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Shiatsu (Acupressure) Benefits and the 12 Meridians

Shiatsu Massage

Shiatsu is a Japanese term that directly translates to mean “finger pressure” and was created about 1,500 years ago. Today, Shiatsu massage is just one of many Japanese massage techniques derived from Nihon Kaifuku Anma but is the most popular method used around the world. Usually, it’s performed on a floor mat and is one of the few massage modalities where clothing is typically kept on.

Shiatsu’s technique is based on the chi (energy) meridian system that has been handed down from the ancient Chinese healing arts along with traditional Japanese teachings. If you weren’t aware, meridians are the paths by which chi flows throughout the body and any blockages of this flow leads to an imbalance in which illness and disease can manifest. There are twelve major meridians which get their names from the part of the body they govern and are split into two groups: yin and yang. Each meridian is also governed by a specific time of day and corresponds to a set of emotions and one of the five elements: metal, earth, fire, water, and wood. The yin meridians include the lung, spleen, heart, kidney, pericardium, and liver and flow up from the lower parts of the body. The yang meridians are the large intestine, stomach, small intestine, bladder, gallbladder, and triple warmer and flow down from the higher parts of the body.

A model of the 12 meridians used in acupressure and acupuncture
A model of the 12 meridians used in acupressure (shiatsu)

Yin Meridians

1. Lung

Role: Regulates breathing and intake of energy.

Physical Symptoms of Imbalance: Excessive sweating; Inflammation in the upper parts of the torso; Viral and bacterial infections; Sinus problems; Adverse skin conditions

Element: Metal

Time of Day: 3:00am-5:00am

Emotional Symptoms of Imbalance: Grief; Depression; False pride; Intolerance; Prejudice; Contempt; Smothered; Scornfulness

2. Spleen

Role: Administers nutrients throughout the body; regulates blood flow; maintains muscle tone

Physical Symptoms of Imbalance: Bloating; Lack of appetite; Diarrhea; Constipation; Prolapsed (drooping) internal organs; Fatigue; Brain fog; Weak muscles; Absentmindedness

Element: Earth

Time of Day: 9:00am-11:00am

Emotional Symptoms of Imbalance: Inability to see the joy in life; Rejection; Disapproval; Anxiety about the future; Alienation; Brooding; Cynicism; Envy

3. Heart

Role: Circulates blood throughout the entire body

Physical Symptoms of Imbalance: Chest pains; Shortness of breath; Dizziness; Palpitations; Hot flashes; Cold sweats; Psychological issues (anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, etc.); Irritability; Insomnia

Element: Fire

Time of Day: 11:00am-1:00pm

Emotion Symptoms of Imbalance: Broken Heartedness; Secretivenss; Self-doubt; Insecurity; Anger; Hatred

4. Kidney

Role: Regulates reproductive system; Stores sexual energy; Produces blood and bone marrow

Physical Symptoms of Imbalance: Backaches; Asthma; Tinnitus; Genital and urinary disorders

Element: Water

Time of Day: 5:00pm-7:00pm

Emotional Symptoms of Imbalance: Shame; Fear of being alone; Anxiety; Phobias; Superstition; Paranoia; Excess cautiousness; Carelessness; Recklessness

5. Pericardium

Role: Surrounds the heart to protect, lubricate, and remove excess energy from the heart

Physical Symptoms of Imbalance: Heart, chest, and stomach disorders; Difficulty expressing emotions; Depression; Strong aversions

Element: Fire

Time of Day: 7:00pm-9:00pm

Emotional Symptoms of Imbalance: Not listening to the desires of the heart; Gloominess; Holding onto the past; Hysteria; Stubbornness; Jealousy; Remorse; Excess worry

6. Liver

Role: Circulates energy; Maintains tendon and ligament flexibility; Regulates menstruation and the female reproductive system

Physical Symptoms of Imbalance: Menstrual disorders; Jaundice; Blurred vision; Dry skin and eyes; Vertigo; Headaches; Stiff joints

Element: Wood

Time of Day: 1:00am-3:00am

Emotional Symptoms of Imbalance: Excessive guilt; Rage; Anger; Wrath; Distressfulness; Vengefulness; Resentment; Irritability; Hostility; Blame; Bitterness

Yang Meridians

1. Large Intestine

Role: Extracts and processes water from waste material

Physical Symptoms of Imbalance: Abdominal pains

Element: Metal

Time of Day: 5:00am-7:00am

Emotional Symptoms of Imbalance: Controlling; Holding on too tight; Guilt; Grief; Regret; Depression; Apathy; Sadness; Shame; Powerlessness

2. Stomach

Role: Digests, extracts, and distributes energy from food to the spleen and intestines

Physical Symptoms of Imbalance: Abdominal pains; Stomach disorders; Excessive hunger

Element: Earth

Time of Day: 7:00am-9:00am

Emotional Symptoms of Imbalance: Excessive worry; Inability to digest what’s going on; Unreliability, Criticism; Disappointment; Deprivation; Emptiness; Greed; Disgust; Doubt; Bitterness

3. Small Intestine

Role: Distributes nutrients throughout the body

Physical Symptoms of Imbalance: Feeling cold; Swollen lymph nodes; Acne; Nerve pain; Poor digestion; Stomach distention; Weak legs

Element: Fire

Time of Day: 1:00pm-3:00pm

Emotional Symptoms of Imbalance: Shock; Sadness; Excess feelings of being unappreciated; Nervousness; Discouragement; Indecisiveness

4. Bladder

Role: Removes liquid waste from the body

Physical Symptoms of Imbalance: Back pains; Urinary diseases

Element: Water

Time of Day: 3:00pm-5:00pm

Emotional Symptoms of Imbalance: Fearfulness; Anxiety; Dread; terror; Panic; Restlessness; Frustration

5. Gallbladder

Role: Stores and expels bile from the liver

Physical Symptoms of Imbalance: Bloating; Liver pains; Yellow discoloration of the skin and urine

Element: Wood

Time of Day: 11:00pm-1:00am

Emotional Symptoms of Imbalance: Judgemental; Rage; Anger; Helplessness; Pridefulness

6. Triple Warmer (Triple Burner)

Role: Regulates metabolism, moisture, and body temperature

Physical Symptoms of Imbalance: Since the triple warmer is responsible for the entire body, an imbalance in any organ is related to it in some way

Element: Fire

Time of Day: 9:00pm-11:00pm

Emotional Symptoms of Imbalance: Chronically in “fight or flight” or freeze response; Despair; Despondence; Heaviness; Hopelessness; Solitude; Exhaustion

Benefits of Shiatsu

Shiatsu is also know as acupressure and is only different from acupuncture in that it uses parts of the body; fingers, palms, knuckles, elbows, and even knees and feet; instead of using needles to access key points along the meridians. Its primary function is meant to be preventive care and used to refine the body’s natural rhythms before imbalance occurs rather than after, but using it to treat standing conditions works just as well. In Shiatsu philosophy, the body is thought to be a miniature version of the entire universe, ruled by both the five elements and yin and yang. In perfect health, no aspect is dominant over any other and balance and harmony is achieved.

Because Shiatsu works on the physiological, psychological, and spiritual aspects of the entire being, it’s common that reactive emotions may flood to the surface and clients have been known to experience bouts of crying, laughter, joy, or even absolute stillness. The body traps emotion just as easily as it does toxins, and these are all positive signs that the body is releasing old, stuck energy patterns.

The benefits of Shiatsu massage are endless, but the most commonly recognized are:

  • Reducing stress, nervousness, anxiety, and depression
  • Improvement of chi flow, and therefore, blood circulation
  • Lowering high blood pressure
  • Relaxing tendons, ligaments, muscles, and other soft tissues
  • Relieving chronic aches, pains, and conditions such as headaches, backaches, constipation, menopause, and many more
  • Improving respiratory and digestive systems
  • Alleviating symptoms of arthritis
  • Clearing out metabolic wastes and toxins
  • Enhancing the immune system
  • Increased flexibility and range of motion
  • Raising mental, physical, and spiritual awareness and clarity
  • Promoting the overall levels of energy, vigor, rejuvenation, and wellness

If you haven’t already had one, be sure to go get your first Shiatsu experience soon.

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