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Shiatsu Restorative Circulatory Massage


 Shiatsu Overview  Massage Oil
 Foot Massage  Whole Body Massage
 Acupressure Points  Circulatory Massage Notes


First, I'm not a doctor and strongly recommend that you get medical care from a doctor for anything major or questionable. We have the finest crisis medical care in the world, take advantage of it if and when you need it!

Although quite popular in its own right, Shiatsu is quickly becoming a treatment of choice to assist with many other forms of healing. Shiatsu is an old Japanese healing method evolved from ancient Tibetan energy teachings that say disease and injury are repairable disruptions in energy flow. The art science of Shiatsu breaks these complex teachings and lifelong learning into very simple, easy to learn and use, noninvasive enjoyable techniques that enhance circulation and stimulate pressure points to reduce pain and accelerate healing. One of the many aspects of Shiatsu is in helping with circulatory massage that is the topic of this web page.

Interestingly, Shiatsu is one of the few oriental disciplines that Westerners take to quite readily. It gives immediate results through safe enjoyable simple touching, massage and manipulation that can be easily learned. Shiatsu healing is full of simple valuable techniques to help instantly relieve many symptoms. For instance, lightly squeezing the pressure point on the thumb web will make certain headaches vanish. These near magical techniques give a practitioner both instant credibility and the deep rapport needed to recognize and effectively treat the much larger issues that keep manifesting in one difficulty after another.

The learning of Shiatsu is broken down into simple easy to learn pieces that each give the immediate feedback needed to know you are being successful. Shiatsu starts by teaching how to touch certain pressure points to immediately reduce pain. Massage, one specific area at a time, is taught as a technique to help read the tissues and help address problems. The different massage lessons come together into a full body Shiatsu restorative circulatory massage. These full body energy field treatment massages are often described as one of the closest things to heaven here on earth. They detoxify, improve all manner of circulation, and help a being quickly into an energy state that is so pleasurable and healthy they choose to stay and evolve from there. Over time a student moves from just working with the physical aspects of healing, into higher level energy reading, sharing, and balancing. As a person learns and applies each of the Shiatsu steps, they benefit often even more than the people they treat quickly improving their own personal vitality as they build quite a knowledge of the body and its systems.

As a young child in Japan I began my study of martial arts techniques in the middle fifties. I apprenticed under two old masters, one Korean and the other Japanese. That was a strange union of almost natural enemies who were brought together by the Air Force when they sought two of the top masters available to teach military personnel and their families self-defense. Strangely these two got along well and melded their knowledge into quite a program to teach warrior arts. Perceptions have changed greatly with far more people knowing of and dabbling in the healing arts. Many of these “newcomers” forget or do not realize that these arts have their history based deeply in the warrior arts which often leads to misunderstandings. The warrior arts evolved from the practical lore of treating physical injuries and loss of purpose of spirit. Shiatsu goes further in terms of helping to address all types of physical, mental, and spiritual difficulties. Although its tradition in Tibetan healing and other modes is rich, its experience outside that very narrow range of healing arts is relatively new and still evolving. Fortunately, there are so many involved that this evolution is happening quite quickly.

“A true warrior must start their path by first knowing themselves”. One of my masters first lessons was learning how to help heal. They taught a combination of basic Jujitsu and Shiatsu healing massage. The importance of this massage is to help a tired or injured body part to move the accumulated fluids out. Their technique was similar to squeezing fluid up out of a hanging limp hose. You start by sealing using your hand to slide up the hose squeezing the fluid up as you go. If you let go at the end of that stroke, the fluid will rush right back down, so instead you clamp that hand down and then use your other hand to force the fluid up. Clearly elevating the end of the hose or hanging it upside down can be a big help, but often that is not practical, and in some cases unhealthy. In doing this massage you stop when you have gotten as close to the heart as you can.

A few years later in my medical training some of what I was taught when so young began to make more sense in a scientific way. I began to learn about the lymphatic system, a second circulatory system within our bodies that is most profoundly affected by this technique. This system is vital to remove all kinds of toxins. Unlike our blood that is moved by a pump in the form of our hearts, in simple terms the lymphatic system works by muscle action and valves. The muscles all over our body provide the squeezing to move the lymphatic fluids and the valves keep it all moving in the right direction, meaning toward the heart. When people stop exercising or injure themselves, they shut down this muscle pumping action. Injury often damages those valves. This combination allows toxins to build up and healing slows greatly. Manually moving the tissues always going gently from the extremities toward the heart will help move these toxins out and the basis of the powerful Shiatsu circulatory massage.

My masters were careful to explain that this movement unlocks and presses out the daemons that can build up in the flesh. They said that pushing out these daemons can cause all kinds of changes. That mechanical action often will stimulate incredible releases in people both physical and mental, particularly those who have long been sedentary or who have been favoring a portion of their body because of past injury. It is not unusual for such a treatment, to elicit strong body odors, intense bad breath, gas, sweating, and even nasty aching with cramps, plus a variety of intense mental feelings and images. Some of the most powerful releases I have ever seen have come when working on the head.

Combining this type of treatment with Reiki seems to reduce many of the adverse feelings and assist with the cleansing. My fellow Reiki Masters and I often combine Reiki and a gentle full body circulatory massage when we have the time. Although the result is wonderful, the down side is that it not only takes an hour plus to do each of these full treatments, they also often leave the one being treated so mellowed out and worthless that you have to wait for them to recover. I know we always go around and around about who gets to go first! *smile*

The Shiatsu approach is so well respected that most martial arts incorporate aspects of Shiatsu in their early training. They teach Shiatsu technique, often under a different name, as a fundamental part of a warrior's ability to thrive. Even before learning simple defensive actions, warriors must first learn to treat pain and quickly spring back from injury and illness. Between being an incredible healing aid and so easy to learn, Shiatsu technique has become the way to start students. Additionally, it is most subtle in that it slowly continues to grow in power and influence, helping to impart both the perceptions and skills toward being a true master. Master of course being in the oriental sense is a student who has undertaken a life long journey to enhance, apply, and consistently teach their skills. Long after giving up on the warriors' road, most martial artists continue with their Shiatsu healing.


Although one is not needed, I prefer to use a massage table for this kind of work. A massage table is more comfortable for the person being worked on. It sets a tone that you care and take this seriously enough that you have invested in the proper tools and hopefully the proper knowledge to do the best you can. It also says this is a healing session with a tacit agreement that someone wants to get well. And finally, it puts the person you are working with at a comfortable height so you can take the time they need without paining yourself. There are many poor and a few good massage tables available. You can click here to see my web page that goes into the differences and even shows you how to build your own massage table. Although quite a few have made tables from these plans, many praise this page for helping them to become better educated in what to look for in a table.

A good Shiatsu session better known as a massage starts with some proper preparation. You are going to need clean sheets on your massage table, a big thick towel or blanket to use for covering, a head pillow and a thicker pillow or bolster pillow for the legs. I prefer to use a comfortable pad under the sheets. You will need additional pillows if dealing with someone who is pregnant or injured. When a person thoroughly relaxes, it is not unusual for them to have some very powerful emotional releases, laugh, cry, get a runny nose and even pass gas out of both ends. You should warn your client this may happen and not to be embarrassed. You should have Kleenex tissues, some paper towels, and a small hand towel to wipe off any excess massage oil. You should also have breath mints ample for both you and your client. Incense can be nice to help hide any unpleasant odors, but most way overdo. I have an aversion to incense and perfumes. In many parts of the world they use strong scents and incense to cover up not bathing or keeping things clean. Frankly, I worked with an Indian trained lady for a while and finally quit as she was burning dozens and dozens of sticks of incense every session and I felt like I had been working in a gambling casino thick with smoke. I’ve found burning more than an inch of a small stick of incense per whole session is a big overkill. Burning too much incense or regular candles instead of smokeless will load up your room and lungs with unhealthy smoke. You will want low lighting or candles, but if you use candles make sure they are both smokeless and safely used in the right candle dishes so they will not catch anything on fire. Speaking of clean, just about everyone has bacteria and fungi on their bodies that you don’t want to share. You are going to want to wash your hands with soap and water before touching your client and after finishing the massage. At a minimum you should use plenty of hand sanitizer before and after, so make sure you have a supply with you.

You should have some nice music playing in the background. I have a small blue tooth portable speaker and my cell phone I take with me when doing massage away from home. Although both can work off battery, I prefer to have them plugged in. On my phone I have a huge selection of music including my favorite meditation pieces. At home, I have an Amazon Echo that can also play from my phone, off Amazon, and off my computer which has an even larger music selection. In my music folders I have a nice selection of music and let the client tell me what kind of music is most pleasing to them. Although most are happy with meditation music, some want jazz, dinner music, instrumental love songs, etc. It is a good idea to ask well in advance what kind of music a person likes to relax to, so you can get that music or have them bring it and you can bring the right player.

Massage Oil

The purpose of a good massage oil is to give comfort to the one being worked on and make it easier to move one’s hands while giving the massage. There are many different types of oils, some quite expensive that can be used for massage. Just about any healthy edible oil will work, but most oils, even those that smell and feel good will leave a heavy unpleasant coating of grease, so are not suitable. You never want to end up with your client or yourself being covered in oil or grease. As with much in life I enjoy going that little extra step to make something really special. You can buy many different brands of massage oil, but I prefer to make my own.

Making the oil is easy. I first buy all the ingredients at the local health food store. I do enough massage that I make up enough at a time to do about three massages. Most will only use 4 to 5 ounces per session. I make up 16-ounces at a time which will do about three sessions. I keep my massage oil refrigerated so it does not spoil. My oil is very easy to make and uses the following ingredients:

Making the oil is easy. I put the Vitamin E oil into the plastic bottle, then add the almond oil and either shay butter or lanolin. I find this combination provides the best lubrication needed for your touch to be smooth and gentle. This combination is also very readily absorbed by the skin leaving almost no mess after a treatment compared to many other oils that need a long bath and sometimes days to clear away. Then add whatever fragrances or essential oils you want to add. My favorite is often a few drops of orange and lime oils with two drops of jasmine oil and a couple of drops of lavender or rose oil.

In rare cases I might add other essential oils such as Tei-Fu if a person is suffering from a cold or upper respiratory infection. The Tei-Fu oil concentrate contains a camphor, eucalyptus, and mint combination that really helps with congestion. Sometimes, when dealing with really dry or cracked skin, I will also add pure aloe with a little tree tea oil, but that is pretty rare.

Foot Massage

One of the first massage techniques taught is a foot massage. The feet are lowest on our bodies, often the most susceptible to injury, and one of the most frequently affected areas where fluids tend to build. Feet also tend to have very poor circulation. Without good circulation our feet cannot get the blood, oxygen and nutrients to stay or get healthy. Also, the bottoms of the feet represent a full connection to the whole body in terms of pressure points that can be stimulated to promote healing. The purpose of a good Shiatsu foot massage is to increase blood flow, stimulate those pressure points and to help move any excess fluids out of the feet to provide relief, improve circulation and promote faster healing.

The actual massage also begins with some preparation. I like to be set up in a quiet room where I will not be interrupted. I prefer to play some soft music, often one of my Reiki CDs unless the client has a different preference. I also like to have the room dim and lit by nice smokeless candles, often with just a hint of incense. I am a big fan of beautiful large crystals and lay them out in such a way that they add to that environment. My supply of towels, tissues, breath mints, massage oil, and alternative music is ready. Before starting I spend a few minutes sharing that environment and finding if the person is comfortable. If not, I adjust lights, music, etc. so they are. I ask them to lie on their back on the massage table then use a small bolster pillow under their knees and another under their ankles to elevate their feet four to six inches. Cover them amply so they do not get cold. I also have a couple of very nice hand sized crystals that I have them hold in their palms, points toward their hearts. While doing that little bit of setup, I explain that it will take from a half-hour to an hour or more to do a thorough circulatory foot massage. I use a comfortable portable chair that lets me sit at the end of the table while working.

Before starting the actual massage take a minute of quite meditation with them joining you to get composed and ready. I suggest that you both take at least three slow deep breaths with three extra little inhales when the lungs are full and three little puffs when the lungs are empty. This tends to really clear the lungs. Many at this point will also ask their client to join with them silently building a mental picture of getting or feeling better. Some will go through their rituals to bring in aides, spirit helpers, smudging, incense, etc. I personally like to invoke some of my Reiki and energy teaching building for that person a very nurturing cocoon of energy and happiness.

For the actual massage slip a thick terry towel under both feet, uncover one foot, sit on my comfortable chair or stool at the end of that table, and then carefully warm about a tablespoon of massage oil in your palms. Lavishly coat their whole foot and ankle with fragrant massage oil. In doing that coating I just gently feel the tissues and let my hands learn where there are difficulties. After a time and with feedback you learn to feel tenseness, swelling, irritation, and sensitivities. Keeping as much of both hands on their foot as you can will help to reduce being ticklish. It takes me about five minutes to thoroughly feel that foot and coat it well. By then most people stop being ticklish and most of my initial oil is already gone vanished right into their skin.

I warm more oil and then use my fingers starting on their little toe and begin that process of loosening up the tissues. For me the little toe starts at the tip of that toe and then like a plant has “roots” that go all the way through the arch finally connecting through the ankle and into the heel. I like to start by using the fingers of one hand to gently move that toe through its full range of motion while my fingers on the other hand gently massage all of the soft tissue and the joints working the whole toe down deep into its roots. Pay particular attention to using your thumbs on the callous areas on the toe and the pad on the bottom of foot below that toe. I just keep working on that little toe until it lets go. Strangely, with a little practice you can feel this happen. I think what is going on is that like us our tissues are also pretty protective. It takes a while for trust to build up in the tissues. As one giving a massage you have to earn that trust with gentle loving movements. Harsh, jerky, and abrupt moves will not get the proper response. When that trust is there, there is a sudden release of tension. It can take me from a few seconds to sometimes many minutes until I feel that subtle release. When I feel that release, I begin slowly squeezing the fluids toward the heart. My strokes go from the tip of the little toe down through the joints and up deep into the arch. Many people at this point will start their other toes wiggling in greedy anticipation. I make a joke of this and say each will just have to be still and wait their turn!

After that toe “tells me” that it is happy by achieving an even more relaxed state often with a corresponding small smile on the person’s face, I then shift to the next toe. There is a strong domino effect in that the next toe will take a fraction as long to relax and give itself totally to you. Working from the little toe toward the big toe is important because that cumulated “trust” is needed before you get to the big toes and arches where most people tend to store so much tension. Although the next three toes will go rather quickly, you still need to take the time to work each thoroughly moving the fluids appropriately.

As a rule of thumb, I find that it takes me just about as long to do the big toe as it did to do the first little toe. Generally, I also need to warm and apply some more oil at this point as well. It is very important to use your thumbs under that toe and fingertips on top enabling you to slide down the toe through the arch and up into their ankle while working. The more time you can spend on the pad of the big toe and pad area on the bottom of the foot below that toe, the more wonderful that person is going to feel. We tend to hold a lot of tension in our heads, hearts, and organs. Working this area with those pressure points feels really nice.

Next, I take one hand and hold their arch while my stronger hand begins to work on their ankle. By this point they should pretty much let you have control allowing you to easily and gently move their ankle through its full range of motion. While doing that my other hand gently works deep but tenderly on their ankle. When I find tendons and muscles that get too tight, I put in some extra time on them just slowly moving the tissues. For those who can barely move their toes upward, I suggest that they spend a few minutes each day doing a loosening exercise. That exercise involves standing on your toes on a curb or somewhere where your heels can drop below your toes and you can hang onto a pole or wall. Gently lower your heels until you feel the muscles stretch a little without pain. Raise and lower for a few minutes for a few weeks until your flexibility is better.

I finish up by taking my two hands and encircle the person’s whole foot with my thumbs below and fingers above then squeegee down their arch and into their ankle. This really moves the fluids out. After doing that I gently massage the whole foot sort of thanking it for being so cooperative and good. Cover that foot with a towel. I like to use a warm towel fresh from the dryer or a towel warming rack. Uncover the other foot and repeat until that other foot and your friend just purrs. *smile*

Whole Body Massage

Once you are comfortable giving a good foot massage, there really is not all that much more that is different to do a whole-body massage. The key of course is having the hour to hour and a half it takes to do one of these. Basically, you continue from the foot massage. Work up the legs respecting modesty, then similarly do the fingers, hands, and arms. You can easily cause a lot of discomfort and potentially some harm by working on a person’s front without knowing what you are doing, so I suggest you limit your front work to just neck, shoulders, hips, and face. There actually is a formal preparatory diet and Shiatsu technique that is used for a deep frontal massage. That diet and massage helps clear the intestinal tract and gently works the exposed organs. A face massage working from the forehead down, paying particular attention to the sinuses can be pretty wonderful.

After finishing the face have your client roll over, preferably putting their face into the comfortable face hole in your massage table. Warm more oil as needed and work the backsides of the arms and legs keeping all covered as you go that is not being worked on. Follow that with working from the hips up to the heart then the neck and shoulders down to the heart. By that point you should again have almost all of your oil gone.

With clean oil free hands, you next work on the scalp. Key to a good scalp massage is learning that you can apply quite a bit of pressure and movement if you are careful to move your fingers in tiny little circles limited by how much the scalp skin will move naturally. This technique will let you do quite a bit without ever pulling a single hair. Start on the top of the head and work down both sides and the back. Finish, by carefully covering the person and give them at least five minutes to just enjoy.

Acupressure Points

There are places all over our bodies that have become known as being tightly associated with other body parts, organs, and physical functions. Almost all of us have learned to lightly squeeze on the bridge of our nose to help stop a sneezing fit. That knowledge and far more derived from experiments has found many different interesting places on the body that when stimulated can provide varying degrees of relief. There are extensive maps and it can take years to learn all of these different points. Likewise, these points can exist at different levels. The acupuncture points used with fine needles inserted just barely into the skin are topical points and involve invasion of the skin that may not be healthy. Use of lasers and other simulators on these acupressure points is showing promise as a less invasive alternative. Alternatively, Shiatsu stimulates a deeper set of points and nerves.

There are many acupressure points but some of the most basic are very easy to learn and can be quite beneficial to spend extra time on while giving a massage. It is not surprising that there is a concentrated set of acupressure points associated with the bottoms of our feet. In fact, my oriental master taught me an easy way to learn these points. He said have your patient lay down with their feet together. Then draw in your imagination a wide body on the bottom their feet that puts the head at the top of the toes and the heels right at the bottom of the heels. The gap between the feet is the centerline of their body. The sides of that imaginary body go to the outsides of both feet. You can stimulate virtually every part of a person’s body by simply rubbing gently on the appropriate place on their feet using that imaginary picture. Strangely that gentle rubbing often makes a huge difference in how the person feels in a troubled area without your ever having touched the sore or injured part. Because so much can be done just using these pressure points on the bottoms of our feet, one of the most basic treatments is a thorough foot massage.

Circulatory Massage Notes

The concept behind a circulatory massage is helping the body to do what it would normally do on its own, meaning help move any accumulated toxins by mechanically pushing with your fingers and hands. You always work from the extreme extremities (toes and fingers) toward the heart. Much of what you do during this massage process is intuitive based on experience, feedback from your client, and what just feels right at the time.

During this type of intense massage people will have a wide range of responses. Most will thoroughly enjoy as this is a very tender loving effort that never exerts ample pressure to hurt, bruise, stretch, or cause pain or hurt.

It is important that you make this a very safe environment and talk to your client. Warn them beforehand that it is not all that unusual to want to pass gas, belch, burp, get teary eyes, runny noses, plus sometimes get strange odors and tastes. I explain that is one of the reasons I like to burn just an inch or so of incense to mask any of those perfectly natural odors, plus show them my available supply of breath mints and tissues if they want one. In additional to these physical symptoms it is also not that unusual to have some strong images and emotional feelings. They need to let those things out and do so comfortably including laughing, crying, or whatever it takes. Moreover, I try to make it clear that they are in control and can call time whenever they want to take a break, stop, or ask questions. Knowing that many will not take that control, I try to be receptive and call time when needed.


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Created: January 1997

Updated! April 1, 2020