra balancing. Have them fill out an intake form and go over their health history briefly.

In other words, use your style of dialogue to connect with and open the door to treatment in the same way you use bodywork technique. Just like you will be using more mechanical technique, use more deliberate and focused language grounded in familiar terms. It is important that you direct or lead the dynamic in order to keep it moving. When they ask ‘When should I come back?’ give them a clear answer as to what you think will serve them best. If you say ‘Come when you think you need it’ they will most likely not make another appointment.

Phase II

People that show up in your treatment room with a degree of involvement in self-care regimens, such as exercise, meditation or whole foods cooking will most likely have understanding what bodywork can offer. They understand that it that can assist them in regaining balance and vitality and that it is a process. The mind/body/spirit connection is a familiar concept. They already have a measure of movement in their system and can move into Phase I & II motions during treatment. The short leg is sometimes switching back and forth during sessions. This is a ‘Phase II’ client.

The relationship with this person can be more of advisor-receiver. You can be more of a facilitator while they are a receptive participant. They are usually interested to hear some things about shiatsu diagnosis or nine star ki. They won’t be uncomfortable with the mention of energy and want to know more about how their body functions in ways they may not have heard before. In the same way that you apply technique with a lighter touch and less ‘input’ when there is Phase II movement in the body, you will most likely have less verbal dialogue and give less input. Listening becomes more dominant in your role, with your hands and your heart. No need to be the leader all the time here. If they ask you about the next appointment, give a general suggestion and encourage them to begin to listen to their own inner guidance as to when would be best for them to come again. Since their system is becoming more clear, they will be able to access more accurate information themselves.

Phase III

Working with someone who moves easily into Phase III resonance on a regular basis usually occurs with a client who you have been treating for a period of time, or with a fellow practitioner. At this point the relationship is becoming one of co-creators. You are collaborating on a shared venture of frequency expansion. You no longer even seem like separate people during treatment, but more like a synthesized energy field going on a journey to expand, explore and create. The short leg regular shifts back and forth and leg length check becomes implied rather than biomechanical. Little physical input is required to initiate adjustments in the system for stretches of a session. This is a ‘Phase III’ receiver.

When this person arrives for a session they often lay down without much preamble and leave afterwards without much need to talk. The atmosphere shift that occurs during treatment is affecting the way in which you relate, making verbal conversation (which is at its root more linear) less necessary or desirable. Information is exchanged at other levels much more effectively. Sometimes you may mention other consciousness fields or influences that are participating in the treatment. Alignments are occurring at higher vibrational levels, making certain experiences that used to seem extraordinary more commonplace. There is deep engagement in the process without extreme emotional responses or attachment.

The Phases are Dynamic

Of course, each person with whom we work is not always in one phase of resonance. They will expand and contract into different phases of motion as layers of compression release. This occurs within each session and also over longer periods of time. Being a bodywork practitioner necessitates a constant process of focus so that you can adjust how you relate with and treat the people who come to you. Before, during, and after sessions it is important (and enjoyable!) to bring awareness to what is happening and how to best proceed.

Identifying phases of motion both physically and emotionally/psychologically is not meant to be judgmental in a negative way. It allows us to move more clearly in how we relate to the people who come to us for bodywork and create a positive experience. It requires awareness and ongoing application. You will make ‘mistakes’ and have interactions that don’t go so well. You may realize at times that the way you handled a discussion led to a client going elsewhere. At a wider perspective, this is part of the process you are each involved in and the best thing to do is keep learning without getting down on yourself about it. As we work with others to free up life force in their bodies this will also affect and expand our life force, allowing an ongoing experience of learning and energy to unfold.


For information about our instructional video courses, please click on the links below:

Learning Shiatsu via Video & Livestream

Recently we received an email from a shiatsu practitioner in Croatia about an online video class:

I have been disappointed that you have not visited Croatia for long time, as I was always inspired by your lectures. As a compensation for not being able to be part of your classes, I have decided to order this video material, and it was not a mistake. I would like to thank you for knowledge which you have been sharing with all of us; it is beyond magnificent to be part of this story.
— Drazen Matosic, Shiatsu Practitioner, Split, Croatia

Another long-time shin tai instructor, Celeste Rixey, was recently telling us how much she enjoyed taking the Light Body Activation course (in November 2018) with us via livestream. She was so surprised at how involved and connected she felt even though she was not present in-person. She had been quite resistant to the idea of participating livestream but it was the only way she could 'be' there and it ended up being a wonderful experience for her. We also really loved having 25+ people take part in this way from 7 different countries. Of course, none of it could have happened without the core group of in-person participants holding the space!

These are reminders to us of the value of using these ways to learn. We are willing and excited to expand into new ways to share bodywork and stay connected with you. That is why we are offering more opportunities this year to participate in classes via livestream video. Rather than saying no to those of you who kept asking, we have decided to say yes :) So instead of helping to teach this year, Lynn will be the full-time camera woman while I do all the instructing. We realize that video instruction is not a replacement for in-person training, but it is a wonderful opportunity to develop and deepen your skills. 

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So maybe you have been wanting to take the Neck Alignment class but can't get to the states, or want to review Central Channel, or want to add shin tai to your practice with Governing Vessel or Conception Vessel classes.... you now have the option to try out 'coming to class' via your phone or computer. I feel that the Light Body Activation classes are especially effective to attend via livestream. We welcome you to attend on your own or gather a small group to take a class together. Please click here to see to our schedule for upcoming classes.


Shiatsu Techniques of the Masters

Shiatsu Techniques of the Masters

FREE Video Course: 

Techniques of the Masters - The Back

This is an opportunity to try out our online classroom for free to expand your bodywork skills and your practice. The first section of the instructional video course Shiatsu Techniques of the Masters is now free of charge. Through a series of instructional videos, learn a sequence of traditional shiatsu techniques for working with the back. To enroll, please click on the link below:


To read more about the topic of learning shiatsu through video, please go to this past blog post: Learning Shiatsu via Video - Is it effective?


For information about our instructional video courses, please click on the links below:

The Bioplasmic Body & Proprioceptive Exercise

During a recent 'Governing Vessel & the Spine' course, we livestreamed a portion of a talk on the bioplasmic body and proprioceptive exercise. Because it was live, the video is informal and the sound quality is not great, but please enjoy the content. Make sure to turn up the volume on your device/computer as well as the video.

This material is integral to developing the sensitivity to do Shiatsu Shin Tai bodywork.

 
 

We welcome your comments and questions below.

Facial Diagnosis - an introduction

Facial diagnosis is an important tool for a shiatsu practitioner. Learning how to read the face to diagnosis the condition of the organs can give valuable information about how to craft a client's treatment. This video is a short introduction to this healing art. It is part of an online shiatsu course called 'Hara: Treatment of the Digestive & Circulatory Systems.' For info & enrollment, please click on the button beneath the video.

 

 
 

This video is part of an online course called 'Hara: Treatment of the Digestive & Circulatory Systems.' For info & enrollment, please click on the link below:

Treatment of the Ileocecal Valve

The Ileocecal valve lies at the juncture of the small and large intestines. This valve often gets stuck open, disrupting movement of waste material into the large intestine. This technique helps to strengthen this area of the body and restore its proper function. 

This video is part of the online course called "Hara: Treatment of the Digestive & Circulatory Systems." For info & enrollment please go to the link:
Hara: Treatment of the Digestive & Circulatory Systems.

Many people today have digestive challenges, including constipation, bloating, gas, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, colitis, leaky gut, Crohn's or Celiac Disease, diabetes, gall stones, or cancer somewhere in the digestive tract. The techniques that you will learn in this course are powerful tools to address these ailments and assist clients in recovering digestive strength and balance. Some of them are original to this work, while others have a long tradition of use.
 

 
 
 

This video is part of the online course called "Hara: Treatment of the Digestive & Circulatory Systems." For info & enrollment please click on the button below:

 

Tips for Strengthening Your Digestive System: Part I

Learn some techniques to strengthen your digestive system. These are things that you can do for yourself immediately, including a never-before-taught style of hara Do-In that is extremely effective and easy to do.

This was a livestream session with Saul Goodman, so is a relatively informal video. Enjoy!

 
 
 

To watch Part II of this series, please click on the following link: Tips for Strengthening Your Digestive System Part II.


 
 

For more information about our online course "Hara: Treatment for the Digestive & Circulatory Systems"  click on the button below:

 

Shiatsu Wrist Adjustment

Increase mobility & alignment in the wrist articulations.

This is a great technique for creating more alignment and mobility in the wrist articulations. There are 8 carpal bones in the wrist that lie between the radius and ulna and the metacarpals of the fingers. Many people experience stiffness and pain in this area of their body due to repetitive use or postural habits. 

The wrists also reflect the condition of the pelvic/hip region of the body and can indicate issues in the reproductive organs or lower bowels. This adjustment can stimulate more balance and chi flow to these related areas.

Please Note: It is NOT appropriate to use this technique on clients who are experiencing acute pain and inflammation in their wrists, or who feel pain upon the initial gentle rocking into the carpal area. 


We welcome your questions & comments below.

 

To benefit from ongoing resources in shiatsu and shin tai bodywork, please sign up for our mailing list. 

7 Principles of Shiatsu & the Soul of a Practitioner

Shiatsu has evolved over the years in how it is taught and practiced.  Some of the original power of this ancient healing art has been lost due to an emphasis on specialization and certification.  Although more contemporary methods of treatment, technique and diagnosis are very valuable, it is important to also integrate the original principles of shiatsu into your practice so that receivers and practitioners can reap its full benefits. Please read below about the 7 core principles of shiatsu.

 

1. Whole Body “Ki”

Original shiatsu diagnosis was very simple. The practitioner started by viewing the whole body as energy or “ki” (also called 'chi') and assessing the receiver in simple terms. Here are some examples of how the ki might be described:

  • stuck ki
  • dispersed ki
  • ki doesn’t move
  • yin or yang ki
  • heavy ki
  • weak ki

A practitioner could use any “impression” of ki that characterized the overall energy of the person.

 
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The treatment approach was often times simple and based around balancing the overall condition of the client. A shiatsu practitioner might say “If ki doesn’t move make it move” or “If ki is too dispersed then bring together & ground the ki.” The treatment might also include one or two specific targets, such as addressing the condition of an organ or body system.

Over the last 25 years shiatsu has moved much more towards details and specific diagnosis; sometimes the original spirit of a ‘ki oriented” shiatsu treatment is lost to conceptual exercises.  Learning to see whole body ki can bring more potency to the practice, and enliven it with the original spirit of shiatsu.*  

* Please click here for more information about our online instruction course in traditional shiatsu.  

 

2. A Person’s Ki Reflects the Sum Total of Their Environment & Way of Life.

The Ki of the whole body is like a fabric made of different threads. A person internalizes the forces and qualities of the world with which they interface and becomes a matrix of ki that reflects those influences. Some of the forces that compose the whole body ki are:

Life Energy

Life Energy

  • Environment
  • Food
  • People
  • Beliefs/ dialogue
  • Emotions
  • Language
  • Events

 

 

 

Seeing and having empathy for the forces that have formed a person's ki matrix, including the imbalances, helps a shiatsu practitioner direct his or her technique in a way that allows the treatment to reach the basic core of the receiver's needs.

 

3. The Body Has the Power to Heal Itself

In Shiatsu, we use touch to enliven the body's natural ability to heal itself. Shiatsu stimulates the the body’s healing power in two main ways:

  1. The treatment stimulates ki, which then activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This activates the regenerative functions of the body, including the immune system.
  2. The stimulation of ki also encourages the body to purge itself of life suppressing toxins and stagnating debris that has been stored in the body over time. This process is called “discharge."  It can cause the symptoms of a condition to temporarily get worse. After the the discharging process has subsided, a person feels much better and more alive, because the body is clearer and can perform the life functions with less interference.

Old school practitioners therefore felt that a treatment was very effective if the client became sick afterwards. This can be difficult for westerners to accept.  But these traditional practitioners understood that before healing takes place, the symptoms can appear to increase and that this is a very positive sign.

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We can also transpose the idea of discharge to transformation of emotional patterns and beliefs that undermine a person's health and happiness. When the physical body changes, these things change as well.  As that occurs, the life system can temporarily recreate situations that imitate the ones the formed the patterns in the first place.

 

 

4. The Spiritual Development of the Practitioner

Originally, shiatsu trainings were centered around the the physical, emotional and spiritual development of the student. Technique was often secondary. Classes always included exercises and practices for the personal growth of the aspiring healer. The training emphasized obtaining the strength, flexibility, and the awareness needed to navigate life and its’ challenge of constant change.

Many of the practices also focused on developing the perception of vibration, and the effect it has on our individual and collective lives. Practices such as chanting, aura clearing, palm healing, and activating chakras were used to give the future practitioner the health, vitality and perception for an effective, successful practice.

Please click here to listen to a lecture about the vibrational meaning of the word 'shiatsu' and learn more about what it represents.  

 
 

There were also techniques given for healing ancestors. This added greater depth to emotional and mental clarity. Shiatsu was ultimately presented as a way of life. A person needed to practice and develop themselves to acquire well rounded skills, experience and knowledge. Their practice was seen as a reflection of their own condition.

These may be difficult ideas for people to understand in our contemporary career-oriented society. Now many students want to go to school only to get a certificate. They pay their fees and feel entitled to have classes on their terms and to have the standards lowered to their expectations. Traditionally the right to practice was determined by the students dedication to the process and the fulfilling of the many unseen requirements that really create a qualified healing practitioner.* Originally, shiatsu was a path of service and self realization.

 

5. Beginner's Mind

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Beginner's Mind is the foundation of a shiatsu practitioner's attitude. Approaching each situation (treatment) as a blank page waiting to be filled in gives the possibility to see a situation clearly and accurately. Beginner's mind takes off the filters that tend to distort and prejudge what we are actually seeing.

At the same time, there is great value to protocols, systems and conceptual knowledge. These serve as structure for learning and developing skills. However, although protocol has an organizing effect on treatments, it must ultimately give way if we want to see each client as they are and allow their uniqueness to create the treatment map.

What we learn by exercising beginners’ mind in our sessions transposes into one of the most important lessons for being in the moment and enjoying life.

 

6. Hara is the LIfe Center

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Originally, hara was presented as much more than a diagnosis vehicle. It was taught as a very potent treatment element that initiates deep healing and change. Hara was presented as the life center and a microcosm of a person's universe.**

The development of a practitioner meant an evolving awareness of hara. It meant creating a strong physical hara through training as well as a metaphysical understanding that hara is the key to centeredness in life, relations and purpose. Hara is not really something to be talked about. It is an experience of connection to nature and the earth. 

** Please click here to read about our video instruction course in traditional hara treatment.

 

 

 

 

 

7. Energy Follows Intention and Attention

A shiatsu practitioner learns to direct energy with intention

A shiatsu practitioner learns to direct energy with intention

Shiatsu is a practice of balancing ki. We move ki, calm ki, activate ki, soften ki, etc. We use our perception of energy and vibration to harmonize unequal forces of the clients ki to improve their state of well being. In life, we can use consciously formed intention to direct energy in order to create the circumstances we desire. In treatment, we can form our intention to direct energy where and how we want it to flow within the receiver's body.

Intention creates an atmosphere that supports the practitioner in their work and the client in their healing. Attention is where we focus our ki. Whatever our attention goes to, is magnified and becomes bigger in proportion. Often we see clients who have many good things in their lives, but they are focusing on the 10-15% that may be difficult. Therefore the 10-15%, in real space and time, dominates their life and appears to be 50-90% of their reality.

At the soul level, clients are the ultimate mirror for the healing practitioner who is walking the spiritual path. The people and clients we attract in our lives have the problems and habits that reflect our own on some level. Shiatsu practitioners are not curing people.  They are entering into a partnership during the treatment that encourages the innate healing power of all involved to awaken. This is where we can set our intention and focus our attention.


* For more information about our video instruction course in traditional shiatsu, please click on the link below:

Lumbar Flexion Part I: move chi in the lower back/hips/hara

Shiatsu is about moving chi. Traditional shiatsu techniques empower a practitioner to give effective treatments that create deep change.  To learn a great technique for stimulating chi in the lower back/hips/hara area, please click the play button below.  Part II & Part III of this technique are presented in the full online course Shiatsu Techniques of the Masters.  

 
 

New Online Shiatsu Course

This is one of the almost 40 techniques presented in the new online course "Shiatsu Techniques of the Masters."  Click below for more info:

 

We welcome your comments & questions below.

Masunaga & Beginner's Mind: a story

Here is a story  Saul is telling about something that happened during a class he had with Masunaga.  It is about beginner's mind, one of the most important things to cultivate while doing shiatsu!

 

 

In order to provide this foundation in traditional shiatsu, we are offering a new instructional video course called Shiatsu Techniques of the Masters.  For more info, please click below: 


We welcome your comments & questions below!

Learn a Traditional Shiatsu Technique: Chest Activator

Shiatsu is about moving chi. Traditional shiatsu techniques empower a practitioner to give effective treatments that create deep change.  To learn a great technique for stimulating chi in the chest/lung region, please click the play button below:

 
 
 

 New Online Shiatsu Course

This is one of the almost 40 techniques presented in the new online course Shiatsu Techniques of the Masters.Click below for more info:

If you are not quite sure if this course is for you, we offer a no-risk guarantee:  if you are not satisfied you can get a full refund within 30 days.  

 

We welcome your comments & questions below.

Whole Body Chi - diagnosis, treatment & discussion

Early on in Saul Goodman's bodywork studies, he had the good fortune to study with several of the shiatsu pioneers that brought the practice to the West. In this video he shares some of their diagnosis and treatment methods, along with answering some FAQ's about learning shiatsu through video instruction.  

Please click the play button below to watch the video:

 

 

For information on our new online course "Shiatsu Techniques of the Masters"  please click on the link below.

We welcome your comments & feedback below.

Keeping Inspired in Your Practice

Many bodywork practitioners struggle to stay inspired on a daily basis in their practice.  They might lose inspiration, get bored, and lack the discipline and direction to keep themselves motivated and engaged.  There are specific things you can do to address this issue.  We wanted to share them with you so that you get the most out of your classes, continue to grow as a bodyworker, and enjoy your work.  

But before saying anything further, here are some quick ideas if you have little time, energy or will to do much of anything.  These are for those emergency moments, when you need a boost but are too overwhelmed to fit much in:

  1. Crack open some of those books that are gathering dust in your treatment room and read something related to bodywork that motivates you.
  2. Watch a video from our YouTube channel or another bodywork video.
  3. While sitting or lying down, imagine that you are gathering energy into your physical body.  Take your thoughts, emotions, sensory perceptions....  and imagine that you press them into yourself.  Imagine sunlight and earth and ocean and press that into your body. 

And now, for some more involved ideas, there are a number of different approaches on different levels.  We have grouped them into three main categories:  Self-care, Integrating New Material, and Keeping Things Creative.  

Self Care

Pick one of these options and do it for at least 5 minutes before a treatment OR any time you feel scattered, uninspired or low energy:

  • Do-In, especially self-hara treatment
  • Proprioceptive exercise & light body activation work
  • Breathing, meditation, qi gong, yoga
  • Walk in nature
  • Have a cup of herbal tea or eat a quality meal;  this will get your blood more alkaline and immediately give you a boost

Maybe the most important thing that will keep you inspired in your practice is to realize that your practice is integrated with your own development.  It is constantly giving you opportunities to expand your understanding of yourself, your family, and cycles and patterns of life.  Recognizing what we get for our growth from giving treatments can help keep them interesting.  

On a practical level, various kinds of self-care/self-development exercises are integral to a good practice.  They help make our condition more in tune with what we are doing.  They help us to see more clearly what is needed during a treatment, and to convert our technique and information into a creative process during the work.  When we are in a 'creative' mode we feel better and things are more satisfying. 

 

Integrating New Material

Pick one of these options:

Granddaughter Ana after short spur-of-the-moment treatment one evening.  A few minutes of bodywork with family is a great way to practice new material.

Granddaughter Ana after short spur-of-the-moment treatment one evening.  A few minutes of bodywork with family is a great way to practice new material.

  • Choose 1 technique and use it with every client for a week
  • Do 5 full practice sessions this week using all the material from a course or protocol
  • Do at least 10 minutes of new material during each session you have this week
  • Get a family member,pet, or neighbor and practice on them for 10 minutes

To integrate material from the online courses (or other classes you have taken), it is important to be specific with yourself about practicing.  Determine how many sessions you want to sit down and work with the material.  Then make an appointment with yourself so that you outline how much time you want to spend on it and see it through.  There is always some work involved to maintain the quality of our practice.  It pays off in our own satisfaction when we give better quality treatments to our clients. 

For those of you who might not have much of a practice, do whatever amount of practicing feels right for you.  One example is to set up at least one session a week with a friend or family member and do that for a month.  If you set small, specific goals you will be more likely to stick to them, and not get overwhelmed with a huge, vague 'I've got to learn more shiatsu' goal.  

 

 

Keeping it Creative

One of the best ways to keep your practice creative is to let yourself make variations of techniques.  This leads to the discovery of new ideas and keeps your practice fresh.  When working, be aware of the condition of the client.  Notice how you can adjust the technique or even the protocol to be more appropriate in the moment.  

Being lazy and checking out is not easier, it makes things more difficult!  You will miss out on important information and miss out on opportunities to create what is most effective in each moment of a session.  Keep your eye out for a future article/video about the process of making variations to techniques.

 

 

It is Not Luxury to Take Care of Yourself - It is Part of Your Job!

Working on your own in a secluded treatment room is a practice in and of itself.  It is solely up to you to stay engaged and present during each treatment.  Most of us do not have a boss, we don't get reviewed, and don't have to answer to anyone else other than our clients.  It can be easy for the mind and heart to drift.  Maybe you think that the next session will be more interesting....  or that you will pay attention more once you can use a certain technique, or you finish doing the laundry, or go on a walk, or your client really needs you, etc. etc.  You get the picture.  We've all been there.   

Schedule a certain amount of time each month to work on these things that will keep your practice alive.  Taking care of your condition and honing technical skills is necessary to have a thriving practice that you find stimulating.  The great thing is that you probably enjoy doing most of these things!  But we think we should not take the time for them, that they are a luxury.  Well they aren't.  They are a necessary part of being an effective bodyworker who facilitates true transformation in their clients.  

 

We welcome your comments below.  

Please share any great tips you use to keep inspired!

Hara Technique: Pumping Up the Hara

This technique is very good for bringing energy to the lower hara. This area becomes weak from excessive sitting, poor diet, lack of walking, and lack of other leg movements. Lower hara weakness will cause poor elimination, organ stagnation, and stiffness in the hips, and will also contribute to sexual and urinary weakness.

Using this pumping technique creates powerful stimulation in the body. Because it increases circulation and chi in such a strong way, do not use it under the following conditions:

  • • pregnancy
  • • heavy menstrual bleeding
  • • Crone's disease or diverticulitis

We welcome your comments and questions below!

 

Please note:  This video is from our new online shiatsu class "Hara: Traditional Techniques".  For more information, please click on the button below:

Hara Treatment: The Essence of Traditional Shiatsu

What is Hara?

Hara is a Japanese word.  Anatomically, it refers to the region of the abdomen, but it means much more than that.  Hara is the center of a person, not only physically, but also energetically.  Some believe it to be "the spiritual center of the soul and the body’s life processes" (http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/hara).  

Hara massage is the most important aspect of a traditional shiatsu treatment.  When I was learning shiatsu, hara was always in the center of discussions about theory, technique and treatment development.  During the last few decades, the tendency in shiatsu training has moved towards using the hara to diagnose the rest of the body systems, rather than doing diagnosis and treatment of the hara.  Any pressure that is used in the hara is usually very light.  Although this type of work has great value, there is something else to be added that also has great value:  hara treatment that uses deep, penetrating contact.

 
 

When someone receives traditional hara treatment, many things occur in the body.  Circulation is stimulated, digestion strengthens, absorption & blood quality improve, oxygenation of tissues occurs.  Hormonal function steps up, reproductive organs awaken and sexual energy receives a boost.  The flow of Conception Vessel, the meridian that energizes our ability to materialize our thoughts and dreams, is increased.  The physical and energetic benefits are tremendous!  We are enthusiastic to inspire you to expand your hara work so that you can enjoy the benefits it can bring you and your clients.  

 

Strong Hara Treatment = Strong Practice

If you want to have a thriving practice, learn how to give a good, strong hara treatment.  Why?  Because a traditional hara treatment will change every client's condition for the better.  It is one of the most direct ways to improve someone's health.  When you give treatments that clearly bring more vitality, clarity and resilience to someone's life, as strong hara work does, you will attract more clients. 

Many practitioners shy away from applying penetrating technique to the hara.  There are many reasons for this:

  1. Shy of New Territory - Practitioners are sometimes shy to work on clients' haras because it is new territory. Most clients are not familiar with this kind of bodywork and are cautious to have this area of their body touched, especially in a deep way.

  2. Fear of Causing Harm - Many manual therapists are fearful that applying pressure to the hara will hurt their clients. They don't feel confident in applying the techniques because they have not been educated in the application and effect of this work.

  3. Benefits are Unknown - The tremendous benefits of traditional hara treatment are not that well known these days. Even when students learn some basic hara work, they often fail to incorporate it into their treatments due to a lack of understanding of its true potential.

  4. Lack of Education - The therapeutic importance of hara treatment is often overlooked in teaching curriculums. Most shiatsu programs have simply stopped including traditional hara work as part of their classes. Working with the hara more as a diagnostic tool, and a dominance of meridian study and treatment, has become the new normal. Therefore, many manual therapists have simply not learned how to treat the hara.

Because these factors, most bodywork practitioners miss out on one of the most effective ways of building a strong practice.  And people seeking out bodywork miss out on one of the most powerful ways to improve their physical, emotional and psychological well-being - hara treatment!

 

An Opportunity for Practitioners and Clients

Learning how to give traditional hara treatment is one of the best opportunities for practitioners to help clients and improve their practice.  The good news is that most of the techniques themselves are not physically complex.  They don't require extensive positioning, diagnosis or technical skill.  Whereas some bodywork skills require months/years of practice to begin to use effectively, you can learn these techniques in a relatively short amount of time.  Hara work is also easy to integrate into any type of bodywork treatment.  

What hara treatment DOES require is the ability to listen, to observe, to be responsive.  Of course this is not always easy and requires great skill.  If you want to be an effective practitioner who facilitates transformation, you need to be clear, healthy and aware.  You need to keep developing yourself.  Keeping your own hara clear and strong is an important part of that journey.  So eat good quality food, chew it well, and do some Do-In (self shiatsu) on your own hara if you know how.

Traditional hara treatment is not just about the techniques.  It encompasses a whole cosmology.  Each individual is seen as a microcosm of the universe, and the hara is seen as a microcosm of a person's whole life.  By working with this part of the body, you are helping shift a person's whole being towards wholeness, vitality, and balance. 


For more information on our 2 online courses on hara treatment, please click on the links below:

 

 

 

 

 

Shiatsu Student Shares Energy Work with Community

Shanna Mitchell, a student at the International School of Shiatsu, was invited to share some shiatsu energy exercises with a Philadelphia community program called The Listening School Project.  She sent us the following article and photos/videos about the experience.

The Listening School Project is a part of a larger #ROOTEDinSW program which is a joint effort between Bartram's Garden and  Philadelphia Mural Arts. The project is designed to encourage community connections to art, nature, and each other.  The Listening School has been developed/nurtured under the leadership of Katie Bachler who took the idea to local youth in SW Philly and partnered with them to learn and share through a mobile art station/information booth. As a part of the program, the youth are offered classes and workshops to learn more about connecting with art and nature in the environment around them. 

They take what they learn and go out around the neighborhood to talk and share with people.  They do this by travelling the neighborhood with a cart loaded with info, art supplies and plant samples (mugwort is their favorite).  They talk with people about connecting with nature, using local plants as medicine, creating art... And now Do-In!

In addition, community members are invited to create a piece of art and/or share a story about how nature, art, and other topics curated by Katie and the youth impact their lives.  All of the collected stories will be put together in a culminating compilation which will then be shared with the community. 

It was so great to be invited to spend time with them and share some of the things I've learned from Saul, Lynn and the other awesome folks at the Shiatsu school.  We talked about energy and practiced the bouncing Chi building exercise, Do-In, the proprioceptive floating exercise and the "Ahh" "Suu" & "Mmm" chanting.  Afterwards they made some art reflecting how they experienced the energy in their body.


It was a really great experience for me.  I'm excited for more like it!  Everything was really well received and I think the exercises will be great tools for them to have under their belts.  They had some great feedback seem eager to practice and share what they learned.  I'm excited to check-in with them over the coming weeks to hear about their experiences taking this new information out into the community.  I'll be sure to pass on any updates.


 

Some videos of the students trying out the exercises:

Foot Arch Release: a shiatsu shin tai instructional video

Foot Arch Release

The Foot Arch Release technique is often covered in the Governing Vessel and Conception Vessel courses.  It is a wonderful technique that we use often in treatments.  It is recommended that you use this instructional video as a supplement to classroom instruction, not a replacement!

This technique can be used on its own, or as a preliminary step to doing work with the hip joints that is presented in the Conception Vessel/Hara class.  It is best to do this technique once there is already some space and motion in the body.  In other words, don't use it as one of the first things you do in a session.

The Foot Arches 

There are three main arch structures in the foot:  two longitudinal arches and one transverse arch.  Due to injury, repetitive compression, energetic imbalances, or organ disharmonies, the joints creating the arches in the feet can become rigid, misaligned, and/or compressed.

foot arches
foot arches

Applying gentle compression along the top of the arch system until the slack in the arches is taken out, and then introducing an impulse at a 45 degree angle towards the heel, helps to readjust, realign, and restore mobility in the complex of joints through this area of the foot.  This can also be helpful for people with 'flat feet.'

The Effect on the Hip Joints

This technique creates a secondary affect in the hip joints.  Energy that tends to become trapped and stagnant in the hip joints is given release through the muscle and ligament chain that connects down through the foot structure.  Creating more space, bouyancy and alignment in the foot arches with the release technique allows this trapped energy to dissipate and disperse.  There will be an immediate improvement in hip joint flexibility after this release.

Another connection....

The ankles are a reflex area for the pelvis.  This also helps explain why freeing up more mobility and alignment in the ankles is reflected in the increased range of motion in the hip joints.

Shiatsu Shin Tai: A Natural Prevention for Orthodontics

Shin Tai: A Natural Prevention of Orthodontics

Shiatsu Shin Tai treatments can be a natural prevention of orthodontics in adolescents.  There are several ways that shin tai techniques can change patterns of restriction and misalignment in the whole body, and also specifically in the jaw and temporomandibular joint (TMJ).

First of all, stress patterns in the meninges and soft tissue system exert force throughout the body.  This often creates compression and asymmetries in the cranial bones.  This can lead to a cramped palate, unbalanced movement of the maxilla, and disfunction of the TMJ, all of which can be reasons to recommend orthodontic intervention.

Also, there are correspondences between the hip structure and some of the cranial bones - the mandible, maxilla, occiput, temporals, and sphenoid bone in particular (see Secrets of the Skeleton by Dr. Mees for wonderful photos that illustrate this).  As puberty unfolds, compressive forces in the pelvic region due to different physical and emotional stresses can amplify, creating a mirror of tension patterns up in the cranium.

The 8 year old girl (Ana) in this video was told she would probably need braces soon in order to make more space for her adult teeth.  To try and prevent this, her mother is going to bring her for a series of treatments.  We have had good success with this approach in the past.  Even two of our own children were able to avoid orthodontic work that had been deemed necessary!

 

What kind of treatment strategy works best?

The treatment in this video shows a series of central channel releases, and then specific work on some of the cranial bones.  More treatment will be needed.  An optimal schedule would be 3-5 sessions within a 2 week period, and then once a week for a few weeks.

The cost and effort needed to get a series of shin tai treatments is MUCH less than getting braces.  Many people are not programmed to think of it in this way, so it is a good idea to offer this information so that parents can make an educated decision of where to invest their time and money.  Even if an adolescent still needs orthodontics after a series of treatments, there is a very good chance that treatments will lessen the time the braces are on, and the degree of change that will be needed.

Client feedback is important!

Interesting to note that near the end of this session (around 20:20) Ana tells Saul her mouth feels "relaxed, and not so cramped as it always does."  Already she could feel a difference, even though she wasn't told specifically what the treatment was for.  She also mentions that when she wakes up she feels aching in her body, especially her ankles.  The ankles are a reflex area for the pelvis;  let's see if freeing up stress patterns in her pelvic structure help to relieve this aching in her ankles.

Other things to observe in this video are different motions and phases of motion that show up during the treatment.  The expanded frequencies in the room (atmosphere shift - a Phase III indication) become quite pronounced several times, and this comes through on the video.  After the treatment Ana did not want to leave and proceeded to snuggle up on the BodyCushion for quite awhile while her sister received some bodywork.

Identifying specific motions, and also really feeling the general environment of Ana's system and the room during the video is a wonderful way to improve your skills as a practitioner.