A Shiatsu Conversation with Gareth Callister
What is Zen Shiatsu “in a nut shell”
The literal Japanese translation of “Shiatsu” is “finger pressure”.
It’s a massage style originating from Japan using stretching and acupressure techniques.
However what to stretch and press is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine TCM
What drew you Shiatsu?
I took a Yoga teachers training course in Kathmandu 1995, on this course was a Japanese student who had the ability to dissolve pain just by using very simple Shiatsu stretching and acupressure techniques – I was hooked.
What can I expect to find when I come for a treatment.
You will find a warm comfortable atmosphere, the treatment is given on the floor with a soft underlay, pillows and blankets are used for comfort.
Its best to wear light cotton clothes as the treatment is made on the fully clothed body.
The treatment takes around 50-60 minutes and during this time it is common for the thoughts to drift, it is very much in the Zen meditative direction.
A Diagnosis is made by checking for soft and hard areas around the Hara (stomach area), once the most softest and most hardest area have been found the treatment starts.
Each diagnostic area relates to a Meridian and it is the meridians that are treated.

What is a Meridian ?
A meridian is a transport system for Chi (Qi), just like the yoga system of nadi’s being the transport system for Prana – for me there is very little difference between the two systems, they both carry lifeforce.
You can visualize the Meridian just like a thin hose pipe carrying water – note these run more in the muscle and bone structures – they cannot be seen with the naked eye. Along the meridians are specific control points and it is here where an acupuncturist would insert a needle – no needles are used in Shiatsu only finger, thumb, elbow or knee pressure is used.
In a perfect healthy body the chi flows unimpeded, however when there is a pain, the body tissue around the pain zone becomes stressed, (the hose pipes are compressed, stretched, become leaky or swollen) – then the chi is interrupted and does not now where to flow – this is where Shiatsu comes in – being the process of smoothing out the stressed areas restoring normal chi flow.
Each meridian has its own quality relating to the 5 elements Fire, Earth, Water, Wood and Metal (similar to yoga system – Metal being the air element).

What is the difference between shiatsu and acupressure or acupuncture?
Shiatsu is no evasive – that is no needles or tools are used in treatments.
It uses the same meridians and acupuncture points but uses very different techniques to calm or activate them.
Do people come only to you when they have a physical problem?
A high percentage of people come with physical pains, however a percentage of these physical pains are related to underlying mental or emotional stresses.
A mental or emotional stress will eventually present its self somewhere in the physical body, this is a perfectly natural human process – it relieves the metal stress however it transforms into a physical pain. If this does not happen then the mental stress will eventually lead to unpredictable overload.
Ok so mental stress is stored in the Physical body isn’t that dangerous ?.
Normally the storage of mental stress in the physical body is on a temporary basis – it will present itself as muscle pain , back ache, skin rashes , headache, heart palpations etc etc.
Whilst it is stored for a time in the physical body, the subconscious (mind) will keep a track of it, the person will in this time gain extra experience or knowledge relating to the original mental stress – then the physical stress is released (automatically)… yes you guessed it the original mental stress shows its self again………… however the person is equipped to deal with it and the stress just dissolves into the ether ……………
And if the person is unable to deal with it?
You may have experienced whilst treating on odd occasions people may just cry spontaneously or become emotional – this is one form of release indicating an unexpressed mental/emotional process is in movement.
Anger, sorrow, fear, grief and joy are emotional responses that help us survive – they are part of a feedback system.
The tendency is to dive and get stuck in just one of these emotions , normally its short term.
For sure these emotions bring stress and pain, the trick then is to stay aware of the process you are in - the moment you do this is the moment the healing process starts.
Sometimes it needs a kick start or impulse – again this is where Shiatsu fits in – with physical, mental and verbal impulses.
How does shiatsu help your Yoga practice ?.
It works in many ways…..
When you press, stretch or twist any part of the body then it has a effect on the whole body, this is why certain yoga posture bring certain predicted feelings, as you are actually pressing on the meridians and altering the flow of Prana (chi).
For example when you make Namaskara mudra and you press the thumbs against your chest, it directly contacts the Heart Meridian, the physical pressure brings mental emotional responses of compassion, tranquility and contact with the self , these are all heart orientated feelings.
I often prescribe Yoga postures for the after care of a person, plus it gives them an active thing to do.