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Shiatsu and the cycles of a woman’s life: menstrual discomforts.

Intuitively when we feel pain somewhere, we will tend to place a hand to soothe or warm the area. This ancestral knowledge is the origin of Zen Shiatsu, TE ATE, “the healing hand”, in Japanese.

I would say that yes, massage can benefit menstrual pains, but if you are on your cycle, a gentle and attentive massage. Indeed, many women tend to have a lower pain threshold before and during their period in addition to experiencing symptoms such as feeling bloated, tight or cold in the lower back and pelvis area, weakness, numbness, headaches…

Zen Shiatsu is this kind of massage, as it is non-invasive. The pressure is progressive, deep yet not strong and adapted to the actual needs of the receiver. We describe it as a form of “listening and communicating with hands”. In Japanese my teacher says, “think like a Samourai, touch like a Mother”.

Also Zen Shiatsu is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine approach (TCM), where pain is seen as a manifestation of an energy circulation problem.

The goal here is twofold: to release energy (qi in Chinese, ki in Japanese) in areas where it may be blocked or stagnating, and to bring energy back to areas that are depleted. In addition to applying pressure, Zen shiatsu practitioners may manipulate the soft tissue over and around meridians, and perform passive and active stretching exercises as part of treatment.

For instance rather than rubbing and pressing, the practitioner will listen with one hand (yin, quiet) the tense area and use the other one ( yang active hand) to restore the energy flow in the whole body.

Scientific researches have shown that shiatsu is an excellent form of pain relief. It has been shown that applying extensive pressure initiates the release of endorphins, natural pain-killing substances produced by the body. Shiatsu may also lower the levels of adrenaline and other stress hormones, producing a relaxing effect.

Helen Hunt-The London Women’s Shiatsu Clinic explains:

“Whilst using much of the same theoretical body of knowledge and philosophy as acupuncture, Shiatsu gives the added advantage of touch.

Zen Shiatsu practitioner and teacher in the UK, Carola Beresford-Cooke explains that “..touch is the most instinctive form of healing, we may suppose that the points and meridians were rubbed and pressed long before they were stimulated with the stone needles found at Neolithic sites in China…”.

Touch, which is respectful and caring can have profound effects on people’s health.

When thinking of the basics of human touch, we all know what touch has the potential to communicate. It can communicate a range of messages including: love; safety; confirming that you’ve been heard; reassurance; encouragement; and kindness. All of these messages are important if someone is to flourish on any level (physically, emotionally and spiritually); and what happens on one level effects all the others, according to TCM.

To that extent, Shiatsu session on a regular basis may certainly contribute to bring more lasting and satisfactory changes than will an attempt to block the superficial symptoms with painkiller medicine.” 

People who come to see me are often surprised to fall asleep. In fact this is a very good sign and their body and mind benefit a lot from this deep letting go.

When female clients who come to see me happens to have their period, they do feel alleviated afterward! Usually I adapt the session on their actual needs. Even if they do not feel pain, the body shows different needs! They also reported that their cycle is less painful and more regular .

The PMS symptoms are  commonly treated by Shiatsu Practitioners using specific acupoints of the Liver and Spleen meridians (to support these energetic vital functions related to the blood, yin energy in the body).Whilst some of the acupressure points of these meridians are located over the lower abdomen (a site where pain may be localised in dysmenorrhoea), many of the points which are commonly used are located elsewhere on the body, such as on the legs, hands and feet.

However, for Zen Shiatsu there is no “recipe” approach, as everyone is unique, even showing the same symptoms. Part of Shiatsu’s role is enhancing in supporting the natural life cycles of women, supporting women through various life transitions, encompassing the person as a whole unique living being.

In addition, although a patient will have to visit a practitioner to receive the full benefits of Zen Shiatsu, some points can be self-performed.

There is immediate relief after a session, but I am convinced that the longer the problem persists, it is a gift from your body telling you “look at me! Know me better!” and it is a sign of time to start holistic and preventive  care for yourself! Never get discouraged, be self-compassionate and get curious! BE CREATIVE!

Tips to consider:
  • essential oils ( such as Geranium, ask your specialist)
  • watch your diet (your Blood quality influences your Health and ability to recover and feel energised)
  • hot water bag
  • simple breathing  to warm and energize your lower abdomen area
  • self-shiatsu, or acupressure ( ask your practitioner)
  • movement practices such as Chi Kung ,  and Do In An Kyo*
  • When you are not on your menstrual cycle, you may want to experience ABDOMINAL DETOX CHI MASSAGE an ancient Taoist healing modality and Chi Kung practice ( more post about it later).

*Do In An Kyo: self/duet stretching and mobilisations , self-Shiatsu and breathing exercises to improve the circulation of energy, a basic belief in oriental therapies, which can be considered a base for a healthy life.

Here is a simple breathing exercise, everybody can benefit from:
  • sit comfortably,
  • place one hand on the belly, bellow your navel
  • place the other hand opposite, on your lower back
  • Breathe in, on a count on 3 and breathe out on the count of 5. The idea is to encourage a slightly longer exhale, but not to force your breath
  • as you do so, recieve the breath,  sensing your 2 hands moving away and toward each others
  • feel the warmth between your hands energising your lower belly center
  • keep your awareness to your whole body being relaxed and warmed up
  • you may experience this standing, and feel  the difference to you
  • feel this area of your body, it houses many importants points for your vitality.


Here is to Life at its Happiest! Enjoy!


Anne Cousin