Each practitioner of Shiatsu has their own way of working and each Shiatsu session is uniquely tailored to the client. No two sessions will ever be the same as the therapist is reacting to and treating the body’s energy as it presents itself at the time. Broadly speaking each session will contain three stages, a consultation or discussion, the hands-on part of the therapy and frequently some advice, guidance or discussion about what transpired during treatment.

The therapist needs to find out what conditions or symptoms you are suffering from, what medical conditions you may have or have had in the past, and what you are expecting to get out of the treatment. During your first session, it may take some time to take a detailed case history, but less during subsequent sessions as the therapist will be more concerned with just the changes in your condition.

During the Shiatsu proper, you may be asked to lie, sit or stand. Traditionally a padded futon on the floor and cushions are used to help you remain comfortable. Special massage chairs or tables may also be used if these are appropriate or if a futon is not practical. Some simple exercises may be incorporated to stretch, realign or improve your mobility, and you may be shown how to do these on your own so that you can continue your treatment at home between sessions.

Touch is the cornerstone of Shiatsu and your therapist will use light and deep pressure, massaging, pressing, and stretching to bring about a change in your body’s energy. The therapist may use fingers, hands, feet, elbows and knees to apply pressure and may even work “off-the body” with no direct physical contact.

After the session you should feel very relaxed and yet invigorated at the same time. Your therapist may explain some of the significances of the imbalance that was treated, and discuss how the TCM diagnosis relates to your day-to-day life. If appropriate, some recommendations may be made and you may be shown points to press yourself, simple exercises, stretches or advised about certain foods that may also help your energetic pattern.

Get the most from your session

Here are a few tips that you may find useful and may help you maximise your Shiatsu treatment

Wear loose fitting natural fibres. You may need to do some stretches or rotations of the limbs, and you will be far more comfortable wearing a long sleeved cotton top and trousers, than tight jeans etc.

Do not eat just before a session. The touch-diagnosis works over the belly area and you may find this uncomfortable if you have just eaten.

Think about what you want to get out of the session. If you just want to relax, then that’s fine, but if you can give a clear intention to your therapist they can help you understand how Shiatsu may help, and you will both be able to measure the effectiveness of the session much better.

Ask questions. There’s nothing worse than getting home after a session and thinking “I wish I’d asked about….”, so ask and if you need to, write it down and take it with you so you don’t forget.

Record your progress. It’s hard to remember sometimes what happened immediately after that last session, especially if it’s more than a couple of weeks ago. If you are keen to make sure that the treatment is really working for you, then keep a record of how you feel and how your condition is changing. If something doesn’t seem right after treatment, don’t be frightened to get in touch. Your therapist may be able to help over the telephone and would much prefer this than to silently lose your custom.

If you can’t do the exercises say so. Maybe you don’t have time, didn’t quite grasp how to do it, or simply don’t see how it can help. Your therapist has given the exercises because they feel they will help and will expect to see some changes in you as a result. Help them and yourself by being honest.