Bring in the new year - Yoga & health magazine's Introduction to shiatsu contains very important pointers that will help you learn the art of Shiatsu effectively; it also presents some important 'do's and don'ts' to consider when giving a Shiatsu treatment.
Therefore it is strongly recommended that you read it carefully before proceeding to Part One.
- Yin and Yang
- THE ABDOMEN TREATMENT
- Leg Pressure Points
- Preparing for a Shiatsu Session
- The Five Elements
- Shoulder pressure points
- THE STEP-BY-STEP SEQUENCE
- The origins of Shiatsu
- How to find the points
- POINTS TO REMEMBER
- How much pressure to use
- Choosing a school or practitioner
- Shoulders Treatment
- Vital organs
- Energy channels
- TREATING THE INDIVIDUAL
- DEVELOPING YOUR TECHNIQUE
- Energy in the hands
- Hara and breathing
- SELF-DEVELOPMENT EXERCISES
- Back of body treatment
- Front of leg pressure points
- Toe Treatment
- Kyo and Jitsu
- Increasing your sensitivity
- Governing Vessel
- Forehead Massage
Before you proceed with this part, ensure that you are totally familiar with the Introduction, which includes important information to prepare you for the techniques in this section. The Shiatsu sequence is divided into ten stages, each one dealing with a different area of the body. Within the sequence there are three positions: sitting, where the shoulders are treated; face down for treatment of the whole of the back of the body; face up for work on the front of the body. The course of treatment is to work down the back of the body and up the front, following the direction of Ki flow. Each sequence tends to proceed from the general to the particular: starting with loosening movements and preparatory overall stretches, then moving on to more local palm pressure work, and finishing with pressure on specific points using thumb or fingers.
Each step is demonstrated with a photograph and detailed caption; additional photographs indicate where to apply pressure with series of points superimposed over the body. It is not essential to locate points precisely, simply follow the line indicated at approximately the intervals shown. Caution boxes indicate when you should take care with a particular technique.
Practise parts of the sequence at first, rather than trying to learn it all at once. In fact, certain sections make good shorter treatments. A full body treatment should take between forty-five minutes and one hour, but it may take longer whilst you are still learning.
Everyone loves having their shoulders worked on. As soon as you lay your hands on them, most people relax and sigh with delight. This is because our shoulders play such an important role in modern, urban society. They represent the ability to take responsibility, to carry a burden, to 'shoulder a load'. People who are affected by stress, and have difficulty in detaching themselves from the cause of it, whether it be work, financial difficulties or just everyday life, will almost certainly have problems in this area. Treating the shoulders brings with it the caring, sympathetic quality that is imparted when one person lays their hand on another's shoulders as a simple expression of concern or support.
In fact, the upper body is a particularly problematic zone in Western society, where there is a collective habit of concentrating energy here - constantly using the mind to solve problems. The shoulders in particular reflect an inability to focus on one issue at a time, due to a constant pressure, experienced by many people, to think about all their other problems, obligations, or things they need to do, at the same time. The shoulders are also closely associated with the neck and together they form a bridge to the head. It is the shoulders that will hold tension if there is a blockage in the flow of energy to the head.
A sedentary way of life can also cause problems; lack of movement diminishes mobility and flexibility in the shoulders. At the same time, however, excessive exercise, such as weight-training, can also create habitual tension. Treatment of the shoulders can help very directly with all these problems.
About this Sequence
The shoulder treatment is carried out with the receiver in a sitting position, a more active experience for them before they lie down for the whole of the rest of the sequence and generally become more relaxed. Shoulder work begins with overall loosening-up, followed by preparatory palm pressure and tension-releasing stretches, before going on to local pressure-point work. Shoulder Shiatsu makes a convenient mini treatment on its own, as well as being a good way to begin a comprehensive session. It is an ideal means with which to introduce people to Shiatsu without them feeling at all threatened, as it can be given casually in any situation where the recipient can sit down.
Some problems that particularly benefit from this sequence include neck and shoulder tension, frozen shoulder, stiffness between shoulder-blades, upper backache, postural problems and tension headaches. Associated organs that also benefit from shoulder treatment include the intestines, gall bladder and lungs.
POINTS TO REMEMBER
•use your body weight, not muscular effort
• keep your own body relaxed
• focus attention and breathe in your abdomen
• keep your working arm straight but not locked
• lean into each movement on the out-breath, and hold the position
• work at right angles to the body surface
• cultivate a calm feeling and regular rhythm
CAUTION: Work gently on the shoulders if your partner is elderly or frail, if there is a shoulder injury, or arthritis, or if points feel particularly painful. Certain cautions concerning pregnancy are mentioned below.
1. Ask your partner to kneel with knees spread slightly apart (left). If this is not comfortable due to age, stiffness or poor circulation, they can sit on the floor, with legs crossed (bottom left), with legs straight out (bottom centre) or otherwise in an upright chair without arms (below). This sequence proceeds with the kneeling option, so if you are using one of the alternatives you may have to adapt your working position for some of the techniques. If using a chair, for instance, you will have to adopt a standing position throughout and the stretches will not be possible. Try to keep your spine straight, especially when giving stretches; use the strength in your legs instead of bending your back. Make contact with your partner by placing your hands gently on their shoulders.
2. Kneel behind your partner with one leg raised, providing support for their back with your knee if they seem to require it. Keep both hands on your partner's shoulders for some moments, aware of making a connection between your respective energies. Your breathing should be natural and relaxed. Continue for as long as it feels appropriate.
3. Lift your partner's shoulders and let them drop naturally with their own weight. Repeat this a couple of times, until the shoulders feel loose and heavy, and in a relaxed state. If you notice that your partner is helping you by lifting their shoulders of their own accord, point this out and try to encourage them to relax and let go.
4. Begin squeezing the shoulder muscles with thumbs, fingers and palms, in a strong kneading action. As you do so, feel for the condition of the muscles - are they hard or tense? Can you detect particular spots where energy seems blocked? Do you sense good muscle tone, firm but not tight? Or perhaps there is a lack of tone, or feeling of emptiness. Make a mental note of these qualities; when you have finished the shoulder treatment check again, you will probably notice a distinct improvement.
As well as giving you information about the internal condition of the shoulders, this kneading action brings increased circulation and internal energy flow into the area, preparing it for the more concentrated techniques that follow. You can extend this action by pressing with your thumbs into the muscles on either side of the spine in the upper back.
5. With loosely-held fists and keeping your wrists very floppy, pound over the shoulder muscles using the fronts of your fingers (left) for a minute or two. This action can be fairly vigorous as long as your partner is not feeling fragile. It helps release tension and shift blockages in Ki flow.
6. Adopt a standing position behind your partner. At this point, you can both begin to use the regular method of 'shiatsu breathing' - breathing out together as pressure is applied, taking a light in-breath as it is released, and proceeding in this relaxed rhythm.
Place your left hand on the left shoulder - this will be the fixed or 'passive' hand for the time being. Ask your partner to breathe in, and do so yourself at the same time. Then, as you both breathe out, lean down onto the right shoulder with the heel of your right hand (the 'active' hand). Lean in for the full out-breath. As you do so, keep your right arm straight, and bring your upper body weight to bear over the shoulder, rising up onto your toes if your partner is taller than you.
Repeat this four or five times at intervals, beginning near the neck and moving out along the shoulder, continuing the same pattern of breathing. Then repeat the procedure, using your left hand actively palming the left shoulder, with your right hand passively positioned on the right shoulder.
7. Still standing behind your partner, turn your body sideways so that your thigh or hip is placed centrally against your partner's spine. Position your feet far enough apart to give you a stable base and ask your partner to place their hands behind their neck, with the fingers interlocked, and simply to relax their arms. Place your hands one in front of each of their elbows. Breathe in, and on the out-breath smoothly pull back on the elbows to a comfortable stretch. This is helpful in releasing tension, especially between the shoulder-blades and in the shoulder joints.
8. Stand behind your partner as before, with your thigh or hip meeting their spine. The key to this stretch is to keep this point of contact central throughout, stopping your partner twisting around. Keep your feet widely spaced to give you a firm base.
Ask your partner to interlink their fingers and raise their arms overhead. Pass your arm through the loop. Rest their hands on your shoulder. Keeping in contact with their body, tilt gently away, pivoting at the hip, so that their arms straighten. If you need to lower your body in relation to theirs, place your outside leg further away still.
Explain to your partner that this stretch will lift their body slightly, and that they should allow their arms to straighten and their weight to fall, so that their hips will come off their legs. Ask them to breathe in and do so yourself at the same time. Now pivot your body further, making sure that your legs are doing the work. Hold the stretch for the full out-breath.
CAUTION: Avoid pressure on the tops of the shoulder muscles during pregnancy. Do not attempt the stretch if the shoulders are weak, injured, or arthritic.
9. Position yourself at right angles to your partner's left side with your left hand resting on the front of the shoulder. Using your right thumb, press firmly into the shoulder muscle beginning near the neck. Make sure you keep your right arm straight as you do this, by adjusting your distance from your partner accordingly. Repeat at intervals on the pressure points along the top of the shoulder muscles. Then move to your partner's right side and repeat.
CAUTION: Avoid these points during pregnancy as they can induce labour.
10. Knead the shoulder muscles again to assess the difference your treatment has made. Then with your fingers, brush several times along the shoulders and on to the back (below), sweeping outwards from the neck. This 'smoothes out' patterns of energy in the areas you have been working on, where there may have been energy blockages and imbalances.
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