Shiatsu is a Japanese word meaning "finger pressure". It grew from other forms of massage, called Anma in Japan, which can trace its origins and influences back to Anmo or Tuina from China. These forms of massage use rubbing, stroking, tapping, pushing, and pulling to influence the muscles and circulatory systems of the body. Shiatsu uses thumbs, fingers, hands, elbows, and sometimes even knees and feet to stimulate key points on the body. When these points are stimulated and held accordingly, they assist in realigning the physical structure of the body and its natural inner energies, to help ward of illness and maintain good health. These natural inner energies are considered to be manifestations of a vital universal force called Ki (pronounced Kee) by the Japanese and Chi (pronounced Chee) by the Chinese. During the early development of Shiatsu, in Japan, several notable practitioners founded schools that helped to promote and establish Shiatsu as the effective therapy that it is. One of these practitioners, Shizuto Masunaga, incorporated his studies of Western psychology and Chinese medicine into his experience of Shiatsu. He also refined existing methods of diagnosis and incorporated special self-care exercises, called "Makka Ho", to assist the recipient in stimulating the flow of energy within their body. These exercises were based on "Tao Yin" or the methods for guiding the subtle energies within the body to flow smoothly. Variations of these exercises are found throughout the many regions of China and are an integral part of Chinese medicine. These methods included massage, manipulative therapy, physical exercises, breathing exercises, and healing meditations.
The relationship between these practices and the simple and direct approach to spirituality of the Zen Buddhist monks of Japan led Masunaga's style to be called "Zen Shiatsu". This understanding and approach to Shiatsu is at the foundation of the type of Shiatsu bodywork offered by Body-Power Therapies. The influences of several other pioneers in field of Shiatsu must also be noted, including: Tempaku Tamai, who gave Shiatsu it's name with his publication of "Shiatsu Ho" or "The Shiatsu Method"; Tokujiro Namikoshi, who greatly influenced the recognition and spread of Shiatsu, so much so that he is called the founder of modern Shiatsu; and also Wataru Ohashi, one of Masunaga's students and an important contributor to some of Masunaga's publications and work, who developed his own unique and popular style.

Shiatsu is characterized by its great simplicity. If one was to observe a session, it would appear that little is happening except the still, relaxed pressure at various points on the body with the thumb, an easy lean of the elbows or a simple rotation of a limb. The restorative power of Shiatsu lies underneath these apparently uncomplicated movements where much is happening internally to the subtle energies of the body. If desired the client may remain fully clothed during the session in appropriate loose-fitting and non-restrictive clothing. Shiatsu also combines well with other styles of bodywork.

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