The text below guides you through the basic shiatsu techniques you will require to give your friend a simple shiatsu treatment. Rather like talking over problems with a friend instead of seeeing a proffessional therapist, shiatsu can be used as a friendly way of swapping massage treatments using your own intuiative and natural instincts for healing. I hope you enjoy the benefits of a regular shiatsu. I you want to take shiatsu further I suggest you consider a shiatsu course. If you are able to travell to London I would be happy to help you develop these skills.



Our body is essentially a rhythmic entity. Breathing, heartbeat and menstruation are obvious examples. We ideally eat, sleep and have bowel movements at regular times. One way you can tune into the rhythm of the person you are giving a shiatsu treatment to is to breathe with them. Often I will begin a shiatsu treatment by resting my hand on his or her back or abdomen and follow their breathing so my chi as a similar rhythm to theirs.


The primary technique used in a shiatsu treatmemnt is applying pressure. This can be done with any part of your body but is easiest using the palm of your hand. To practice this kneel on the floor and place a thick cushion in front of you.

Lean forward and gently rest your palms on the cushion. Breathe in and then as you breath out lean forwards moving your weight over your hands. At the same time imagine you are breathing chi deep into another person. The skill in this is to be able to apply the pressure gradually so your ‘shiatsu patient’ can relax and feel there would be plenty of time to let you know if the pressure is too strong.

Any sudden movements with this technique risks your friend feeling nervous. Most people will find it more relaxing if you can establish a rhythm with applying the pressure. The key is to move your weight back and forth rhythmically over your hands in a way that applies pressure gradually and slowly, whilst combining the application of pressure with a long powerful out breathe and projecting your chi.


As you use your muscles they produce lactic acid. If this stays in the muscle fibres it makes it harder for the fibres to slide across each other, allowing the muscles to return to their full length. The result is that your muscles become shorter leading to stiffness and loss of mobility. Stretching is an excellent way to free up chi that has got caught up in knotted muscles.

The stretches in shiatsu often have a powerful effect releasing stagnant chi and sometimes the pent up emotions that go with it. Stretching someone is an excellent way to help the fibres slide back to their relaxed position and return the muscle to its full length.

The key to doing this successfully is to stretch your friend slowly and work with them to find a comfortable limit to how far you can stretch them.


To get rid of the lactic acids and generally improve circulation kneading or squeezing soft body tissue is particularly helpful. We all instinctively know that giving someone’s tense shoulders a squeeze helps. Again you will have to work with the person you are giving a shiatsu treatment to, to work out how firm a squeeze he or she likes.

You can either squeeze between your thumb and fingers or grab a handful of flesh and squeeze between your fingers and palm. Again try to give your kneading a rhythm. Kneading is a good way to stimulate chi energy in any deep tissues.


The joints in the body can become stiff or loose mobility through under use. As part of a shiatsu treatment it is helpful to work on various joints by flexing them fully. It is important to understand which joints move in which, so I would begin by experimenting on yourself.

Check how each joint moves naturally and then work with your friend to manipulate those joints in him or her. Never exert undue pressure or try to force anything when working the joints.


Pounding is an excellent way to stimulate the surface of a body. This will activate the chi near the skin and encourage better blood circulation. For all types of pounding it is essential to keep your wrists loose, so that the motion stems from your elbows and your hands merely flop up and down on relaxed wrists.

The lightest technique is to use the tips of your fingers, moving through the sides of your hands, palms, loose fists and the strongest being two hands clasped together. Certain parts of the body, such as the skull need to be treated very lightly whilst others, like the buttocks can be pounded strongly.


This is similar to reiki in that you can simply place your palm on any part of the person that you feel needs attention. Try to co-ordinate your breathing with your friend and on every out breath imagine you are projecting your chi deep into your friend’s body.


To give a shiatsu you can use various parts of your body to create different effects. Here we will just consider different ways in which you could apply pressure and project chi.


This is the easiest to start with and will provide even pressure over a larger area.


Your thumbs are ideal for applying specific pressure to acupressure points.


These are useful when you want to apply strong pressure over a small area to a part of the body, such as shoulders, buttocks or upper legs.


You knees will spread pressure over a large area and can be used to apply strong pressure.


Your feet are ideally suited to giving a massage. They cover a wide area, are soft, flexible, can provide considerable pressure and of all the options the least tiring to use.


I have put together a short sequence for giving a friend a back shiatsu treatment. My intention is to incorporate a range of techniques for your to try and practice.

Start by asking your friend to sit in a chair or kneel on the floor, ideally wearing loose cotton clothing. Rest your hands on his or her shoulders and initially just concentrate on following your friend’s breathing. This will act as a form of meditation in which you can let thoughts enter your head – giving you subtle information about your friend’s physical and emotional condition.

Now you can begin by gently squeezing the shoulders, with both hands grab the shoulder muscles. Squeeze them rhythmically, experimenting with using your fingers and thumbs or whole hands. You should be able to find a long muscle running along the top of the shoulders. Work along the full length from the neck to shoulders, making the massage progressively stronger until you reach a comfortable level.

Next place you forearms on your friend’s shoulders, close to his or her neck, lean forward, breathing chi into this area. You can repeat this several times slowly moving out from the neck. If your friend likes particularly strong pressure here I suggest you press onto his or her shoulders with your elbows.

To stretch the upper back ask your friend to clasp his or her hands behind your neck and then supporting his or her back with your front, lean back slowly so you stretch the arms upward. Repeat this several times and then try squeezing the shoulders again. They should feel more relaxed.

Finish the shoulders by pounding them with a loose fist and relaxed wrists. I like to finish this part by putting my hands on his or her shoulders again to see how my friend’s breathing has changed. Now ask your friend to lie on his or her front on the floor,.

You can put several layers of cotton towels on the floor to make them more comfortable. If your friend has any kind of stiff neck you may need to put a cushion under his or her chest.

Kneel next to your friend and place on hand on his or her back. Take a minute to re-connect with your friend by breathing together whilst listening to his or her body.

Either stand or kneel astride your friend and place your palms on his or her upper back. Breathe in and as you breathe out smoothly lean your weight over your hands. Work with your friend to find out how much pressure feels good. Continue to press on each out breath as you work down the back until you reach the buttocks.

Now you can repeat the same thing but this time apply the pressure using your thumbs. They should be spaced about one thumb width from the centre of your friend’s spine. Keep your fingers open as you do this so your own chi flows freely from your hands. As you do this you will be following the inner bladder meridian and activating lots of important acupressure points.

Next stand up and with the ball of your foot press firmly and rhythmically into your friend’s buttock. As you do this you should rock him or her from side to side helping to loosen all the joints in his or her back. Steady yourself with a piece of furniture if you feel unsteady.

Now try kneeling next your friend’s upper leg and slowly press onto the back of the leg with your knee. You can balance yourself by placing your hand on his or her lower back and furthest leg. Work your way from the top of the leg towards the knee. Be very careful not to apply any pressure close to the knee. To prevent any risk of applying pressure to the knee hold your friend’s foot up so the knee is bent at a right angle.

Next you can kneel next to your friend’s lower leg and run your thumb along the valley in the centre of the calf muscle starting at the back of the knee. About one third of the way down you will find a powerful acupressure point. This point is usually quiet sensitive so your friend will be able to let you know when you have hit the spot.

Walk down to your friend’s feet and make sure his or her feet are turned so that the toes are pointing towards each other and the heels pointing out.

Now stand with your toes pointing away from each other, like Charlie Chaplin, and start to massage the soles of your friend’s feet by standing on your toes and using your heels to apply pressure. If you find it hard to balance hold onto a chair.

Next walk round to your friend’s other buttock and work rhythmically into his or her thigh with your foot. Once your have completed this pick up the feet, holding the ankles until the knees just leave the floor. Gently swing his or her knees side to side. Work with your friend and see if you can swing the knees in a way that sends waves of movement up his or her spine.

Keeping hold of the ankles you can slowly lift the knees up giving your friend a stretch up the front of the thighs and into his or her abdomen. You will need to communicate clearly to find out how much of a stretch feels right. If you friend experiences any pain in the lower back you should stop this stretch.

Place the knees back on the ground and holding the balls of his or her feet gently push them down towards the ground. This will stretch the back of the ankles. Now you can stretch the feet up towards the buttocks. Again work with your friend to get the stretch right. If he or she is very flexible you may have to put the feet to the outsides of his or her thighs.

Walk back towards your friend’s head and stand astride his or her upper back. Lean forward and rhythmically squeeze the shoulders again. You can even grab hold of the muscle and pull it towards you gently to stretch it slightly.

Now you can pound your friend’s back and buttocks. Try using, the sides of your hands, a loose fist or both hands loosely clasped together. Finally place your hand on your friend’s back again.

Congratulations, you have completed a simple shiatsu treatment.

Text from the Chi Energy Workbook.

Enjoy and relaxing, revitalising and healing shiatsu with Simon Brown in Shoreditch, London, E2. Call 07543663227 or email to make a booking.