by Lauren Johnson
It goes without saying that people need connection. Whether it be through our environment, community, friends or family, being engaged helps us thrive. However, in today’s bustling world, even connection to one’s self has its challenges. Shiatsu is one method that can help us reconnect.
The word “shiatsu” means “finger pressure” and is a specialized form of acupressure that follows meridians and pressure points in the body. It originated in China about 6,000 years ago and works with the energy of the body or chi. “Bringing the energy into balance nurtures the person on the cellular, emotional and spiritual level,” says Shirley Scranta, owner of the International School of Shiatsu, in Pipersville. “It is the integration of all these aspects that help keep a person healthy.”
Scranta explains that during a shiatsu treatment the practitioner takes time to assess the areas in the body where the chi is not flowing and then treats it accordingly. “Moving the chi is done by a combination of stretching, rotating the arms and legs and applying firm pressure,” she says.
Since the body begins to repair and heal itself during sleep, shiatsu aims to reach the same state. “The session is in complete silence as the practitioner physically listens to the person’s body and moves the energy through the pathways. It can be extremely meditative,” she says.
After the session, the recipient’s body integrates itself physically, emotionally and spiritually, and they wake up feeling energized, refreshed and renewed.
Scranta cautions that holding stress in the body over long periods of time not only prevents energy from being used, it also takes a lot of energy to hold in that stress. This creates disharmony, which can ultimately lead to disease. Adding the physical and energetic movements of shiatsu can help prevent this.
With many people viewing work as their primary value, experiencing stress is not something new. “In America we have a lot of stress. We work hard, drink a lot of caffeine, stay very cerebral and are in complete denial that we need sleep or food or exercise,” says Scranta. “We take better care of our cars than we do of ourselves.
“Women especially are very prone to putting themselves last, but we need to see ourselves as models of self-care. There’s a series of qigong movements specific to breast health that moves the energy of the meridians that travel through the breasts and underarms to circulate the lymph fluid. Moving the lymph fluid helps keep the immune system healthy.” Scranta adds that long periods of sitting at a desk (where the arms mainly remain down) can also contribute to this stagnation. Women interested in a preventative approach can start with an introductory class.
Scranta first became interested in shiatsu after being sick for many years. “I had fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and a host of different allergies,” she says. “A friend suggested that I needed a ‘healing touch’, and this led me to discover shiatsu. It completely changed my life.”
Scranta began her journey into studying shiatsu, and graduated from the International School of Shiatsu in 1996. She later moved to the area permanently, and became the school’s new owner and director in 2005.
While “shiatsu” may be a new word for many, people discovering its benefits are on the rise. As more individuals seek a healthier, more present way of living, the school provides the education and services for people to experience it firsthand.
Students learning how to become practitioners of shiatsu are required to do 100 hours of supervised clinical experience under a teacher’s instruction. At their clinic, students work with the public at a special rate that makes it possible for anyone to try it if they’re curious.
“Though shiatsu is not widely known, it is where yoga was 30 years ago,” Scranta says. “It’s about using and enjoying what you have.”