Updated 10 April 2013


Is it possible to find a balance within oneself? Leandra Engelbrecht tried out Shiatsu.


Shiatsu is a traditional Japanese form of massage first recorded 400 years ago. It is based on traditional Chinese medicine, in which the principle philosophy concerns the finding of balance within the whole person.

The Japanese word 'shiatsu' means finger pressure. Shiatsu massage is a deep tissue massage in which the acupuncture points are stimulated by finger pressure. The fingers, thumbs, hands, elbows and knees are used to stimulate or calm energy flowing through the body.

According to Chinese medicine, energy moves along specific pathways called meridians around the body. The meridians relate to internal physical organs and our emotional, psychological and spiritual state.

The Chinese strongly believe that all parts and functions of the body are interrelated and that no problem, whether physical or emotional, can be treated in isolation.

The massage is supposed to relieve stress, to help with irregular menstruation, back injuries, muscle spasm and strains, circulation and emotional well-being.

What to expect
After reading up about Shiatsu massage, I was intrigued. The massage therapist, Cathy, told me to wear loose comfortable clothing as this massage is done fully clothed and without any oils.

Before the massage began, an assessment was done. Cathy asked me some questions about my health (some very unglamorous). Thereafter she did a face inspection and remarked that my adrenal glands were showing, which showed that I was tired (sleep problems) and that there was a slight yellow hue to my complexion (time to bring out the foundation).

I then had to stick out my tongue. The line running down the middle of my tongue shows that I crave sweets and that I need to keep my stomach moist by eating stews and soups.

The tip of my tongue was very red and this showed that someone has been making me very angry lately and making me feel bad about myself (very true).

Here we go
After the assessment I had to lie down on a futon on the floor on my stomach. Cathy started by massaging the pressure points of first the left and then the right side of my back. A lot of pressure is exerted and is a bit sore. She then relieved the feeling of soreness by gently rubbing the areas in a circular motion.

Extensive work was done on my stomach, liver and gallbladder. Surprisingly these are apparently the organs that affect our emotional health.

I then had to lie on my left and then right side with a pillow between my legs. As Cathy massaged me, she explained what she was doing, namely stimulating energy from to full places to empty places.

After both sides were done, she worked on the front of my body. The abdomen is called the Hara, which plays an important role in the health and well-being of a person. She ended by massaging my head and neck.

The verdict
After the massage I was very thirsty, and drank a lot of water. My body was feeling a bit sore too. The day after I am feeling more relaxed and some of the frustration and pent-up energy I had are gone.

The most important thing I learnt from the experience is that our physical and emotional health are closely related. So I might just be putting on my boxing gloves and jumping into the ring with that particular person.

I would recommend it to anyone who wants to get in touch with their bodies and relieve the stress levels they are feeling.

Bear in mind that to notice changes in your body, health and well-being, a series of sessions will be needed.

A 90-minute session will cost R220.

(Leandra Engelbrecht, Health24, March 2008)

For more information or to book a session, contact:
Catherine Davy 078 255 1116 or email



Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Live healthier

Exercise benefits for seniors »

Working out in the concrete jungle Even a little exercise may help prevent dementia Here’s an unexpected way to boost your memory: running

Seniors who exercise recover more quickly from injury or illness

When sedentary older adults got into an exercise routine, it curbed their risk of suffering a disabling injury or illness and helped them recover if anything did happen to them.