“Real medicine begins when the doctor puts their hands on the patient’s hara [abdomen].” ~Shiatsu proverb

What is Shiatsu?

Shiatsu massage is a Japanese bodywork therapy with compassion and care as the center of its medicine. The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine (Huangdi Neijing) mentions Ankyo and Do-In – ancient Japanese healing methods of which Shiatsu came forth from. The Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare defines Shiatsu as: “a form of manipulation administered by the thumbs, fingers, and palms without the use of instruments to apply pressure to the body in order to correct internal malfunction, promote and maintain health and treat specific diseases.” This therapeutic manipulation uses compassionate hands-on healing to stimulate a person’s meridians or energy channels. Along with healing contact, stretches, and lifestyle changes, Shiatsu can treat the person and not a disease allowing for preventative care and maintenance of health.

What is Shiatsu used for?

The Japanese government acknowledged Shiatsu as an official practice of medicine in 1920 with psychosomatic and neurophysiological aspects of healing. Those who seek care from Shiatsu practitioners report considerable improvement from:

  • Neurological complaints
  • Psychological stress
  • Musculoskeletal syndromes
  • Gastrointestinal complaints
  • Chemotherapy side-effects

Shiatsu massage has a direct lineage with Aikido, a Japanese Martial Art that connects quantum physics with energy flow. This healing art uses rhythmic, perpendicular pressure to stimulate energetic points of the body that relax the sympathetic nervous system and promote the free flow of energy circulation. By releasing tension and manipulating the energetic blockages in the body’s meridians, facilitation of energetic connections between the mind, body, and nature are made.

What happens in a Shiatsu session?

“The therapist must suspend the intellectual process until after the diagnosis has been made and the relevant meridians explored.”  ~Yuichi Kawada

Shiatsu massage as a healing science is at the same time a wonderful art form that impacts an individual’s whole system – their body, mind, lifestyle, and relationships. The session begins with a dialogue. We’ll begin by getting a sense of what are your treatment goals and expectations. Shiatsu is done fully clothed. We’ll do an abdominal diagnosis to have an idea of what is happening within. Stretches, counsel, and further suggestions may follow your whole-body treatment.




Heaven Nunez is a student at the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine and has had many years of training and practice in Shiatsu massage.