The True Nature of Shiatsu

Shiatsu books give lists of conditions and symptoms that shiatsu can cure. But in the end, does shiatsu really ‘cure’ conditions? And does viewing and practicing shiatsu from that perspective allow us to access its most powerful potential? 

If a person pursues a path that does not resonate with their true nature, their potential for creating and expressing is often greatly diminished. Shiatsu is often practiced in a way that exhibits this dynamic; instead of taking full advantage of the unique capacity of touch, it tends to be approached from a specialized and conceptual framework that is not in alignment with its true nature.

Over the past few decades, shiatsu is often used in a way that is trying to emulate the practice of acupuncture and other more western therapeutic practices in order to gain more respect with the medical community and general public. But just like when a person tries to imitate another in order to 'be better,' this method not only backfires, it misses the opportunity to utilize the unique capacity of shiatsu: to effect change at the most primitive layer of the information system. Instead of working in a specialized manner to adjust the function of the meridians and organs and systems of the body, shiatsu often has more power when it goes underneath these levels to address the core energy, or ki, of the body.

acupuncture
Instead of working in a specialized manner to adjust the function of the meridians and organs and systems of the body, shiatsu has more power when it goes underneath these levels to address the core energy, or ki, of the body.

 

We are not doing surgery, acupuncture, osteopathic or chiropractic work. These are very valuable therapies that each have unique healing effects on the body. But in shiatsu, we are working with touch that is applied within specific parameters. What is the most we can accomplish with this type of bodywork? In order to access the true transformative potential of shiatsu and shin tai (a form of shiatsu that uses Governing Vessel & Conception Vessel as a primary means of evaluation and treatment), we have to understand the origin and nature of touch.

Touch and touch response is the most basic sense of the primitive cell. Touch makes the distinction between the cell and its environment through responses in the cell membrane. The membrane registers changes in chemical composition, light, vibration, and pressure. 

Touch contains the information of all the other senses. For example, particles of a substance need to ‘touch’ the olfactory receptor neurons in the nasal cavity in order for it to be detected as a smell. When a sound is made, the vibrating sound waves that are created need to touch and vibrate the ear drum in order to be heard. Touch is a factor in all of the sensory experiences, and pressure is the medium through which it is discerned. 

shiatsu healing

Because touch is the most primal sense of the primitive cell, it is the most potent means to restore the primal life force of the body. And because touch applied with pressure is a primary characteristic of shiatsu, this type of bodywork has tremendous potential to effect change at this level of the body. Rather than try to emulate other methods of therapeutic practices (such as acupuncture) by introducing more complexity and focusing on specialized diagnosis and treatment strategies, we can instead amplify the unique transformational possibilities of our work by using it in a way that is in alignment with its true nature. By focusing on using shiatsu to restore primal life force through touch, we can unleash its greatest potential. 

 

 

If you are reading this article, you have most likely chosen to practice bodywork in some capacity. This means you have an affinity for this style of healing. Rather than study to become a doctor, a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, etc., you have chosen to learn about bodywork. You are attracted to using touch as a means of listening, healing and transformation because it suits some part of your nature. In uniting your own nature with that of shiatsu lies an extraordinary opportunity for you to provide an expanding experience of freedom and creativity to those who come to you seeking health.

We welcome your comments & questions below.


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To Talk or Not to Talk: Treatments & Advice

To talk or not to talk, that is the question -

This article began as a response to an email from a shiatsu shin tai practitioner. She was experiencing complicated responses to treatments herself, as well as in people who were receiving bodywork from her. A main question she had was regarding the role of a practitioner in providing advice to clients about lifestyle choices (diet, exercise, therapy, etc.). She also had concerns over the fact that most receivers did not have the will or ability to address changes that they needed to make to improve their health. 

These are issues that are important for all of us as bodyworkers to address. We realize quickly after beginning to work with people that there is more to giving treatments than the hands-on work, although that is primary. From the initial hello and discussion, getting a receiver on the futon/table, leading them into the treatment itself, and getting them up and on their way afterwards, it can be a bit of a juggling act to keep the session focused on the hands-on work. People coming for treatment are often in dire need of compassion and assistance, and it is our job to make sure our hands do most of the work rather than our mouths!

 


Below are sections from the email (italicized in quotes) along with my responses (not in quotes) -

"In my experience, it is a real minority of people who are willing to put the immense time and effort that is needed into self healing. A lot of this is cultural conditioning that other people can cure or heal you, without the 'patient' having to do anything. People are very reluctant to address diets, other than maybe a basic alteration. We are so disconnected from our food and bodies, that it has become imperceivable that food and emotions are underlying the majority, if not all of the discomfort in our bodies and minds."

Shin Tai (an evolving form of shiatsu) focuses on clearing the primary information system of the body (the governing vessel & conception vessel meridians). This is done through working on many layers of the body: bones, muscles, organs, meridians, chakras, outerbody....  The practitioner learns to read which layer is the priority and works accordingly. Working directly with the body is considered the practitioner's main job. They are trained to clear restrictions and create more alignment & vitality. This helps to reestablish the receiver's will to take care of themselves.

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When the body is more clear and 'online', the receiver then has access to more accurate information as to what will be best for them at that time. This might be in regards to diet, exercise, relationships, environment, job, etc. Their own body has the most wisdom regarding life choices and direction. Practitioners are instructed to give some pointers and references, but mainly to trust in the process of the treatment itself to empower the receiver's body to direct their life. Therein will be the most accurate, real-time information to best serve the receiver.  

 

"I spent years in therapy, believing that if I fixed the emotions (childhood sexual abuse), then everything would be ok. But that didn't work. Then I moved to bodywork, thinking that would solve everything. But that didn't work either. Then the spiritual life took precedence as a solution. But no, that didn't solve everything either! Now it's on to dietary needs!!"

The fact that you are finding your way along different avenues that support your healing and development is in part due to the therapy, bodywork and spiritual work that you did. It is normal that the priority of what to address can change over time. For example, sometimes diet will be most important, and then it can shift to bodywork. Often, we as receivers do not recognize changes that are occurring because we are so attached to them showing up in a certain form.

That being said, shiatsu/shin tai practitioners are trained to give some instruction on diet, exercise and other self-development practices. Practitioners are also trained to know when and how to give information that could be helpful to a client. Of course these skills require years of practice and development, and every practitioner has different capabilities and strengths that they can offer their clients.

But always the main role is to do the bodywork. Not talk too much, nor get into the client's story or issues through words too much. If it seems like therapy or a nutritionist or a trainer could be helpful, the practitioner may give references. But we let the touch do our main work. That will empower the client to learn to listen to their own inner guidance, their own blueprint. Nothing could be more accurate than that. Getting caught up in discussions and advice about diet, etc. often do not penetrate and create shifts in the client. But working beneath the words, beneath the typical advice - that's where shin tai can offer a unique opportunity to empower transformation! It is not personal and can save the practitioner a lot of energy.  

"I feel we are doing clients a disservice by not mentioning lifestyle. When people seek treatments, they often have no real idea of what is involved or the depth of what they are entering into. They just want to be 'fixed'. Personal responsibility is not something many people want to hear about. I have a 9 year old who feels and sees the effects junk and certain foods have on his system, as he holds a cramping stomach or has to stop playing football while he has another coughing fit. But then he sees others eating those foods and not having any visible negative effects. He won't do a 3 minute qi gong exercise to help strengthen his bladder, yet hates wetting the bed! Adults have many, many more years of resistance in them.

I was extremely disillusioned with shiatsu and had been for a while. Shin tai has recovered some life force around bodywork for me. Ironically, I am feeling the effects of shin tai at a deeper, more fundamental level, even during a time when both my physical and mental health is at such a low ebb." 

When life force is recovered, people naturally have more energy and will to address the changes they need to make. They also have access to what direction would be most useful for them at a given moment in time. Of course, every choice is 'useful', but some bring health and development with more ease than others. The goal in shin tai is to empower the receiver to heal without so much suffering, without so many hard lessons that wake them up through crisis. It was years of experiencing clients not being able to make changes in the factors that created their illnesses that led shin tai work to make hands-on work the priority for introducing change into the receiver's life.

If you were receiving treatments with me and I heard how you were feeling and how you became disillusioned with bodywork, I would encourage you to really notice the feelings underneath that. Feel them. Feel how your body feels when you feel like that. Going through that and those feelings is actually uncovering the tone of pain that underlies your physical symptoms. Support yourself in whatever ways you can and whatever ways seem most pertinent and potent.


Touch offers a unique opportunity -

One of the unique strengths of bodywork is its ability to introduce change from deep within the body. Without any words, without giving any advice, without the receiver needing to consciously process past trauma - change moves forward. Restrictions loosen, life force surges, organs regenerate, emotions mature. Psychological distortion lessens. Consciousness and physical health grow.

 
 

It does not mean all problems go away and health is perfect. When I began receiving bodywork over 20 years ago, I was in a serious physical and emotional condition. I had little knowledge of how to take care of myself. I was so unaware of my body (although I didn't think so!) and unable to take much responsibility for my situation. Through a combination of treatments, lifestyle changes, supportive relationships and many, many painful 'mistakes' I worked my way towards a stronger more balanced state. But I still require much self care to function at a level that many people seem to take for granted. 

 


Unleash the inner guidance -

It is each individual's responsibility to keep listening to their inner guidance as it grows in sensitivity. We can encourage our clients in this direction. That guidance will continue to lead them through layers of choices that may be dynamic, changing over time with the needs of their body. It is best to not to get attached to one way of eating, one path of healing, rigid beliefs about what is best and what will work. These things will change, they will shift. Each person can grow in power to read and act on the information that lies within their own body to lead then towards regeneration and vibrant health. There will be unexpected directions that this will take, and it is important to keep listening and engage in every stage of the journey.

It can be effective to share this knowledge with our clients as they move through the healing process. Look for moments when it is appropriate to talk to them them about how the work is affecting their body and their life. Keep your eye out for the times where a little bit of advice can go a long way. But keep the focus on using your hands. They will help unleash the inner guidance that lies within the body.


To learn some beginning Shin Tai, you can enroll in our online course called "Life Force Recovery - The Spine." Click below for more information:

 
 

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:

 

 

 

 

 

Hara Translates the Dream - clip from Conception Vessel/Hara Course

This is a short clip from a Conception Vessel & the Hara course taught at the International School of Shiatsu in Doylestown, PA in May 2015.  Saul Goodman is discussing the role of the hara as the translator of Governing Vessel information (i.e. our visions, inspirations & dreams). Hara treatment facilitates life force flow through the hara, through the organs, and through the Conception Vessel pathway.  As the hara begins to function at a higher capacity, this assists a person to actualize their dreams and visions and inspirations into their daily three dimensional reality.

Beliefs & Illness- clip from shin tai course

This is a short clip from a Governing Vessel/Spine course in December 2014.  Saul is discussing the effects on the body when someone is operating from a set of beliefs and conditioning that is not true for them.  Shin Tai bodywork can help release not only restrictions that were caused by the stress of following beliefs that are not true for oneself, but also the underlying patterns of the beliefs themselves.

Sponsor a Shin Tai Class

We receive ongoing inquiries about where Saul Goodman is teaching Shiatsu Shin Tai classes.  During the last two years he stopped traveling to teach for the first time in over 30 years, and only taught courses where he lives in Doylestown, PA.  There are several Shin Tai teachers now in Europe who are running a variety of classes in several different countries (England, Scotland, Croatia, Switzerland, Slovenia, and Austria to name a few), so many students in Europe are able to learn the basic Shin Tai materials.

For now, Saul has not scheduled anything overseas, but he is beginning to schedule some classes in different locations here in the United States.  If you live in the U.S. and are interested in learning Shin Tai, yet have no courses near you (or if you love Shin Tai and want to share it with people in your area) you may want to consider sponsoring a shiatsu shin tai class.

Sponsoring a class is a great way to deepen your own knowledge, create a circle of people near you with whom you can exchange treatments and resources, and supplement your income.

centralchannel2013group
centralchannel2013group

Please email us at info@shintaiinternational.com

or call (267) 372-1644 for more information.

Central Channel Release & the Governing Vessel

Here is a short clip from a Governing Vessel course given by Saul & Lynn Goodman in Dec 2014.  Saul is describing the effective of the general release of the central channel technique on the meridians in the body via the Governing Vessel.  

Shiatsu Shin Tai Demo Treatment - focus on Advanced Central Channel

Here is a video of a demonstration Shiatsu Shin Tai treatment given during an Advanced Central Channel course in Doylestown, PA, USA. Saul Goodman is the instructor, treating David Imhoof, a Shin Tai teacher from Switzerland. The treatment is well into Phase II and III motions when the filming begins, so many alternative contacts are used. The receiver's body is doing much of the work during a treatment once there are these motions present. There are some wonderful exhibitions of paravertebral contractions, medial/lateral heel motion, occiput/sacral synchronization, and shoulder/scapula motion.

The course included learning alternative contacts for Stage I-V, anterior contacts, working with the cranial sutures to do vertebral adjustments, and other material.  Progression into more non-linear treatment was the focus.  

 

This course was followed by a 2 day Advanced Central Channel Clinic on Oct 29-30.  Students participated in various group treatment exercises to take the material further.  We also be observed and treatments of outside participants to learn more about how to integrate this advanced work with other Shin Tai work, as well as massage, shiatsu, craniosacral, and chiropractic.  

Atlas Self-Treatment

This is a great self-technique if feeling overwhelmed with too much to 'do' or unable to move on doing anything: Atlas VertebrateThe atlas, or 1st cervical vertebrae, has a natural movement that can become restricted or unbalanced. When it is functioning optimally, it moves in an horizontal infinity pattern, gently reverberating this rhythmic movement throughout your spine. In Shin Tai work, there is a correspondence between stress in the atlas and being projected into the future/having a fear of the future.

Lay on your back and palpate your own C1. Lightly touch each side of your atlas and enjoy the side to side sway of its subtle motion, noticing restriction or asymetrical movement. Encourage more symmetry and freedom and pay attention to sensations in your body.  Feel for a softening of any rigid sensation in the atlas, and/or for the shape and movement to become more clear.  Do this work for 5-10 minutes.

After treating yourself, notice changes in your feelings, mental state, and physical condition throughout the next day or two. Is there any more engagement into the present moment (which paradoxically becomes more fully synthesized with the past and future)?

The Strong Effect of Central Channel Release

by Hermann Grobbauer This is a picture report of a Central Channel treatment with a woman who comes regularly for treatment. The first time she came for shiatsu treatment, she was suffering from 30 years of migraines – often 3 times a week. She said to me later that she would need three sessions to trust this work (this was in 1996).  Since then she started with yoga-meditation, and also did some shiatsu trainings and shamanic studies with my teacher and me. She said her life changed a lot.  The migraines appear only sometimes and she handles them well.

In 2002 she got diagnosed with fibromyalgia. She started again with regular Shin Tai treatments, in addition to homeopathic treatments with her doctor.  Shiatsu Shin Tai always gives her release of the pain.

These photos were taken in June 2010.  She came with acute symptoms and had a lot of pain in her tissues.  I took the pictures, because I wanted to know if there would be a change of position with only central channel contacts.  After the treatment I showed her the photos.  She was very surprised. She thought her right side was up… I got her permission to use them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first two photos are when she laid down for her treatment.  She said she felt comfortable and 'straight' on the cushions.

The third photo is how she looked after a few central channel contacts, without me making any manual changes to her position

 

Let the Receiver's Body Do the Work

Shin Tai - Central Channel Shin Tai treatments have many pauses where the practitioner is watching and waiting.  The increased life force in the receiver's system is taking over the 'work' of the treatment.

Let the receiver's body do the work; encourage their body to do the work.  Their body knows best how to balance, adjust, and evolve.  When the receiver's body does the work it recovers its powers of self-healing, self-maintenance, and regeneration.

Saul Goodman

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