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Touch in Shiatsu

(G. Poli)


I have decided to start this article quoting what very special people have written or said about touch, about touching with our hands the body and the life of another person and what this touch brings with, what it implies, how vast and deep its effect and its resonance are:


Pauline Sasaki’s DVD:  “The human Potential”


“Touch:   babies thrive when they are held in loving arms.  A small gesture of touch can mend hearts in times of sorrow or pain.  All of humanity uses touch to connect, communicate and bond together.


It is the oldest sensory system in the human body and therefore lies at the core of our existence.  It links us to the outside world and makes our life experiences real.  Yes, our need to touch and be touched is vital to our very survival.


So it is not surprising that bodywork which uses touch as a therapeutic tool can create significant invaluable changes in our bodies.  Bodywork can also open the door to a spiritual dimension that few therapists can match.


Through human touch we experience love, care and compassion, emotions that give us the support, strength and courage we need in order to initiate healing on many levels of both body and soul.   Shiatsu is one type of bodywork that utilizes these powerful qualities."


Dianne Connelly;  “All Sickness is home sickness”


…“I work with my hands.  It is a great privilege to touch a human being, to remind her in word and in touch that she is lovely, to put a hand on the brow of life and call her home.  The wonder of touch is the wonder of human kindness.  A giving of one’s hand is a giving of one’s life, one’s word, one’s promise, one’s blessing.  It is a gift of the highest order, as forgiveness and compassion”…


…”The hand that touches my body touches my life.  So when you touch me, the “commons” of me, my body, you enter my life, my being, you come into my dwelling--no matter where you touch me”…




…“Work with the hands is the apprenticeship of honesty.  May the work of your hands be a sign of gratitude and reverence to the human condition”…


Nikki Giovanni


… “and if ever I touched a life I hope that life knows that I know that touching was and still is and always will be the true revolution”…




…“There is but one temple in the universe, and that is the Body of Man.  Nothing is holier that that high form.  Bending before man is a reverence done to this Revelation in the Flesh.  We touch Heaven when we lay our hands on a human body”...



Touch:   “the” tool of Shiatsu


I believe that touch is “the” tool of Shiatsu, and it is touch that enables us to establish that quality of contact that is unique to Shiatsu.


As we have read in the quotes above, when we touch our receivers, we don’t touch only their body, but we touch their life in all its expressions and manifestations:  physicality, emotions, thoughts and belief systems, spirituality.   From an energetic point of view, we get in contact with the whole range of their energy vibrations, from the slow vibrations of their physical body, up to their very fast spiritual vibrations.


But there is more to it:  when we lay our hands on a person’s body we convey through that touch all of ourselves;   it is not only therefore our hands touching the receiver’s body, mind and spirit, but two lives, ours and his, getting in contact, supporting each other, two energetic systems interacting.  Heaven and Earth are there, the whole Universe is there, as each one, giver and receiver, are the Universal energy manifesting into the physical form.


Furthermore, in our touch, when we do Shiatsu, we convey love, compassion, empathy, respect:   love comes from the acknowledgement that we are both human beings and that we come from the same source, we have the same origin;  compassion is accepting our receivers as they are and opening our hearts to them;  empathy is being able to recognize emotions being experienced by the receiver, being sympathetic and understanding;  and respect is again appreciating who they are and where they are, without judgement and especially without forcing, manipulating or deciding for them, but acknowledging their possibilities and stimulating their potentials.


We also use our touch to listen and observe:  through touch we can listen to what the life of our receiver is telling us, what are its requests, its wishes, its needs and we can as well observe how our receivers are reacting, how they are responding to our touch, so that we can adapt it to how they are in the here and now of the treatment.



Touch as a reminder of our strength and potentials


I have studied for many years with Pauline Sasaki whom maybe most of you have met or at least have heard of.

In the last years of her life she was maintaining that the old paradigm of healing which focused on correcting what is wrong is now becoming obsolete and being replaced by a new paradigm requiring the alignment of our energy with what is right.


This is a real revolution:  we are no longer concerned with what is wrong and we do not use our touch to repair or to fix what does not work in our receivers, but we want to get in touch with what is right, with their force, their strength, their power, their possibilities.  Through our touch we remind our receivers about their human potential, we help them remember who they are, what their birth rights are. And if our receivers can acknowledge and recover their power, then they can become the masters and co-creators of their life.



Touch and Fascia


When we talk about touch in Shiatsu, we should also have a close look at the Fascial System and at the “Living Matrix”.


Fascia is the general term used to define the connective tissues also called extracellular matrix.


The peculiarity of Fascia is that it is a single smooth sheath that spreads throughout the body in a 3-dimensional web from head to foot without interruption, reaching as deep as the cellular level.


Research has in fact discovered that the connective tissue system or extracellular matrix is connected through the cell surface, with the cellular matrix and that the cellular matrix is connected through the nuclear envelope with the nuclear matrix. This entire interconnected system--a nuclear matrix within a cellular matrix within the extra cellular matrix--has been called the connective tissue or simply, the “Living Matrix”.


Therefore, when in a Shiatsu session we touch and lean on our receiver’s body, we establish a deep, extensive and global contact with this interconnected webwork, with all the structures of his body down to the cellular level.



Touch and biomagnetic fields


Based on my experience, I do believe that when I touch my receivers, I do not only touch them with my hands, but I “touch” them also with my heart and my mind, i.e. what I feel and what I think influence all the levels of their energetic system.


Research has proved that living organisms have electromagnetic fields around them, that we emit electromagnetic vibrations through our hands, our heart and our brain and that these electromagnetic vibrations interact both with the body tissues and the energy field of human beings.


From “Energy Medicine -The Scientific Basis” by James L. Oschman


…“In a few decades scientists have gone from a conviction that there is no such thing as energy fields in and around the human body to an absolute certainty that they exist”…” Medical interest has focused on the magnetic fields around the body, which are now referred to as biomagnetic fields”...


…”It is a basic law of physics that when an electric current flows through a conductor, a magnetic field is created in the surrounding spaces.  This phenomenon was discovered by accident by Hans Christian Oersted during a physics lecture he was giving in Copenhagen in 1820


…”A few years after Einthoven received his Nobel Prize for the discover of heart electricity, Hans Berger (1929) announced that much smaller electric fields could also be recorded from the brain”…


…”A study conducted in Japan by Seto et al. (1992) confirmed that an extraordinarily large biomagnetic field emanates from the hands of practitioners of a variety of healing and martial arts techniques, including QiGong, yoga, meditation, Zen, etc.  The fields had a strength about 1 000 times stronger that the strongest human biomagnetic fields (from the heart) which are about 1 000 000 times stronger than the fields produced by the brain”...


So when I lean on my receivers’ body, I treat them with my hands and of course with their electromagnetic vibrations and, at the same time, I reach them with the electromagnetic vibrations that emanate from my heart and my brain;  I, therefore “touch” them with the compassion, love, acceptance, respect that come from my heart, and with my faith and trust in the possibilities of Shiatsu, with my good intentions, positive thoughts, etc., that come from my mind.


And that explains why the touch in Shiatsu is so soothing, so reassuring, so effective, so healing!



Touch on the futon


And now I would like to share with you how I try to get such a special quality of touch in my practical approach on the futon.


From “The Human Potential” by Pauline Sasaki


…” Energy comes into being through a never-ending cycle of contraction and expansion.  The yin and yang symbol is an illustration of these two opposite and complementary actions working together to create one life form”...


…” In the contractive phase energy tends to manifest itself by becoming more structured.  When an energetic form is in a contractive phase, the speed of the vibrations slows down and it tends to separate out into its parts.   The expansive phase is characterized by a fast rate of vibrations this causes the energy to free itself by becoming less concrete and structured.  During this phase the energy organizes itself so that the parts start merging together”…


In order for my touch to contact and interact with all the levels of my receivers’ energetic system—physical, emotional, mental, spiritual—and for me to be present and use all of my energy vibrational range, I have to incorporate in my touch both the contractive and expansive aspects of energy.


In order to achieve this objective, I use body alignment (expansive phase) and depth of penetration (contractive phase).


In Shiatsu I can center my energy in hara, as it is the case in martial arts, or align it in my spine.  When I align my energy in the spine, in my central axis, I have the possibility of expanding from there in all directions into my energetic field:  I can expand towards Heaven and Earth (the yin and yang movement) and also all around my physical body (the expansion and contraction movement, from the centre outwards and viceversa).  I can therefore be present at all the vibrational levels of my system and I can, consequently, contact my receivers at all the vibrational levels of their system:  I become a very precise and sophisticated device that can receive and transmit at all the wave lengths.   Conversely, when I use my hara as the center of my energy, I feel a certain predominance of the physical level.


Aligning with my spine also gives me grounding as I choose my most dense structure, i.e. vertebras, bones, as the centre from where to expand, which in turn means that no matter how much I expand my energy and raise my vibrations, I always keep in contact with my physical body, with my denser structure.


In order to balance the expansion that comes from the body alignment, I use the depth of penetration, which is the most contractive aspect of my Shiatsu technique:  I transfer the weight of my relaxed body into my hands and lean deep into the body tissues.


In essence, I lean when I am in the expansive phase: aligned in the spine, expanded in the space around me, my hands totally relaxed, and, at the same time, I use all my body weight to lean deep into the receiver’s body.


When I feel that the expansive phase is ending and that the contractive phase is naturally arriving, I release the leaning, renew my alignment (expansion) and lean again using all my body weight (contraction).


This approach where the contractive and expansive phases of the energy are present together gives the receiver a sense of wholeness, of total presence.  He experiences unification:  the “I am”:  all parts of his body and all his energetic levels merging into “one”:   He can feel his body, his physicality, and, at the same time, feel in contact with the most subtle part of himself, with his spiritual energy that connects him with the Universal energy, with his Source.



Touch and Research


And I would like to conclude this article by quoting what Ashley Montagu reports in his book “Touching” (Chapter 5):


…“Surveying the research studies on animal and human responses to touching, one is impressed by how frequent are the marked advantages in health, alertness, and responsiveness of those who have been “handled” as compared with those who have received minimal or no handling.  Weininger*, is an early unpublished study of ten infants beginning at ten weeks of age, whose mothers were taught to stroke their infants’ back, reported that at six months of age these infants had fewer sniffles, colds, vomiting, and diarrhea than the infants in the control group, whose mothers had not been taught to stroke their infants.  What is becoming increasingly evident is that underlying these and many other differences are significant changes in the structure and interrelated functions of the nervous and immunological systems.


The findings of these and other investigators provide the experimental evidence for what has long been suspected—namely, that there are significant biochemical differences between humans who have enjoyed adequate tactile stimulation and those who have not, a statement that will probably be found to hold true throughout life: that the unloved person, taken at any age, is likely to be a very different biochemical entity from those who have been adequately loved.”…


*Otto Weininger, personal communication, October 12, 1984






Dianne M. Connelly.   “All Sickness is Home Sickness”. Traditional Acupuncture Institute, Columbia, Maryland.


Ashley Montagu.  “Touching: The Human Significances of the Skin”.  Perennial Library, Harper and Row Publishers, New York.


James L. Oschman.  “Energy Medicine – The Scientific Basis”. Churchill Livingstone.


James L. Oschman.  “Energy Medicine in Therapeutics and Human Performance”. Butterworth-Heinemann Medical.


Pauline Sasaki:  DVD:  “The Human Potential:  Energy, Transformation and Human Touch”.  ANIMAfilms production.

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