If you prefer your massage with a more Eastern flavor, a Shiatsu massage may be the ideal treatment for you.
The name Shi-atsu (also known as G-Jo or Jin Shin Do) is derived from the Japanese words shi, which translates to "finger", and atsu, which means "pressure".
So it’s probably no surprise to learn that shiatsu techniques are centered on using the fingers – as well as the palm of the hand – to apply pressure.
This pressure helps to correct imbalances in the body, which helps you to maintain good health.
It is also believed that G-Jo can actually help to cure certain illnesses by stimulating your own natural healing power.
Jin Shin Do is about treating your body as a whole and working with your therapies to bring it into balance.
Using only her (or his) palms, fingers and thumbs, a highly-trained massage therapist will carefully, gently apply pressure to specific meridian points on your body.
These points are connected to your central nervous system, as well as your automatic nervous system.
Stimulating these crucial points by applying skilled pressure helps to evenly distribute energy throughout your body, restore flow to places where it is blocked, and ultimately balance your chi, or ki.
It all sounds wonderful. But exactly what does this mean in real life?
The benefits are numerous, including easing and managing stress, better blood circulation, calmer nerves, release of toxins, disease prevention and even lower blood pressure.
It’s also an ideal way to introduce your body to the benefits of Eastern medical techniques. And of course, it feels amazing.
While it is derived from the ancient theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine, (also known as TCM), it is actually a fairly new practice.
It began as a mystery-shrouded procedure traditionally performed only by women and the blind, and the name may have first appeared in 1915, in a book titled Shiatsu Ryoho.
However, there was no real system or technique until many years later.
It entered the mainstream in 1940, with the founding of the Japan Shiatsu College by Tokujiro Namikoshi, the man widely credited with being the "father of Shiatsu".
According to legend, Namikoshi "learned" Jin Shin Do at the tender age of seven, while using his hands and fingers to help his mother, who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, deal with her ailment.
His technique combined the pressure point work that he has used on his mother with Western theories of anatomy and physiology.
Namikoshi went on to treat the Prime Minister of Japan, Marilyn Monroe and Mohammad Ali, to name a few. His technique is so well-regarded; it has special legal status in Japan.
Jin Shin Do is very different from a traditional massage. It is often performed on a mat or on the floor rather than on a Western style massage table.
And nudity is not the norm – no oil is used during the treatment, so loose clothing is the traditional attire.
You will likely be told to wear loose clothing when you book your appointment so that you arrive prepared. But as with any massage, the atmosphere will be soothing and relaxing.
Using only his or her thumbs, fingers and palms, your highly-trained massage therapist will begin to apply pressure to specific meridian points on your body in a rhythmic sequence. Communicating with your therapist is key as you go through the procedure.
Many clients experience reactions that they might consider unusual during a treatment – you may find yourself feeling a range of emotions and even laughing or crying as your energy begins to flow again. This is all completely normal and part of the amazing experience.
You should leave your session feeling energized, with a new sense of clarity.
"A study in England on 66 post-term women (those who attended a hospital clinic after 40 weeks gestation) showed that women who employed shiat-su techniques were significantly more likely to have spontaneous labor than the non-shiat-su group who more frequently required induced labor."
St. Michael's Hospital, Bristol, England. Authors: Jennifer Ingram, Celina Domagala and Suzanne Yates. Originally published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, Volume 13, Issue 1, March 2005, Pages 11–15.
"At Shadyside Hospital’s cancer treatment center, two massage therapists work on contract, offering reflexology, craniosacral therapy, manual lymph drainage, shiat-su and deep-tissue work. Periodically the hospital offers month-long massage classes to educate hospital staff and the public about the benefits of massage and how it affects the body."
Patricia Kirby – Massage Magazine