How Modern Spas Evolved From Water's Healing Properties
Water is the source of life, and it turns out, the healing and restorative powers it possesses are also what birthed the concept of "spa".
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For thousands of years, Eastern healers have used pressure-point massage to balance the body; shiatsu is the Japanese version. The idea is that chi, or life energy, flows through the body in 14 meridians. When the meridians are blocked, physical or emotional problems result. During a shiatsu massage, you lie on a floor mat while the therapist gently rocks and stretches your body and applies finger and thumb pressure to points. The purpose can be to stimulate or to subdue energy, making shiatsu invigorating as well as relaxing. Shiatsu treats your whole being rather than a single aspect of your body. Spas recommend it for stubborn knots, sports injuries, and back pain, and say the pressure can help trigger the release of chemicals, like cortisone, that help the body heal itself.
The name of this massage comes from the Japanese word Shi (“finger”) and refers to the fact that it relies on slow, steady pressure rather than flowing strokes. Besides the fingers, the therapist may use her palms, elbows, knees and feet. At many spas, shiatsu is done on a floor mat and you wear loose clothes. No oil is used. If you do undress, the therapist usually keeps a sheet between her hands and your body the entire time. Classical Japanese shiatsu actually has more in common with Western massage than traditional Oriental medicine as it works primarily on the muscles and connective tissues, not chi (energy) and meridians (energy pathways).