Shiatsu (literally "finger pressure") is still a relatively young manual treatment, which was developed in Japan at the beginning of the 20th century. It is based on the principles of traditional oriental medicine and western physiology and treatment concepts. In 1964 it was recognised by the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare as independent method of treatment:

"Shiatsu therapy is a form of manipulation administered by the thumbs, fingers and palms, without the use of any instrument, mechanical or otherwise, to apply pressure to the human skin, correct internal malfunctioning,
promote and maintain health, and treat specific diseases."

The DEFINITION of the Austrian Shiatsu umbrella organisation (ÖDS) of the 25th March 2004 is:


Shiatsu is an independent, self- contained form of manual holistic bodywork. Shiatsu has its origins in the Eastern healing arts, which are based on the notion of the existence of a dynamic life force (Ki, Qi), that is inherent to all living beings. Shiatsu is also influenced by western health concepts with reference to holistic health approaches. Health and wellbeing of a person in their body- mind and soul, a unity, are conditions of a harmonious dynamic equilibrium. This is reflected in the consistent flow and even distribution of energy in the meridians and the entire body.

Philosophical background

Based on Oriental (Far Eastern) knowledge of the unified dynamic order as universal principle, shiatsu orientates itself on the teachings of the Five Elements (Transformations), the principle of Yin and Yang, Kyo and Jitsu and the principle of Mu (Wu Wei).

These findings are the basis for, as well for the diagnostic approach to, shiatsu treatment.


The aims of shiatsu are: the balancing and revitalisation of the vital potential, the maintenance and strengthening of the body- mind and soul unity which harmonises the flow of energy. Shiatsu activates the self- healing energies of the human body and in this way counteracts the emergence of patterns of disharmony -imbalance of Yin and Yang- (preventative effect).

The basis of shiatsu is Oriental (Far Eastern) energetic diagnosis (Bo- Shin, Setu- Shin, Mon- Shin, Bun- Shin) whose aim it is, by means of meridian-, hara-, back-, tongue-, face-, pulse-diagnosis etc as well as the overall appearance of the client, to establish the existing energetic patterns of the client.


Shiatsu in mainly practiced: on the floor (mat, futon), in traditional postures, in direct skin contact or through indirect contact (clothed) and without the use of additional aids and appliances.

The pressure is perpendicular, stable, increasing or moving from the centre of the body (Hara), through the use of body weight (by means of gravity and without the using strength) and is practiced with the hands, thumbs, fingers, elbows, knees and feet. 

Meridians (the 14 classical and 12 Masunaga Meridians) and points (tsubos) are stimulated, varying the pressure technique, the strength, the intensity, duration and way of stimulation, according to the energetic condition of the client.

Special Shiatsu techniques are for instance the two handed technique, tonification and sedation, Makka-Ho (Meridian stretches), rotations and Do- In exercises.


Pressure on the meridians and tsubos, joints, muscles and tendons dissolves energetic blockages (tensions, congestion) and supports the flow of energy.

Shiatsu stimulates the autonomic nervous system (mainly via the parasympathetic nervous system), and thereby has a balancing (calming or invigorating) effect on: the heart, the breathing, the muscle tone, which promote the self-healing process of the body, soul and spirit (as a complex, interrelated system). It also leads to the restoration, stimulation and maintenance of the energetic balance (inner balance and serenity). Inner healing and growth processes are thereby supported and enabled, and equally the dynamic regenerative ability of people.

Shiatsu supports and promotes especially the process of growth and maturation, it accompanies in difficult life phases and facilitates the transition from one stage of life to the next, such as puberty, midlife crisis, menopause, ageing.

Indications and contraindications

The regulating aspect of shiatsu has an especially preventative effect, and balances energetic disharmonies before they can manifest as illness.

Shiatsu is used in consultation with the relevant medical professionals, also in the accompaniment of conventional therapies, such as: psychotherapy, physiotherapy or conventional treatments such as regeneration and rehabilitation after accidents of illnesses.

Professional or social stress and the resulting tensions, and emotional disequilibrium are positively influenced.

Due to the harmonising working method, shiatsu supports the functions of the autonomic nervous system, such as: breathing, digestion, sleep, blood circulation or menstruation and has a favourable effect on the musco-skeletal system.

With certain forms of pain shiatsu can provide a remedy after determining the cause. Shiatsu promotes the bodily awareness and mindfulness. Shiatsu is contraindicated after using heavy medication, alcohol, recreational drugs or in states if mental confusion of the client. 

Particular circumstances, such as pregnancy, diabetes, varicose, veins, psychiatric treatment etc. need to be taken into consideration by the shiatsu practitioner, and the applied form of shiatsu adjusted accordingly. A precondition is therefore the co-operation with and/or referral to medical specialists and therapists.

Shiatsu as encounter and support

Mindfulness and attention towards the receiving client, as well as to one self are essential characteristics of shiatsu work. This is reached especially through self- awareness (self- reflection, recognising one's owns limits and possibilities) and personal maturation.

There is a prerequisite for neutrality and value free perception, and recognition of a person and their condition (process). Emotional support and accompanying dialogue promote insight (understanding), and support the effectiveness of a professional treatment.


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