Shiatsu is a traditional Japanese therapy that a combination of pressure applied through fingers and assisted-stretching techniques, some of which are common to other therapies, such as Massage, Physiotherapy, Acupressure, Osteopathy and Lymphatic Drainage. The word Shiatsu comes from the Japanese language and means ‘finger pressure’ (from shi, meaning finger, and atsu, meaning pressure). Shiatsu stimulates blood circulation and releases toxins and deep seated tensions from the muscles. It also stimulates the hormonal system and the immune system, and acts on the autonomic nervous system, allowing the recipient to relax deeply and to get in touch with own healing power.
 History of Shiatsu
Shiatsu was first recognized by Japanese law in 1955, and in the text book “Theory and Practice of Shiatsu” published by the medical department of the Ministry of Welfare (Current Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare) in December 1957, Shiatsu is defined as follows: “Shiatsu technique refers to the use of fingers and the palm of one’s hands to apply pressure to particular sections on the surface of the body for the purpose of correcting the imbalances of the body, and for maintaining and promoting health. It is also a method contributing to the healing of specific illnesses.”
Shiatsu is an evolving style of healing. Various styles of Shiatsu incorporate aspects of Japanese massage traditions, Chinese Medicine practice, and the knowledge of anatomy and physiology. Shiatsu is believed to have Chinese origins and was later developed in Japan. The term Shiatsu first found mention in a 1915 book, Tenpaku Tamai's Shiatsu Ryōhō. Tokujiro Namikoshi founded the Japan Shiatsu College in 1940 and systematized a form of Shiatsu therapy based on Western anatomy and physiology. He is known as the father of Shiatsu. And, though many of his disciples developed their own forms of Shiatsu (like Tsubo Shiatsu, Keiraku (Meridian) Shiatsu, Zen (Ioh kai) Shiatsu, etc.) that have become known throughout the world and thus the original Shiatsu is often called “Namikoshi Shiatsu” to distinguish it from its derivatives.
 Subtle Energy in the Body
Many oriental traditions describe the world in terms of energy. All things are considered to be manifestations of a vital universal force, called 'Ki' by the Japanese, Chi", or 'Qi', in China. It is the primary substance and motive force of life. It is most often described as "energy", but Ki is also synonymous with breath in the Japanese and Chinese languages. In Oriental medicine, harmony of Ki within the human body is conceived as being essential to health. Many healing practices are addressed to this end.
 The Technique
Shiatsupractors perform Shiatsu by pressing with their thumbs, fingers and palms on Shiatsu points throughout the body to enhance the body's natural healing ability and prevent the progression of disease. Shiatsu technique involves stretching, leverage and leaning your weight into various parts of the recipient's body to encourage greater harmony of energy, circulation, flexibility and postural integrity. Many of the techniques are applied to the same system of energy channels or 'meridians' as used in acupuncture, although in Shiatsu each channel is felt to cover a greater area of the body.
A Shiatsu session is done while the patient is lying down on a couch or a futon. The practitioner will check the energy balance in various meridians with palpation. This is an interactive process that often requires feedback from the receiver. A session begins with a slow deep pressure which is usually very relaxing. The second part of the treatment is more dynamic and consists of quicker pressures and stretches; limb rotations or rocking may also be used. During a session you may experience a deep sense of relaxation and often people feel that they are being touched "exactly at the right place in the right way". You might also become aware of certain tensions or needs and feel reactions in different parts of your body. Sometimes people experience a release of emotions or memories.
 Benefits of Shiatsu
Shiatsu is useful in treating a variety of minor problems such as insomnia, headaches, anxiety, back pain, constipation, skin irritations, etc. It also helps people suffering from neurological problems, musco-skeletal diseases, emotional difficulties, digestive and respiratory disorders, etc. Shiatsu relieves stress, calms the nervous system and stimulates the circulatory and immune systems. It is particularly effective for stress-related tension and illnesses, insomnia, back pain, headaches and digestive upsets. Through the stimulation of the hormone system shiatsu can also have an impact on the digestive and reproductive systems. Apart from bringing relief to symptoms, shiatsu gradually corrects long term postural and behavioral imbalances leading to improved body/ mind awareness and a general sense of well-being and peace of mind. It is particularly beneficial for pregnant women. Small children and the elderly can also be treated with Shiatsu.
 Limitations of Shiatsu
Some people may not benefit much from shiatsu. This includes persons who are not aware of their bodies unless they are in pain and overweight people. In overweight people the layer of fat prevents the stimulation of ki.