Shiatsu for Yogis – Could Shiatsu be your next journey into understanding the Energy Body?
Much like the Yogic view of a healthy energetic body consisting of a steady flow of vital energy (Prana) through a system of Chakras and Nadis which nourish every cell in our bodies, Shiatsu views energy (Qi) as flowing through the body in a series of meridians. These meridians can be seen to relate to specific organs and are linked to certain areas and tissues of the body. They intersect with muscles, tendons and sinews but have wider functions within Chinese Medicine, relating them to our emotional and mental states – providing us with an integrated, non-dualistic view of the mind-body whole.
Physical and emotional symptoms occur when the natural flow of Qi in these meridians becomes blocked, depleted or out of balance. These imbalances are often the result of factors such as emotional stress, diet, over work or injury.
Some forms of Yoga, notably Yin Yoga, cultivate awareness of the Chinese Meridian System in order to regain a healthy balance of Qi or Prana, as the practice of different postures will stimulate different meridians of the body to create an effect. But whether it’s Yin Yoga, Ashtanga, Hatha or Vinyasa you are practicing (and perhaps facilitating), gaining or deepening your understanding of the wider functions of these meridians and the areas of the body which they relate to can add a rich new layer of knowledge to your practice and general perception of the human body.
Let us take, for example, the Lung Meridian, which runs from the chest out along the lateral aspect of the inner arm to the thumb. It governs Qi flow and respiration, controls the skin and body hair (linked to our immune system), has energy that likes to descend and relates to the emotion of grief; the process of ‘letting go’.
Postures such as Purvottanasana and Matsyasana can help greatly to open our chest and deepen our breath by stimulating this meridian – assisting Qi flow and respiration along it. This means that they can be used to strengthen our immune response if we are prone to catching colds, as well as helping us deal with the emotions of grief and when working through processes of acceptance and ‘letting go’. Conversely, if such feelings come up while practicing these poses in a sequence, knowing more about the meridians we are working with will help us to understand and accept our healing journey on another level.
We can then further release by learning the acupressure points (tsubos) of the channels and gently stimulating them – either on ourselves or on students; something you will learn to do as part of a Shiatsu training.
On a more subtle level, study of the meridian system and their points can greatly assist in us ‘seeing’ energy in the body. We can, over time, learn to see and feel where energy is lacking, held or blocked in the body. This can help hugely when in any embodied practice, including when instructing a yoga session. We can use it to great effect when adjusting others in postures, as well as advising them in ways of working that could lead to long-term improvements and positive change, physically as well as emotionally.
The true essence and deeper purpose of Shiatsu, Yoga and other related practices are all working towards the same thing on an energetic (and physical) level. For me, the essence of Yoga and Shiatsu is to assist us in returning to our true nature, to allow us to rest peacefully in the ground of being – to return to ‘Essence Nature’.
Experience of our subtle Qi, Ki, Prana, Breath, life-force is an opportunity to engage with this fabric of the universe and therefore with our deeper selves. It is this re-connection with our true nature, with the interconnected whole, that allows us to feel both grounded and yet energised after Yoga or Shiatsu. When we work with the body on such a level, we tap into a deep well of possibility that brings with it both clarity and a sense of calm.
Looking at the deeper philosophies of Daoism and the Vedic traditions from which these practices sprung forth, we can see many fascinating crossovers between Yoga and Shiatsu. And where systems overlap, there is great potential for expansion of knowledge, learning and transformation. These edges are where new possibilities are created, where new revelations happen. What could they bring to you?