Some FAQ on Shiatsu answered and some infographics also videos on the topic.  I love it myself though not professionally trained I certainly see the benefits of practicing this method and learning from it.

BENEFITS OF SHIATSU: It will relax your mind and body ~  It will restore and balance your energy  ~ It will ease your tension and stiffness  ~ It will improve your breathing ~ It will improve your posture  ~ It will improve your circulation

Treatment techniques vary, with some practitioners working on specific tsubos, as in Chinese acupressure, and others using a general massage to stimulate the meridians. Western practitioners use physiological terms to describe the effects of shiatsu, claiming it regulates the hormonal system and the circulation of blood and lymphatic fluid; aids the elimination of waste products and releases muscle tension; and promotes deep relaxation. Shiatsu works effectively as a general tonic an also enhances the body’s self healing abilities.

Shiatsu 指圧  Finger Pressure / Acupressure / “Acupuncture Without Needles” 

Shiatsu is used to maintain and restore health. It is also an effective preventative therapy. People of all ages, including children, can benefit from treatments.  With practice you can use acupressure point diagnosis and meridian diagnosis to detect imbalances in energy and to then try to correct this through stimulating or calming the chi or ki flowing through each meridian.

As the five elements are essentially a reflection of the daily and seasonal cycles in nature they can be helpful in shiatsu in observing that natural energetic cycles. Pains or emotions that surface at certain times each day can be explored in terms of the five element daily cycle giving more clues as to a possible energetic disturbance.

  • stimulates circulation
  • strengthens the body
  • promotes relaxation
  • alleviates pain and discomfort
  • supports the body back to its natural balance.

What is the Five Element Theory?

The five element (or five phase theory) is used by many shiatsu practitioners as a diagnostic tool to understand their clients physically, psychologically and spiritually.

According to the Five Element theory, ki which animates the universe can be subdivided into five different but interconnected phases: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood. As symbols of Nature, they relate to the energetic quality of such things as the seasons, colours, flavours and emotions. Each element is associated with two meridians that are yin/yang partners. The elements follow the natural cycles of nature and each element is associated with a different time of day. For example: the fire element relates to the energy of the middle of the day when the sun is at its peak.

Wood Element

The liver and gall bladder meridians are governed by the Wood element and is associated with initiating action and the energy of the morning. It gives the ability to plan, control and assert oneself. The emotion associated with it is anger.

Fire Element

The fire element governs two meridian pairs: the heart and small intestine meridian, and the heart protector and the triple heater. This element is associated with the middle of the day when energy is at its peak. It represents our self-identity and celebration. The emotions associated with it are Joy and Love.

Earth Element

The spleen and stomach meridians are governed by the Earth element, which is associated with the late afternoon and a waning in activity. It relates to our ability to concentrate and analyse. The emotion associated with it is pensiveness.

Metal Element

The lung and large intestine meridians are governed by the Metal element, which is associated with evening and a balance between activity and rest. It enables us to know our boundaries and when it is appropriate to take in and let go. The emotion associated with it is grief.

Water Element

The kidney and bladder meridians are governed by the Water element, which is associated with night-time and rest. It provides us with the instinct for survival and procreation. The emotion associated with it is fear but this element is also the source of courage and endurance.


5hiatsu Elements Chart

Shiatsu is a total body therapy which effectively assists with a variety of conditions including: asthma and respiratory illnesses, depression, digestive disorders, constipation, irritable bowel, anxiety, pregnancy, menstrual issues, headaches, migraines, sports injuries, back, neck and shoulder pain, RSI, insomnia, fatigue, muscle tension, heart palpitations and stress.

Shiatsu encourages health and healing through treatment of the energy channels (meridians). An average session includes applying finger pressure to pressure points (tsubos); along with applying pressure along the meridians with the palms, stretching, and other techniques aimed at encouraging the flow of vital energy (chi).  Sessions take place on a futon (mat) with clients in loose, comfortable clothing.

Shiatsu is a form of bodywork from Japanese tradition that is largely based on Chinese meridian theory.  In Japanese “shiatsu” means “finger pressure”, which could be translated as “acupressure”.  (Acupuncture treats with needles.  Acupressure treats with thumb and finger pressure.)  It is a combination of the essentially human act of healing with the hands, Japanese folk healing, and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

At its most basic level, shiatsu is the use of finger pressure to treat ailments and promote well-being.  Shiatsu is similar to massage in that it aims to ease pain and tension while increasing circulation of blood and lymph.  Additionally, shiatsu also aims to promote the circulation of chi (ki) – vital energy.  It is the energy channels (usually called meridians) and the pressure points (tsubos) that are arranged along them that the shiatsu treatment follows, rather than the muscles and tendons that guide a massage treatment.

What is a meridian?

According to traditional Eastern theory, energy (ki or qi) circulates in the body along channels called ‘meridians’. The unobstructed flow of energy through these meridians is essential to good health. When the body is under stress, ki blockages occur along the channel causing physical, emotional, mental discomfort or pain. The Shiatsu therapist identifies these blockages and designs a treatment to restore the flow of ki and support the body back to its natural balance.

What is ki?

Ki is the basic life force. It is what animates life and is found every where on earth, without it life would not exist. Ki is not static, it is the energy associated with movement, whether it is walking or the movement of blood. In the body, it is a constantly changing flow of energy, which is affected by our moods, stress, illness, injury and lifestyle. It flows in the meridians and affects all aspects of the physical body as well as emotional and mental states. In a healthy body, Ki flows freely but the pressures of everyday life can affect the flow of ki, causing restrictions or blockage in the meridians that may lead to illness and stress.

What are yin and yang?

In nature everything has both and yin and yang quality. These qualities are in a continuous relationship and one cannot exist without the other. Yin is more a more feminine, receptive, nourishing and relaxing energy whilst yang is a more masculine, active, outgoing, consuming energy. Nothing is completely yin or yang, everything is relative. Yin and yang is the basis of Oriental medicine and is used to understand relationships of the body and the external environment.

What are tsubos?

Tsubo is often translated as ‘acupoint’ or ‘acupuncture point’. Tsubo are points on the meridians that can be stimulated in order to relieve pain and balance ki. The character for tsubo originated in China over 3,000 years ago. It literally translates as ‘jar’. On the body a tsubo is shaped like a tiny jar or deep pore. The application of pressure to the appropriate tsubo in shiatsu ensures the release of stagnating ki, allowing it to flow through the body.

Much of the above via Shiatsu Therapy Association of Australia

Chinese Meridians

An introduction to Shiatsu.. part 1 of 8 by Shinzui Shiatsu 

The 12 main meridians are:

  • Lung
  • Large Intestine
  • Stomach
  • Spleen
  • Heart
  • Small Intestine
  • Bladder
  • Kidney
  • Pericardium
  • San Jian (Triple Warmer / Heater)
  • Gallbladder
  • Liver

Each meridian is responsible to attend to a specific part of the body, to maintain health and homeostasis, and move qi, blood, or jing (essence). If congested, like a blocked river, the meridian will cause physical, emotional, or spiritual disease. Problems can arise in the meridians when there is a lack of energy (Deficiency of Qi), when there is too much energy because of blockages (Stagnation of Qi), when the quality of the energy is imbalanced (too much or too little Yin or Yang energy), when the flow of the energy is inharmonious (ascending when it should be descending or vice versa), and when there is Stasis of Blood. The purpose of Chinese medicine is to maintain the movement of qi as to invigorate life. Acupoints are used to treat these issues.

The meridians flow from one to another in a specific time frame and sequence. The flow begins at the Lung at 3-5am and ends at the Liver from 1-3am. There are Chinese animals related to each organ as well. The Daoist education at The World Medicine Institute teaches us the importance of the Chinese astrology and treatment strategies based on this ancient art-form. via Kims Wellness Center

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Main Meridians:

Lung (Fei): Hand Tai Yin. 3-5am. Tiger.

  • governs qi and respiration, responsible for Wei qi (protective qi), regulates water passages/pores/sweat
  • manifests on the skin and body hair; opens to the nose
  • emotion is grief, sadness
  • taste is pungent
  • spirit is the Po (corporeal soul- the soul that goes on after death): deals with reception of life
  • stores phelgm

Large Intestine (Da Chang): Hand Yang Ming. 5-7am. Rabbit.

  • accepts impure food and water, reabsorbs water, makes impure food/water into stool
  • deals with evacuation of life

Stomach (Wei): Foot Yang Ming 7-9am. Dragon

  • accepts and contains food and water
  • rots and ripens food and water and transfers it to small intestine
  • controls descending of Qi
  • origin of body fluids

Spleen (Pi): Foot Tai Yin. 9-11am. Snake

  • governs post-natal qi, creates blood from food, controls blood and keeps it in vessels, controls muscles and limbs, raises qi
  • manifests on the lips; opens to mouth (taste/appetite)
  • emotion is worry/ over-thinking
  • taste is sweet
  • spirit is Yi: thought, capacity to think, extraordinary memory
  • creates phelgm

Heart (Xin): Heart Shaoyin. 11-1pm. Horse.

  • governs blood, blood vessels, and circulation
  • manifests on face/complexion; opens to tongue (speech, talking, laughing)
  • emotion is joy (overjoy/mania)
  • taste is bitter
  • spirit is shen: mind, emotions, consciousness, long-term memory, sleep

Small Intestine (Xiao Chang): Hand Tai Yang. 1-3pm. Goat.

  • receive food and transforms; separates clean from dirty
  • responsible for mental clarity and discernment (physical and emotional)

Bladder (Pangguang): Foot Tai Yang. 3-5pm. Monkey.

  • contains body fluids, excretes urine

Kidney (Shen): Foot Shaoyin. 5-7pm. Rooster.

  • governs birth, growth, development, reproduction, death
  • ming men life gate regulates fire for all internal organ, functions, and willpower
  • produces marrow, fills up brain, controls bones; responsible for memory, concentration, thinking, physical and mental strength
  • manifests on head hair; opens to ears
  • emotion is fear
  • spirit is Zhi: will power
  • root of original qi

Pericardium: Hand Jueyin. 7-9pm. Dog.

  • governs blood
  • houses shen and protects heart
  • influences mental and emotional states, helps influence relationship with others
  • ambassador of/creator of joy and happiness

Triple Warmer (San Jiao): Hand Shaoyang. 9-11pm. Pig.

  • governs irrigation of upper, middle, and lower jiaos (breath, digestion, excretion)
  • similar to the lymphatic system

Gallbladder (Dan): Foot Shaoyang. 11-1am. Rat.

  • stores and excretes bile for digestion
  • controls sinews; provides qi for movement
  • gives courage and strength to make decisions
  • controls quality of sleep (good sleep vs nightmares)

Liver (Gan): Foot Jueyin. 1-3am. Ox.

  • stores and regulates blood; regulates menses
  • maintains free flow of qi
  • controls sinews and tendons: provides blood for movement
  • manifests on nails; opens to eyes
  • emotion is anger
  • spirit: Hun: influences capacity of life/decision planning; if not rooted will have floating feeling or fear before sleep

Shiatsu is energy work, not massage.  Shiatsu treats the body based on the recognition that everything is energy.

If one’s energy, or chi, is abundant and free-flowing then there is health.  If the energy is deficient or stagnant then there is a lack of health.  These two main imbalances are seen as the underlying causes of ill health.

Related Shiatsu Websites:

Nathaniel Whitmore

Macrobiotics UK


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