About Shiatsu


About Shiatsu | Lee Willocks

About Shiatsu | Lee Willocks

What is Shiatsu and what can it treat?

Shiatsu is a powerful form of manual therapy which blends key principles from western anatomy and physiology, traditional Chinese medicine and Japanese abdominal diagnosis and massage.

Shiatsu works by balancing the body’s energetic systems and encouraging its internal healing mechanisms to operate more effectively.

Shiatsu is a gentle and safe form of bodywork and can be beneficial for a variety of conditions including:

  •  Stress, depression and anxiety
  • Improving sleep patterns
  • Muscle and joint imbalances
  • Digestive disorders
  • Menstrual, reproductive and pregnancy problems
  • Autoimmune and immune deficiency conditions
  • Breathing restrictions
  • Circulation and blood pressure control
  • Balancing energy levels


Preparing for your treatment

Shiatsu is performed fully clothed on a futon.  For a comfortable treatment clients are asked to come wearing loose clothing and clean socks.  The first treatment will include a consultation where you will be asked about your reasons for seeking shiatsu, whether you have any current or previous medical conditions and general questions about your wellbeing and overall health.

During the course of the treatment the therapist will use her hands, fingers, knees and elbows to apply pressure to different areas of the body.  While this may sound dynamic, receiving shiatsu is usually extremely relaxing and it is not uncommon for clients to fall asleep mid-treatment!

Because shiatsu is a gentle form of therapy, it is generally suitable for almost everyone.  If you have any diagnosed medical conditions and are concerned about receiving treatment, please check with your doctor first to see whether it is appropriate for you to receive shiatsu.


History of Shiatsu 

Shiatsu was constituted in Japan in the early twentieth century by a progressive thinker and practitioner of therapeutic treatment called Tenpeki Tamai.  The roots of shiatsu, however, reach back to a number of diverse therapies which had already been evolving, growing and developing in Japan for hundreds of years.  These therapies were:

  • Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) –   A system which is becoming increasingly well-known in the west, TCM mainly incorporates moxibustion, herbs and acupuncture.  It was introduced to Japan by travelling monks between the 6 -8th centuries.
  • Anma  This might be referred to as Japanese “folk medicine”.  It is a type of physical massage that developed from techniques introduced to Japan from China.
  •  Anpuku A sophisticated and subtle system of diagnosis and treatment through touching and massaging the abdominal area.  This was developed and refined in Japan from the 10th century onwards.
  • Western Medicine  In the 19th century, the Japanese began to import the theory and practice of western medicine.  Shiatsu therapists today are required to study anatomy, physiology and pathology in order to qualify as registered practitioners.


Zen Shiatsu
There are many styles of shiatsu in practise today; one of the most prevalent styles is called Zen Shiatsu.  The founding father of the Zen style was Shizuto Masunaga (1925-1981) who studied with some of the most influential shiatsu practitioners of his day before going on to found his own teaching and research institute.

Masunaga made bold changes to shiatsu which, at the time, were considered controversial.  He strongly emphasised the principle of “sesshin” (sympathetic connection) between the giver and receiver of the treatment.  To improve this connection he developed a system of steady, two-handed, equal and constant pressure.  This still forms the basis of Zen shiatsu treatments today.

Masunaga also believed that TCM and the acupuncture meridians had an important role to play within shiatsu treatments.  He remapped the meridians and encouraged their usage as part of both treatment and diagnosis.

But, more than accuracy, technique or theory, Masunaga believed in the therapeutic power of genuine connection between the giver and receiver of shiatsu.  A Zen shiatsu treatment should be compassionate, creative and transformative.

Lee’s training is grounded in the Zen style; her teaching lineage can be traced back to Shizuto Masunaga.