Written by Nicole Bayes MRSS (tt)
Editing and support by Dinah John MRSS (T), Principal of Norwich Shiatsu College
We have recently started back with the new term at the Shiatsu College in Norwich. Now I’m a Shiatsu practitioner - an enjoyable and life-enriching journey (if daunting at times!) - and I’m attending classes this year as a Teacher in Training (tt). I found myself reflecting on the whole 3 year training process and realised there were some key pieces of advice I found especially helpful along the way, which gave me valuable perspectives on my whole learning experience. They still provide valuable touchstones in my unending sense of discovery as a Shiatsu practitioner and I hope they might prove useful to you too on your path. I am of course indebted to my friends and teachers for their knowledge and the wisdom that has brought me to these understandings.
1. You can trust in the healing power of touch
Training in Shiatsu, at its heart, is learning to tune into subtle energy in the body, a unique and undeveloped skill in our society, and not something we are used to practising. We do this in a fun, relaxed environment, making it far easier than you would imagine. Yet when it comes to giving a treatment, trying to connect with someone's energy meridians can feel elusive and intimidating, particularly as you want your receiver to feel some benefit! I would say ‘don't worry’. Your client will gain from the session even if you sense very little.
In my first year, during the feedback session after treating a friend, I was fretting about how blank the feeling had been under my hands at moments during the treatment. I have never forgotten what she said, as it was so useful, reassuring and true: 'Don't worry you're learning and your receiver isn't aware of that. Touch alone is very powerful and healing, you can trust in that'. It's true. Remember most people receive very little physical contact in their daily lives, so simply being, receiving contact and body weight is hugely soothing and healing. You can trust in that, the rest will come. You don't need to be a Shiatsu Master for someone to benefit from your treatment.
2. Relax into the Chinese Medicine theory - it is a spiral learning process
When you first start there is so much to remember it can start to feel mind-boggling. You think you are getting to grips with one of the Five Elements and then the next training weekend arrives and there are more points and associations to remember! It's important to keep reminding yourself that you don't need to memorise it all. Each year you will return to the subject, as your training is built on a spiral learning process.
Read, relate to what you can, then let go and trust that you have absorbed what you need for now. You won't remember it all, but it will slot into place over time. You will be referencing books long after you have finished training because there is so much detail to learn - that's what makes it so interesting. Chinese medicine itself is an Eastern healing art that is 2500yrs old (!). It is a rich field of knowledge and is a completely different model of thinking which as Westerners we can take a long time to get our heads around. Give yourself a break, just take in what you can and know that the key knowledge is being absorbed gradually into the background of your mind.
3. SURPRISE! You're on a journey of personal development!
If you have come to train in Shiatsu the likelihood is that you are interested in personal development, both your own and that of others. The healing practice begins with learning to sense and become mindful of our own energy system to address the personal imbalances which might be reducing our connection with our receiver. Personally all I heard for 3 years when I asked for feedback was, 'You need to ground more and be kind to yourself…'. Each time I would scream internally, thinking, 'What does this mean? How do I do this more?!' It was a battleground for me so it wasn't what I wanted to hear…
But therein lies the challenge, to grow into our potential by working on our personal barriers. We do this by witnessing the physiological symptoms and emotional / mental habits we experience, and working with them to evolve and resolve them to some greater or lesser degree - not just for ourselves, but for the benefit of our clients too. We are not seeking perfection, simply greater balance to support our practice. You might find that, as you heighten your sensitivity, particular struggles get louder before they get better. But these will ease as you master skills and strategies to help manage them. For those of you on this reflective journey, remember that it can be tiring at times - you will need to rest up, but know that you won't be alone - you have your teachers and fellow students with you.
4. Have measured self-expectations - confident competency takes time
Even once I had finished my training, I still didn't have the perfected healing 'Jedi powers' that I wanted and that I witnessed in my teachers. I wanted to be able to 'zap' someone with my Qi, ‘read’ what was going on and know EXACTLY what I was doing. I wasn't satisfied with how much I could sense and still felt I was crawling when I wanted to run. Treating could still feel a bit hit and miss as to how connected I felt at times during the session. I had set my expectations very high as usual...I could practice well, but just not at the level I wanted to.
One day I remember overhearing a couple of recent College graduates saying that it was only 2 years AFTER their training that something clicked and they 'got it'. I couldn't quite comprehend this - what did this mean? But what they said helpfully stayed with me. I kept practising: treating clients, having tutorials, doing further training, asking questions...until finally something dropped more deeply, an intuitive, energetic understanding of the practice that can only come with time and experience. I can now trust that, when I walk into a treatment, my session will have a level of quality I am pleased with - that comes naturally. I have reached a level of 'unconscious competency' as a teacher once described it. Shiatsu is a subtle art, and like any skill worth learning, it cannot be achieved or understood overnight.
5. Trust the framework, then practise, practise, practise - your style will develop
I know it can be difficult to find time, but try to practise as often as you can, for it is here that your skill develops and confidence will grow. Natural skill counts for little without practice - it is the hours of treatments you do that will create mastery and there are no shortcuts to avoid this. What at first feels clunky and unachievable will, with routine practice and repetition, click into place as you set up and work. Aspects such as developing a grounded, relaxed and released alignment become more natural, and even on a difficult, emotionally wobbly day you will get into the zone. Attending classes, personal practice, feedback and tutorials will all help you.
The framework you learn gives you a simple structure from which you can move out on a platform for highly developed work, eventually expressing your own personal style of practice. There are greater levels of connection that are revealed to you, once you have cognitively and intuitively understood the basics. The beauty of Shiatsu is that your experience of it will keep evolving and changing. It will open new doors of understanding and insight as you progress and practice. The world will never be the same again; you will see and understand yourself, as well as others, differently and appreciate your experiences with renewed senses and perception. Delightfully, life begins to become richer, to have more depth and to make more sense. The universe opens up in a whole new light.
To sign up for the Norwich Shiatsu College e-newsletter and receive quarterly updates on workshops, articles and courses - please click here. To find out more about Shiatsu and the Shiatsu College please visit www.shiatsucollege.co.uk
If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with me