What is shiatsu?

Shiatsu is an ancient Japanese therapeutic art that looks at the human being, body & health, through the energy paradigm (ki for the Japanese, chi for the Chinese, and prana for the Indians). Shiatsu incorporates the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, based on the observation of Life phenomena and movements, to create a complete system of medicine. As in acupuncture, the shiatsu practitioner works on the different organ functions (circulatory, digestive, endocrinal, respiratory, etc. systems), via a complex network of energy pathways called ‘meridians’.

Shiatsu is characterized by the way in which touch is involved in the therapeutic relationship. Regulation of the organ functions through the meridians is done by progressive and non-intrusive work , which nevertheless has a very deep effect.

What happens during a treatment?

A case history id done and several diagnoses (palpation of the hara, tongue and pulse) are taken to evaluate the general state of the patient as opposed to the organ functions. The treatment involves joint movements, hand or elbow pressure, and stretching on the meridians to restore the different organ circulations, through the meridians.

A treatment takes place on the ground on a futon, or on a table, in a comfortable outfit and lasts 60 minutes.

What is the therapeutic range of shiatsu?

Shiatsu is particularly indicated for any chronic ailments. Here is a non-exhaustive list of ailments that are treated by shiatsu, classified by organ system.

  • Digestive system complaints: gastro esophageal reflux, gastric acid, functional colopathy, ulcer, chronic constipation/diarrhea, hiatal/inguinal hernia, bloating, organ ptosis, hemorrhoids, anemia, hepatic colic, indigestion, etc.
  • Respiratory system complaints: ENT problems, asthma, chronic coughing, diaphragm problems, etc.
  • Urinary system complaints: cystitis, nephritic colic, kidney ptosis, bladder prolepsis, etc.
  • Cardiovascular system complaints: hypertension, tachycardia, cardiac oppression, vertigo, oedema, etc.
  • Nervous system complaints: migraine, insomnia, chronic tiredness, tension cephalgia, anxiety, concentration disorders, psycho-somatic ailments.
  • Reproductive system complaints: irregular menstrual cycle, infertility, prolapsus of the uterus, ovarian cyst (- 6cm), fibro (- 8cm), pubalgia, etc.
  • Immune system complaints: immuno-depression, repetitive infections,skin diseases, etc.
  • Locomotive system complaints : non-traumatic lombalgia, dorsalgia & cervicalgia, chronic tendinitis/contracture/tensions, etc.
  • Endocrinal system complaints: (hormonal migraines, hypo/hyperthyroidism,

Therapeutic limits

This list does not guarantee recovery from these complaints. Infectious diseases, serious injuries to the organ, malignant tumors and metastases are counter-indicated for treatment. Finally, you will never be asked to stop an on-going medical treatment.

How many sessions will be necessary?

The number of sessions necessary is impossible to predict. It depends on the patient’s general state, his symptoms and his reaction to treatment. The more serious the disorder, the more sessions will be required. As a rough guide, a tendonitis may require 1 to 4 treatments, whereas hyperthyroidism may require 6 to 12 treatments, at the rate of one session every 2-4 weeks, and this after starting a few sessions close together. However, there is not a guarantee of no remission.

PDF 1 - The roots of Iokai Shiatsu and the therapeutic position

The name ‘Iokai’ was taken from a sutra in a medical compendium (which reflects the 4 noble truths in Buddhism) which states what every therapist should strive for, namely: 

  • to know the laws of Nature and recognize disease
  • to understand the causes of disease and its evolution
  • to be able to give the appropriate treatment
  • to ensure that the disease does not come back.

Iokai Shiatsu stresses the importance of a deep comprehension of these life phenomena by direct experience. Access to this understanding – in its Latin etymology 'take in, encompass, include, embrace’ – requires the practitioner to have empathy and to be aware of what is happening in his hands, while in a state close to meditation.

Accompanying the patient progressively to be aware of any m movement within, allows the practitioner to sometimes perceive deep blocks, pain or exhaustion. That which Western medicine labels ‘pathology’ is very often the expression of the internal areas that are out of sync. The patient can express in words his experience or embrace it in silence. By the patient being aware of what is happening in his he can understand from within these deep places of stagnation, the source of his suffering. At that time, the practitioner’s work can restore the balance of life energy in the organ functions. There may be a transformation (or not) of the life force of the patient. This is commonly known as a ‘healing’.


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