I recently had the privilege of trying a spa therapy that I have never experienced before at Rancho La Puerta. Shiatsu is an ancient Japanese practice (over 2,000 years old!) based on traditional Chinese medicine that uses deep pressure to access meridian points, places where energy (qi or chi) flows, with the intention of improving the flow of qi to enhance health. Its literal translation is “finger pressure.” It is also referred to as acupressure, as it is a combination of acupuncture and massage.
Shiatsu is known to have several physiological benefits, including improved circulation, reduced stress and tension, minimized anxiety and depression, reduced muscle stiffness and body pain, increased range of motion, and revitalized skin. A sense of ease and lightness is achieved by relaxing the nervous system, which lessens exhaustion, fatigue, chronic pain and muscle tension, lack of energy, depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
I was intrigued to try shiatsu after learning about the wide variety of benefits it could provide. When I entered the treatment room, my practitioner, Liliana, had me lie face down on the table. Beginning at the base of my neck on my right side, she pulsed the heels of her hands down and up about four times before moving about a hand’s distance down toward my hips and applying her strength several times in the new location. She continued to do this until she reached the base of my spine, at which point she moved to the left side and repeated the process. Liliana explained that she begins on the right side for women and on the left side for men because the flow of energy is reversed between the two sexes. It is important to move in the same direction that qi flows to encourage proper circulation and to prevent and eliminate blockages.
Lilian continued to access pressure points on the backside of my body: moving her fingers up, down, and around my neck, the heels of her hands in circles around my scapulae, her elbows in the sides of my hips, her palms on my hamstrings and calves, and her elbows on the soles of my feet. There are several points that shot very intense sensations through my body as she accessed them, where I suspect blockages had been present previously and were suddenly released. She stretched my legs out to the sides to mobilize and manipulate the areas around my hip, knee, and ankle joints. It was interesting to notice the difference when she returned to the same points she’d just worked at the new angles.
When I flipped over onto my back, Liliana focused on my underarm and the area under my collar bone. I was surprised by how sore those spots were and wondered how long I’d been carrying tension there, blocking the flow of qi, without noticing or knowing how to fix it. Like with my legs, she stretched my arms out to the sides and continued working these points, which changed the sensations.
Shiatsu is unlike other treatments I’ve tried in the past in a variety of ways. The most notable difference is that it is performed clothed and without oils. The practitioner mainly uses their fingers, the heels of their hands, and occasionally their elbows, while other treatments I’ve tried at Rancho La Puerta often involve forearms, knuckles, and additional tools like gems or hot stones. The prominent movement was bouncing pressure rather than gliding kneading, which allows practitioners to access deep pressure points beneath the muscles.
I look forward to discovering what the long-term results will be. While I spent a couple of days feeling a bit sore, I slept deeper the next few nights after the treatment than usual, felt taller since I was not hunched over due to knots and stress, and overall, could tell I was more at ease. I am positive that the shiatsu specifically was a significant contributing factor in that positive change, but I also think that making the decision to do something kind for myself via self-care and the human touch itself had huge healing effects on my body, mind, and spirit. I felt lighter and brighter, and for that, I am grateful.
Thank you to Liliana for lending your (incredibly strong!) healing hands to allow me to try something new and feel closer to my best possible self. Thank you to the Villas Health Center for scheduling this treatment for me. Thank you Nayeli at Villas for your help and expertise.