The quality of touch

Afer just coming back from a treatment from another bodywork modality, I have reflected on what makes a really good shiatsu treatment unique, and that for me is its focus on the quality of touch and connection with the receiver.

Inherent in touch is trust; I push too hard and the client resists or protects – it is an instinctive reaction. Touching and holding in a way that is supportive and nurturing creates a safe space, a possibility to explore moving away from where one currently is to somewhere more open and aligned with ones true essence. What comes to mind is the story of the elephant whisper in South Africa who had to first gain the trust of abused elephants in order to show them another way of being and ultimately save them from probable death.

Whilst our logical mind can justify ‘no pain, no gain’, deep inside something does not quite feel right when we are being pushed into a state of ‘alignment’. The right-brained, scientific approach to dealing with the body has a very sound basis from which to work and has moved our understanding of the human body forward in huge leaps and bounds, however harmony is the ultimate balance and I believe that the application of that knowledge with respect and trust of the receiver is that balance.

In my opinion, what one of the most important elements that every shiatsu practitioner needs to master is touching one’s client from their centre, or the hara as it is known in Japanese. When we think about it, we might ask what is so hard about touching someone? However, to really touch from our hara we have to ensure our body is in exactly the right place, which then means as a giver you can be 100% relaxed in the physical body to allow your self to breath deeply and connect with your deep essence. Only then are you in a place to be truly open to allow your receiver to trust and open to the connection between the two people. From a givers perspective it requires a constant feedback loop to ensure you are always in that place no matter where you are working. This is why shiatsu is mostly done on the floor, as it is easier to find that place when closer to the ground on ‘all fours’ in a crawling position. It is the realm of the pure essence of a baby, when a human is at the point in its life when it is in the moment 100% of the time (much to the great challenge to parents).

This is perhaps what defines part of the essence of shiatsu; it is not a therapy that is ‘practitioner doing work on a client’, it is two people working together to create a level of awareness. The practitioner more on the conscious, the receiver more on the unconscious yet ultimately it has to be the receiver who is calling the shots as it is their body. The saying “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” is one I use often with students. This is operating out of respect for the receiver’s innate healing ability and something that we as a human beings all need to learn and embrace in our life – self empowerment. We all have all the resources we need within – bloody hard to find the damn things though!!

Feedback Flower
Feedback Flower (Photo credit: jonathanpberger)

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