A Shiatsu Teacher explain about differences, advantages and disavantages about this two Shiatsu treatment ways.
Users who search Google Images for “Shiatsu” find the practice being performed in two variables: on the table and on the ground. Is there a correct or a better way to do it? What is the difference?
This is a typical question from my students, and my first answer is that before being a therapy, Shiatsu establishes a relationship between two people. Yes, there is a relationship and this is the most precious part of Shiatsu. And the purpose of Shiatsu is to have a healthy relationship that benefits and balances both the ones receiving it and the ones administering it.
Our culture is used to impersonal relationships, and that ends up happening in Shiatsu as well. However, if you take a careful look at what happens in a session, you will see that both people are giving and receiving something. The difference between the two people interacting is that one uses movement and the other remains still.
There is no benefit if the person who is lying down feels great and the other one ends the session with pain and tension all over and feeling stressed about life. It is also not acceptable that a Shiatsu session happens without the right movements and touch that evoke well-being and a feeling of being nurtured. Most importantly, the giver must be fully present during the whole session. So, to think about how when and where we position ourselves implies reflecting on the quality of this relationship and that is the best way to have a great shiatsu session for both.
From this perspective, reflect on the dynamic quality of shiatsu when performed on a massage table or on the floor (mat, futon, etc.), both for the professional giving the massage and the patient receiving it.
A shiatsu practitioner who acts effectively on the ground acts very easily on the table, but those who are used to the table not always perform well on the ground. Of course, this is due to the fact that the ground requires an expertise and a mental and physical balance very different than those required on the table.
People with impaired mobility at first prefer to work with Shiatsu on the table. Although the logic suggests that rotating more muscles and more body segments makes life easier (and that’s why babies first crawl and then walk), actually the adult body suffers more and more. Sedentary lifestyle is the key. After that, poor diet, stress, exercise committed aesthetics but not with health are also enemies of human mobility.
The massage table is a solution for those who cannot be on the floor. But those who can, even if it’s a challenge, should try to practice on the floor. This practice helps the integration of both hemispheres of the brain; it helps to improve the abdominal muscles and uses the body’s weight and gravity to create pressure and touch instead of using force. It also allows the practitioner to stretch during the session, therefore helping him to always have energy, concentration, and a perfect body and mind connection as a whole. So the Shiatsu session is beneficial to the practitioner only if performed on the floor.
For the clients, on the other hand, the difference can be small, non-existent or huge. Clients who are obese or too big have difficulty with the table because they are usually larger than the bed. Elders also have a hard time turning on the table. The floor offers a safe environment because it avoids these problems and also allows the space for some stretching movements that would not happen on the table. The table sometimes can be beneficial at the end of the session, because some clients have a hard time lifting up from the floor (although some people will also have a hard time getting down from the bed).The bed does allow a joint relief, which is beneficial to the practitioner.
Another way to compare is that the use of the floor or the table has an unconscious symbolic meaning among the practitioners .The table creates a separation and a hierarchical situation between patient and practitioner, while the floor overcomes the table limits. The table indicates that you are a person in need and I am here to help you, while the floor indicates we are both here together to improve ourselves. Obviously, there are some people who will surrender to a situation of unequal power. This could lead to a client transferring to the practitioner his liberation or his existential reference (mother or father), or even the practitioner transferring back his needs of approval to the client through his liberating and healing session. There is so much in this case and it is a very complex and delicate subject. So each case should be studied according to its own individual needs. Therefore, we will leave this subject here to allow readers to reflect on it.
SHIATSU STYLES and their preferences
As the reader should know, there are many styles of Shiatsu, and a school usually chooses a standard way to perform: on the floor or on the table. In Brazil, we have a humanistic chain, moved specially by the Zen Shiatsu, that always uses the floor for its practices. On the other hand, there are more mechanical styles spread by technical courses, connected to a more medical-allopathic realm, and they have the table as their number one choice. Once again, here we observe a choice that is still part of a set of personal masks in which professionals and their clients tend to feel more adequate in society’s standards .The table is “more medical”, less personal, and cleaner. That meets the expectations of a health market that distances itself from being and relates more to pursuing or better yet to appearance and the way things look. In the multidisciplinary Shiatsu that I teach, we understand that the floor creates a more personal environment that brings many advantages, especially when dealing with the Shiatsu techniques that touch emotions directly – which we classify as Emotional Shiatsu.
Other techniques and how they are performed
Surely there are other massage techniques that are preferably done on the floor, like the Thai Massage. Curiously, there is a table on which the practitioner can climb and it is widely sold across the USA for Thai professionals. The Americans export the culture that the use of the table is more civilized, even if it requires the practitioner to climb on top of the table to perform movements typically done on the floor!
In search of a conclusion
Perhaps this will make you more pensive. Perhaps you will decide to try Shiatsu or “receiving” it in a way that is different from what you are used to, for your own research. If that happens, this article has reached its purpose. I hope the readers are able to create a good relationship with Shiatsu, a good relationship with their own bodies, with their patients and with Life. Eventually, that is what really matters.
Advantages of the MASSAGE TABLE
– ability to move around without losing the pace of the movement;
– pending arms and legs can be useful for certain movements;
– accessible for those with physical challenges to be on the floor;
– the Ki stays on the practitioner’s upper part of the body; rational people tend to prefer the table, while more intuitive practitioners prefer to use their multiple intelligence while performing Shiatsu on the floor.
Disadvantages of the table
– it does not use the HARA;
– it demands the use of force, thus creating pressure on the arms, shoulders and the cervical.
– it does not use the practitioner’s body as a whole.
– for some it is easier to lift up from the floor rather than getting down from the table.
– it is anti-ergonomic and may cause spine issues, especially in the lower back.
Advantages of the FLOOR
– the client feels safe;
– it allows a good use of the HARA;
– stretching is possible during the practice;
– it requires total control of the body, making shiatsu a practice that moves the KI all over the body
– it allow the use of non-force. The practice becomes lighter, not exhaustive.
– it allows more positions, both for the practitioner and the patient.
Disadvantages of the FLOOR
– it does not allow the body to bend down;
– it can be painful if the person does not have a good body consciousness;
– some people may have difficulty standing up after the session.
Arnaldo V.Carvalho is a Body Therapist, Naturopath and Shiatsu Practitioner for more than 17 years and teaches this technique All Over the World. For more information check out his Website and the Shiatsu Emocional Website.
TRANSLATION TO ENGLISH BY CRISTINA PAIXÃO LOPES