What Is Acupressure Shiatsu?
Asian Bodywork Therapy (ABT), acupuncture, and Chinese herbs are the three major healing arts of Chinese medicine recognized by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM®). In the United States, Asian Bodywork Therapy is less well known and is often confused with massage therapy. While the academic structure and hours (500-1,000) are comparable, the training content is more similar to that of acupuncture. Additionally, the US Department of Education recognizes the distinct ABT professional entry-level curriculum.
Historically, there are many lineages of ABT, including acupressure, shiatsu, tuina, and medical/clinical qigong. To create cohesiveness in a foreign land, the American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia (AOBTA®) was formed more than 30 years ago to establish national, professional standards, and to represent the many forms of Asian Bodywork Therapy. ABT is a unifying term, serving as the umbrella for the profession of various East Asian bodywork lineages that share a common foundation in Chinese medicine.
Acupressure is one style of Asian Bodywork Therapy certified by AOBTA®. Each client is an instrument, where the trained hands of the practitioner become sensors, assessing the condition of the body’s many layers, including the muscular-skeletal and the meridians, which are the pathways within the body’s energetic anatomy. Connecting to this energetic feedback guides the treatment session and forms the basis of informed touch, designed to work with the person’s electromagnetic field. The result is a tenderness and magic of healing through hands, hearts and wisdom centers.
Acupressure is a healing art that emphasizes balancing the energy body or energy system with the physical body, mind, emotions and spirit. An integral part of Chinese medicine, acupressure is similar to acupuncture, except that it uses the hands rather than needles to adjust energy flow. Students of acupressure learn the same meridians and acupoints that are used in acupuncture, as well as the Asian Bodywork Therapy known as shiatsu (from the Japanese “shi” finger, and “atsu” pressure). Acupressure puts more emphasis on using specific acupressure points in treatment, whereas shiatsu often relies more on balancing the channels.
Qi And Meridians
Acupressure is based on the concept of Qi — the body’s vital life force flowing through defined channels or meridians throughout the body. When the body’s vital energy flow or Qi is normal and harmonious, the body is balanced and healthy. Pressure pain at an acupoint can reflect an imbalance. Acupressure points are specific locations along the meridians where the flow of Qi gathers in vortices spiraling in both inward and outward directions. Therefore, stimulation of these acupoints will encourage deep muscular relaxation, circulation of blood, and Qi balancing.
What Can Acupressure Treat?
When someone presents with a specific problem (for example, a headache) it is important to know where the headache is located, what the nature of the pain is, what accompanying symptoms are involved and how frequently it occurs. Acupressure can assess and treat a number of ailments including but not limited to lower back pain, PMS, menstrual problems, asthma, allergies, head colds, sinus problems, digestive disorders, stress, headaches, and more. Based on the assessment, a treatment plan can be created. Specific energetic pathways and acupressure points can then be used for effective treatment, and remarkable results can be achieved almost immediately.
The Acupressure Session
The recipient will often respond when the therapist gets right “on the point.” There is usually a pleasure/pain sensation; the point may feel sore but it will feel good to have the pressure applied. The sensitivity at the point changes as the muscles relax, the body’s circulation opens, and the Qi is balanced. Oftentimes, the rhythm of shiatsu technique and the acupressure point sequences form a dance-like movement that lulls the recipient into a deep state of relaxation. Through acupressure the individual’s own healing energies are encouraged to bring wholeness of being in body-mind-spirit.
Adjunct Chinese medicine therapies such as auriculotherapy, cupping, gua sha, moxibustion, magnets, press balls, lineaments and herbal plasters can be included to enhance the effectiveness of the treatment.
The late Barbara Blanchard, Lic. Ac., Dipl. Ac., Dipl. ABT (NCCAOM®), was the founding director of the Acupressure Therapy Institute. After several years of apprenticeship with Barbara, Lauren Paap, MAOM, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac. & ABT (NCCAOM®) is the new director and president of the newly reopened Acupressure Therapy Institute in Natick, MA. To learn more, visit www.AcupressureTherapyInstitute.com.
Meet Lauren at the Natural Living Expo booth #1402, November 12-13, 2022 in Marlboro, MA to learn more about this ancient healing craft.