Floor or Table?

Para versão em português clique aqui – Portuguese version? Click here!

A Shiatsu Teacher explain about differences, advantages and disavantages about this two Shiatsu treatment ways.

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by Arnaldo V. Carvalho*

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

Para versão em português clique aqui – Portuguese version? Click here!

TRANSLATION TO ENGLISH BY CRISTINA PAIXÃO LOPES


1 comentário a “Floor or Table?”

  1. Hi Arnaldo,

    Very stimulating article, indeed.

    I’ve been working on the table for over 10 years now, although I teach my students first on the floor because I’m well aware of the advantages, but I must say that even if I can work in both positions, working on the table allows me a much better use of my body and my energy. I use it precisely because it makes me a more intuitive and effective practitioner.

    Nevertheless, I think that most practitioners that work on the table have not had a good look at the internal and energetic mechanics that have to be changed in order to work with non-force, as you call it, and a full body awareness and grounding as they are standing.

    For example, in the system that I use, that was developed with the help of Pauline Sasaki in the US, not working from the Hara is replaced by aligning our energy along the spine, which is a structure much more expansive and inclusive of all the elements in the body, including the Hara. So you don’t have to cancel the Hara; you just put it in a different context.

    Another example that might help to illustrate the kind of grounding you can reach as you are standing is the old and frail QiGong master that stands relaxingly as 5 or 10 muscly young warriors try to push him and they cannot move him. That is a way to stand on your feet but at the same time you are cultivating your energy. Your energy doesn’t have to be in the upper part of the body just because you are standing. On the other hand, if you do shiatsu on the floor but you don’t have energy awareness, you can be as frail as a leaf in the air.

    I believe there has not been enough promotion of shiatsu standing techniques that include this internal mechanics awareness and I hope to bring some of that to Rio next May since it’s extremely important when you have to work with a client in a hospital bed, for example.

    I think that the comparison that you made in your article is from people that mix Western techniques with Asian bodywork, without carrying along the tradition that’s required in order to keep the spirit of what shiatsu should be.

    Also, I’ve found that especially for taller practitioners, working on a vertical axis is more liberating energetically than working horizontally. Japanese people do everything on the ground; sleep, eat, watch TV, shiatsu, etc. We don’t.

    As always, it depends how you do it.

    Best wishes,

    Diego Sanchez

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