Remote Shiatsu? Smart Yoga? How to bring clarity at a time of crisis (also digital)
At this delicate moment in history, we are facing many crises.
First of all, the health crisis, which sees the collapse of an already shaky system under great stress.
Then came the existential crisis, in which the freedoms we took so much for granted were restricted.
Then came the social crisis, in which each of us became judge and executioner of the actions of others.
And finally, it came: the economic crisis.
Many companies, from the smallest to the largest, have suffered, are suffering, and feel the weight of the low, if not non-existent, economic income (taxes, however, continue).
One sector that has particularly suffered from the crisis is that of bio-energy disciplines, i.e. all those activities that deal with personal well-being, such as Shiatsu, Yoga, Ayurveda, Reflexology, etc...
Sports and cultural associations have seen the total closure of their activities, and it is still unclear when even a partial comeback can be planned.
Given this pervasive uncertainty, many holistic practitioners and teachers have reinvented themselves by taking their skills online. Zoom, Skype and WhatsApp calls have never been so busy!
As a Shiatsu Therapist and Yoga Teacher, I have seen the evolution of this proposition, experiencing it both professionally and as a student, and I would like to help you all gain clarity as to what is the right limit to respect.
Let's start with my role as a Shiatsu therapist.
I must say that I have a four-year training at the European Institute of Shiatsu, where I had the time and the opportunity to deepen the anatomical and physiological aspect of the person, to study the basics of Traditional Chinese Medicine and to do A LOT of practice on unfortunate colleagues and on my - equally unfortunate - teachers.
Practice has been about 2/3 of my training and, thanks to this path, today I see personal and relational physical contact as a fundamental part of Shiatsu.
In an article I wrote for Meditazione Zen, I went into detail about what Shiatsu is both in practice and intention, and I would like to redefine what its role is: to support the well-being of the person through listening, presence and constant acupressure on the recipient's body.
The very meaning of the term Shiatsu is 'finger pressure' and its peculiarity lies in the constant and continuous pressures carried out perpendicularly by the operator on the recipient's body.
Having said that, I would like to tell you that I set out with an open mind and heart to listen to what some experienced Shiatsu teachers had to say about our work in this lockdown moment. So I participated in a webinar that was completely free and accessible to all, where different ways to keep in touch with our recipients were explained.
As far as practitioners are concerned, it was recommended to: run guided self-treatment sessions on the recipient; run full treatment sessions "at a distance".
Regarding my professionalism, my course of study and what Shiatsu represents on a technical and professional level, I felt on the one hand inspired and on the other hand morally perplexed.
That is to say: I consider as a valid support the self-treatment that the therapist, through video call, proposes and shows to the receiver, guiding him/her through the digitopressions and having a previous dialogue with him/her in order to formulate a possible "diagnosis" on an energetic unbalance. The recipient, in fact, will have the opportunity to feel supported and listened to by his or her trusted practitioner and will be able to return to a deep connection with himself or herself by touching certain precise points of the body and performing acupressure on his or her person.
I do not consider valid and professional an operator who says he "does Shiatsu", if he proposes to the receiver to meet via video call and, after a dialogue and an energetic "diagnosis" at a distance, he tells him to lie down, to relax (the receiver is therefore lying down and not physically working on himself) and to receive the energy that the operator sends him from the universe and that, through the sole intention, should reach the other person at a distance.
I think that this is not Shiatsu and that it is rather an area of competence of Reiki or Pranic Distant Healing.
The fact of proposing such a treatment is detrimental to what we have built up to now and will take a long way and sacrifice.
If, up to now, we have been professional and have shown our true intention in feeling and supporting the healthy energy of our recipients, I ask all my colleagues to maintain this professionalism and line and not to create further confusion in a sector that is already confused enough in itself.
If I were a Reiki practitioner or Pranatherapist, I would feel completely challenged.
Since Shiatsu is not the only complementary therapy subject to 'distance treatment' in this period, I chose to hear the opinions of two friends and colleagues who work in different sectors.
Giulia, founder of Riflessyoga, is a Plantar Reflexologist and Yoga teacher, to whom I asked what Reflexology is for her and she answered me clearly as follows:
"Reflexology is my job, a job that I have chosen because it is driven by a desire: to help people feel better through a method that is "natural" but with its own rules. The Plantar Reflexology is necessarily and obligatorily based on the "touch". The touch that stimulates the nerve endings connected to related organs and apparatuses, the touch that favours the energetic exchange between operator and receiver, but also the touch that reassures and "cuddles". Moreover, only through the use of touch can the practitioner feel and assess any imbalances (sometimes even before they manifest as symptoms) in the organs and related systems, and thus truly understand 'where to put his hands', where to work, setting up a personalised treatment for each specific situation. I have a lot of respect for the people who decide to try to get better through Reflexology and I would never dream of deceiving them by selling as effective, or even just useful, a treatment "at a distance" that simply has no reason to exist."
Alessandra, psychotherapist and founder of the Sostenibile per Me movement, Ayurveda practitioner and future yoga teacher, also gave me very clear ideas about her work with Ayurveda contact.
"Ayurveda, or the 'science of life', is a veritable encyclopaedia (medicine, yoga, nutrition, meditation, architecture, philosophy) that has come down to us through millennia of teachings transmitted orally from master to disciple. It is one thing to 'talk' about a holistic discipline, but quite another to operate according to the precise indications it provides. The theme of virtuality becomes central if, for example, we deal with Abyangam, the treatment of care and prevention that Ayurvedic Medicine promotes in balancing our state of psychophysical equilibrium. It presupposes the contact between the therapist and the person receiving the treatment as an essential condition. Although deeper and more subtle work is also done, touching the magnetic energy field of the person to be treated, work on the physical, structural and physiological part of our organism is fundamental. Similarly, no "ayurvedic visit" can be carried out without the actual presence of the person to be visited. Therefore, I am in favour of the dissemination of this knowledge also through web channels (such as training and information pills that aim at self-awareness, which is what I am working on so much in this period) but be wary of those who promise you treatments at a distance, because they lack the principle of reality, which is necessary for an authentic encounter and a thorough knowledge of the person to be treated.
Let us now turn to what was said in the webinar about the training of Shiatsu schools.
The training modus operandi of an English Shiatsu school, which offers the course entirely online and does not include practice sessions, was mentioned. The representative of this school answered a question confirming that the practice of the future professional operator is done on himself or on a family member.
There is NO physical training of practice in the classroom.
From my own experience and training, I would never let myself be touched by a practitioner who has not been trained for several hours.
Imagine if a physiotherapist or an osteopath followed his training entirely at a distance. How do you think they would develop their contact skills? Would you go and be treated by him/her?
I would not.
Ditto for all professions that may have to do with contact with the person. From Shiatsu to Ayurveda, Reflexology, Osteopathy and Physiotherapy.
It takes seriousness and intellectual consistency.
Dealing in detail with the smart-studying topic, I completely agree with the schools that choose to train on theoretical topics (e.g. anatomy, physiology, elements of Traditional Chinese Medicine, history, etc.) in live and digital mode.
In this way, any emissions caused by students travelling to attend lectures, which can perfectly be followed at a distance, are eliminated.
Turning to the subject of Yoga, today we have seen an incredible increase in online classes, from the simplest to the most complex and dangerous.
Many have started to introduce Yoga practice into their lives at this time and I am happy about this silent revolution.
I myself am following the training lessons of a London teacher who I would never have been able to practice consistently if it hadn't been for this moment of total blockade.
I would, however, like to lead everyone to make a couple of observations.
Anyone who has never practised yoga and is approaching this discipline for the first time, risks hurting themselves if they are not under the watchful eye of a teacher.
It is, therefore, of utmost importance to rely on the lessons of teachers you know and who you know how they work, so that you do not risk any injuries at home.
Listen to your body, start with delicate practices and, if you don't know any teachers, ask a friend to give you the contact details of their trusted teacher, so that you can contact her, have a preliminary telephone interview and then follow her lessons.
If you are already practising, don't go for free lessons on YouTube! Trust your teachers and continue to practice with them.
Support your teachers so that they can support you!
Youtube lessons can eventually become an addition to practising with your trusted teacher.
Last but not least, no human contact is totally replaceable by a screen.
It is right not to stop and not to shut ourselves up in our shells, but if anything to use this opportunity to take a break and flourish.
Blossom with the knowledge that human contact and hugs are of fundamental importance for our intellectual and spiritual growth.
Technology can help us to reduce our environmental impact, but contact, touch, practice, sweat, perseverance and confrontation are inalienable prerogatives of our being.