Shiatsu? That’s a dog isn’t it?

September 9th, 2017 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blog

By guest blogger Irene Elliott, So Shiatsu

Whenever I tell people that I am a Shiatsu Practitioner I always get a blank look and the reply ‘that’s a dog isn’t it?’

My Shiatsu story

I first heard about Shiatsu in 1989 when I started my Nursing training. I was introduced to someone who was studying to be a Shiatsu Practitioner and who was looking for people to practice on. I, of course, jumped at the chance to have a couple of free treatments. The immediate thing I noticed is that I felt relaxed yet energized after the treatments. I didn’t really understand or care about the theory behind it but thought it was nice to receive. The next time I came across Shiatsu was in 1997 when I had experienced a bereavement and was stressed at work. I saw that a local clinic was offering Shiatsu. So I booked in for some treatments which helped me greatly. I felt supported, nurtured and grounded.

I knew at this point that I didn’t want to do nursing forever. I found it stressful and my interest kept being drawn to a more holistic approach to health and wellbeing.

So I decided to retrain as a complementary therapist (with a view to leaving nursing eventually). I researched lots of different therapies and I kept getting drawn back to Shiatsu. Mainly because I really connected with the Eastern Medicine Philosophy.

I started my Shiatsu Practitioner training 2002, where I studied Shiatsu theory, Traditional Chinese Medicine theory and revisited western anatomy, physiology and pathology which I had previously learnt in my nursing training. I completed the course in 2005.

After I finished my Shiatsu training I worked part-time as a nurse and set myself up as a Shiatsu practitioner. But over the following years my Shiatsu time became less and less and the Nursing job took over (again). I wasn’t dealing with my work stress at all and I sadly had another bereavement and developed major problems with anxiety.

So I bit the bullet and handed in my notice for my Nursing job finally at the beginning of 2016. I look some time to heal myself and started seeing Shiatsu clients again in May 2016. I decided to specialize in working with clients who are living with stress, anxiety and other stress related symptoms, as I could easily empathize with them and had tools that I could share. And I am pleased to say that I now have NO work related stress, my anxiety is under control and I truly enjoy what I do.

So what is Shiatsu?

Shiatsu is a form of bodywork originating in Japan and based on traditional Chinese medicine. Shiatsu literally means ‘finger pressure’. I sometimes describe it as acupuncture, but without the needles!

The practitioner uses gentle non-intrusive pressure using their palms, fingers, knees, elbows or feet. Holding and stretching techniques are also used and these techniques combined encourage adjustments to the body’s physical structure, and balance energy/Qi flow in the meridians.

It is a holistic therapy and works on the person as a whole, including the physical, psychological and emotional aspects of the receiver. It supports health and wellbeing and strengthens the body’s natural ability to heal itself.

What is Qi/Chi?

It’s basically the energy that creates us. We start of as one cell and multiply and we eventually become a human being. We have energy whizzing round our bodies. For instance making our blood move and our heart beat. This Bio-electromagnetic energy is thought to be what energy workers and Chinese Medicine Practitioners call Qi.

What are the Meridians?

Scientists believe that the meridians can be located in the Facial Planes of the body. These meridians are the energy channels that connect the acupuncture points and related organs. Qi uses the meridians as a pathway round the body.

What do I expect when I come for my first appointment?

At the first appointment, I will ask you some questions about your health, well-being and what you would like to achieve from having Shiatsu. I will also ask you to sign a consent form to consent to receiving a treatment. This whole process may take anything from 20-30 minutes.

After this, you will be asked to lie down on a traditional Japanese futon mat. If you are unable to lie on a futon mat then Shiatsu can also be given on a massage couch or on a chair. I will ensure that you are comfortable and will then use a Shiatsu diagnostic tool that involves gently palpating your abdomen with my fingers. I may also ask to look at your tongue. After this the treatment shall begin and will last for approximately 1 hour. So your first appointment will last for approximately 1½ hours in total.

What about follow-up appointment?

In follow up sessions I will check in with you to see how you have been since the last time you attended and if there are any changes to your health. I will again gently palpate your abdomen and then carry out your treatment and this appointment will take approximately 1 hour. I may give dietary and lifestyle advice as appropriate to support the treatments being received.

Why do you need to know about my medical history and my health?

 Knowing this information can help me decide what type of treatment you need and rule out any contraindications to having a Shiatsu treatment. It will also highlight the need for you to see a medical practitioner if required.

How will I feel after a Shiatsu Treatment?

In my experience clients will feel either very relaxed or energized. You will experience feelings of calm and usually will sleep well.

Are there any negative side-effects of having a treatment?

Not usually as this is a really gentle treatment. But in some instances a client with a long-standing problem may find that their symptoms will worsen for a couple of days. This is thought to be a healing reaction.

In these situations it is best to rest where possible and drink lots of fluids and contact me for reassurance. If you have a medical condition and are concerned that Shiatsu will interact with it, then I would recommend seeking medical advice prior to the treatment.

How often should I come for a treatment?

If you have a long-standing problem and money was no option I would recommend that you come for a few weekly sessions and then monthly treatments. If you are attending just for relaxation then a one off or monthly treatments are fine.

How does Shiatsu treatments help with stress and anxiety?

First of all having a Shiatsu treatment gives you the opportunity to talk and to be listened to in a non-judgemental way. During the treatment it gives your body a chance to relax and switch off. Shiatsu also has a calming effect on the nervous system, which becomes over stimulated when you are stressed and anxious. We will also look at your lifestyle and see if there is anything that you could change to help your symptoms. I have lots of tried and tested tips that can help.

Shiatsu in healthcare

Shiatsu is used in various healthcare settings including; Midwifery, Mental Health, HIV care, Drug and Alcohol Services and Palliative Care.


A calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence, so that’s very important for good health – Dalai Lama

Many thank Irene for an excellent blog! Irene can be contacted via