wed this!Is there really something that feels good and is good for you? Yes! Shiatsu, therapeutic bodywork from Japan, combines the benefits of nurturing touch with the healing principles of Chinese medicine.

Often we feel that massage is a luxury item, something that we allow ourselves only when we have the extra time and money. But health is not a luxury. And what better way to maintain health than through natural, compassionate bodywork that is based on knowledge thousands of years old. Shiatsu offers the nurturance of touch in a safe, clothes-on environment. It feels great, and at the same time utilizes Asian medical principles to balance and support health and vitality.

One of the fundamental concepts of Chinese medicine is Qi (pronounced "chee"), the vital energy in our body that underlies all functioning. Qi flows in specific pathways called meridians. We access the Qi through Vital Points along the meridians. Health is when there is abundant Qi in the meridians and the flow is unobstructed. When Qi becomes out of balance and the flow is blocked, symptoms arise to notify us that we need to do something. We feel this in the form of headaches, muscle pain, digestive disorders, emotional upset, or where we just don’t feel right. These are warning signs that our Qi needs to be "tended."

The focus of traditional Asian health care is to keep a person healthy. The traditional Asian physician is like a gardener. The gardener prepares the soil to make it vital and full of nutrients. The plants will grow well and resist pests and disease if they are fed and kept balanced. The garden needs regular tending to prevent weed growth and keep the plants healthy. The traditional Asian physician, like the gardener, sees her clients regularly to keep their systems strong to prevent illness, injury and disease. The goal is to maintain balance physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. Imbalance weakens the strength of our "soil," which is the natural immunity built into our bodies.

We become ill when our Qi is not in balance. Our immunity weakens and illness manifests. We may get regular colds and flu, weekly or daily headaches, body aches and physical pain, digestive difficulties, etc. By this time, our garden has long been neglected. Shiatsu can do a lot to help restore the balance.

In a Shiatsu session, the practitioner first evaluates the client to determine what patterns of imbalance may be present. The practitioner then creates a session designed to give the client the most therapeutic benefit according to their individual needs. A variety of methods – including pressure, kneading, soothing, tapping and stretching – are used to access the vital Qi. In the case where the client’s energy is low or deficient, specific techniques are used to enhance and vitalize the Qi. When the client is over-stressed, wound up or anxious, techniques are used to disperse the "excess" energy. It is important that the practitioner first assess "the state of the Qi" so the Shiatsu session can give the client the best of what Asian medicine has to offer: balance! Shiatsu works to restore health by regulating the Qi, which can alleviate a variety of symptoms and bring the body back to balance.

The Asian medical model is a true health care model in that it requires individuals to participate in their own wellness by "tending the soil regularly," and Shiatsu is an excellent way to do so. A maintenance schedule for Shiatsu is individual for each person. One Shiatsu session per month may work well to maintain balance, however, given factors such as a stressful job, an unbalanced lifestyle or lack of exercise, sessions on a more regular basis may be recommended.

Regardless of frequency, a session of Shiatsu can alleviate pain, increase vitality and well-being, and help to prevent illness. And because Shiatsu feels wonderful, make it a part of a regular plan for health.

Cari Johnson Pelava, Dipl. ABT, NCCAOM; Cert Inst., AOBTA, is co-founder and co-director of CenterPoint Massage & Shiatsu Therapy School & Clinic. She has practiced Shiatsu for 25 years and teaches at CenterPoint. Visit www.CenterPointMN.com or call 612.617.9090 for more information. Copyright © 2008 Cari Johnson Pelava. All Rights Reserved.

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