February 2020 is Shiatsu Awareness Monthand so we’re handing over the reins to Daniela Voit, our resident Shiatsu expert, who’s going to tell us more about the power of touch and its significance within her treatments.

Outside of our close family circle, how often do we come into physical contact with another human being? The truthful answer to this for many living in the UK is probably, ‘rarely’ or ‘never’. In the Western world, the power of touch is highly underestimated, meaning that the possibilities for medical and therapeutic application are often left unexplored.

This is despite the numerous compelling and scientific research studies which have shown the importance of touch, particularly in relation to human development and well-being. For example, studies in understaffed orphanages in Romania during the 1980s and 1990s by David J. Linden in his book, Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart and Mind recorded that toddlers who received little or no touch from their caretakers were emotionally and physically underdeveloped for their age – as growth slowed and they developed compulsive rocking and other self-soothing behaviours. Without positive physical contact through touch, disorders in cognition, mood and self-control persisted throughout childhood and into adulthood. (1)

Touch & Wellbeing in Adulthood

Touch is not only crucial for children’s development but continues to be important to the everyday wellbeing of adults. It can even affect performance.

Studies have shown (2) that sports teams that touch each other more during the game (i.e. with a pat on the back, a high-five, or a hug) are usually more successful. The theory is that this positive physical touch and reassurance between teammates helps create a stronger bond – which will as a result, help them perform better over a season when compared to the teams that do not (or rarely) show solidarity and support through touch.

Shiatsu and Touch: The Practitioner’s Tool

In Shiatsu, touch is the practitioner’s tool. It’s listening with the hands.

One of the main principles in Shiatsu is the positive regard towards the receiver. This is unconditional. Whatever the story behind the receiver’s ailments, there is no judgement – and every receiver on the Shiatsu mat is treated as equal. This brings a very special quality to Shiatsu touch. An unbiased quality that acknowledges the receiver as they are.

Giving Through Shiatsu Touch

The greatest joy of giving Shiatsu is to feel and experience the reaction of the receiver’s body, to touch at an acupressure point relevant to them and feel the energy move through a meridian passage that was blocked. It’s truly remarkable to feel that release of tension – and even when the response we feel is small, the effect on the receiver can be mighty.

As not just a practitioner but also a receiver of Shiatsu (for more than 15 years) I can vouch for the power of Shiatsu touch. In fact, it’s why I became a practitioner in the first place. And over those 15 plus years, I have found that every practitioner has a special and unique touch as they listen to your body and meditate on the changes in it.

This treatment is not so much about manipulating muscles in order to solve issues but about reminding the body how to heal itself – through the unconditional positive regard which makes Shiatsu touch so special.

Written by Daniela Voit


(1) David J. Linden: Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart and Mind. (2015) p. 4

(2) M.W. Kraus, C. Huang, and D. Keltner: Tactile communication, cooperation and performance: an ethological study of the NBA.”, Emotion 10 (2010):745-49. Published by the American Psychological Association. In: David J. Linden: Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart and Mind (2015).

If you would like to find out more about Shiatsu massageand the treatments available at Whole Harmony Wellbeing Centre, please get in touch here.

Read another post by Daniela:

Exploring the Healing Art of Shiatsu