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What is Shiatsu and how it benefits your health?

Are you considering Shiatsu for yourself or someone you know? This article will help you identify whether Shiatsu is a good option. You will also learn what happens during a treatment and what benefits you can expect after a series of sessions.

1. What is Shiatsu?

Shiatsu is a form of bodywork established in Japan. Its roots go back to the traditional Japanese massage called „Amna“, Traditional Chinese medicine and Chinese acupuncture. A Shiatsu practitioner would use similar knowledge as an acupuncturist, but work with his hands instead of needles. The word Shiatsu refers to the method itself. It literally means finger (shi) and pressure (atsu).

The pressure is applied on meridian lines. Those are pathways throughout the body, where our energy (called „Qi“ or „Ki“) circulates. When our energy flows naturally and freely, our life force is strong and we are healthy. However when things become challenging or difficult, this will influence its flow, causing the meridians to become weak or overly active. You will feel this as physical or emotional unrest.

Shiatsu supports the body’s natural ability to balance itself. A Shiatsu treatment is incredibly relaxing. While the practitioner is connecting to your energy, you are invited to stop for a moment. To breathe out and just to be. 

2. What happens in a Shiatsu session?

Shiatsu is performed traditionally on a futon on the floor. And there is a good reason for this. Being on the floor makes it easier for the practitioner to apply just the right amount of pressure. Apart from working with his hands the practitioner will also use his knees, elbows or thumbs to release tension in certain body parts.

Shiatsu is done with clothes on. For some people this can bring an additional ease and allow to relax even better.

The great simplicity of Shiatsu is that it can be applied in various positions. Lying on the back, the belly, on your side or even in a sitting position. Depending on your needs, the practitioner may also perform joint rotations or stretching techniques, to allow for more flexibility in the body.

2.1. Shiatsu means conscious connection

Before moving on to the actual treatment it is important to understand the clients needs first. That’s why taking time to listen is so crucial. When talking to a client, I’m interested in the overall picture. Not only in physical symptoms, but also in mental and emotional aspects. The beauty of Shiatsu is that there is no separation between the body and soul. Everything is interconnected. 

I love to compare Shiatsu to a good conversation. The giver and the receiver stay in constant connection with each other. The conversation does not finish when the client moves on the futon. It only changes it’s form to mindful touch. 


Being a Shiatsu practitioner requires openness and flexibility. While my hand softly touches the client’s belly, I’m all ears. I’m being aware of the breathing pattern, I’m listening to the signals of the body. I’m watching how my touch is being perceived. There is no rush. Whatever needs to be said, will come to the surface. Like in a good conversation.

2.2 Is Shiatsu painful?

Shiatsu sessions can differ from one treatment to another. It will depend on the style and quality of touch of the practitioner. And also how you feel and what is going on in your life. Shiatsu is not supposed to be painful. However you might notice, that some points or areas in your body will respond quicker. They may feel a bit more sensitive or warm. There is nothing wrong with that. It usually happens as a result of energy movement taking place in the body.

3. Who can receive Shiatsu?

Shiatsu is great for people of all ages. During a treatment the touch will be individually adjusted to the person receiving it. Therefore it can be safely used even for babies, children and elderly people. It also brings great relief during pregnancy and postpartum time.

3.1. What is Shiatsu good for?

In Eastern medicine body, mind and emotions are treated as one. This holistic approach allows to integrate all aspects of our health and wellbeing. In my opinion mindful touch like it is used in Shiatsu, is particularly beneficial for times of emotional challenge. This can involve: 

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Feeling overwhelmed, lost or isolated
  • Coping with life changes or personal crisis
  • Coping with separation, loss and grief

And when experiencing increased physical stress

  • Tiredness or lack of energy
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Tension in neck area, shoulders or back
  • Pain in the joints
In my understanding the body often talks for the soul. Shiatsu’s gift is that it focuses on the person as a whole, not just on individual symptoms. 

Physical, mental and emotional topics are interconnected in the present, but can appear as a result from the past. Sometimes we are unable to deal with certain events. However our body has the immense capacity to store stories, pictures and feelings. When the time is right, when we feel safe, we can look at them again. With love and gentleness. This is also possible with Shiatsu.

3.2. When not to receive Shiatsu?

There are situations when Shiatsu may not be an appropriate form of bodywork for you. If you have any of those conditions, please check with a Shiatsu practitioner first, before booking a treatment:

  • After any kind of surgery
  • While undergoing chemotherapy
  • Spinal disc herniation
  • Osteoporosis
  • Varicose veins
  • Bone fractures

4. Benefits of Shiatsu for your health & wellbeing

Shiatsu has the capacity to relax the body, quiet the mind and sooth the heart. A treatment is always tailored to your individual needs. Each person might respond to a treatment differently. However there are common benefits that clients can observe after one or a series of sessions. Those include:

  • Experiencing deep relaxation 
  • Lower blood pressure and heart rate
  • Improved quality of sleep
  • Improved blood circulation
  • Lower levels of cortisol (stress hormone)

There is also a number of benefits that are not so easy to measure.

Being in a state of peace and presence is one of them. Many times I had the honor to witness a client, who just had a transformational experience. When dots from the past and the present connected. When they suddenly had an epiphany. When they were so moved that they couldn’t talk. When they finally felt something significant in their body. When they discovered that all is well and they are enough. When they found deep gratefulness for life despite the challenges. When they finally felt at home in their body and their life.

Shiatsu can bring a huge amount of benefits. When we are able to explore the beauty and depth of life

Take care, 


Aleksandra Hoffmann Shiatsu Berlin

about the author

Aleksandra Hoffmann

Aleksandra Hoffmann is a certified Shiatsu practitioner based in Berlin, Germany. She supports clients in times of physical and emotional stress, so they can feel into their bodies and inner needs and find peace within themselves.