Connections and Circles

By Dawn Hathaway

As a Pilates teacher studying to be a Shiatsu practitioner I am frequently struck by connections between the two forms of Bodywork. Flow, balance, mindfulness are key features in both. Breath is fundamental. Essential, powerful and sure, breath is ultimately energy and Life. Seemingly simple connections…

Pilates might not generally be regarded as having a place in the world of “bodywork” as opposed to the world of “fitness”, but despite the fact that in Pilates the “client” acts and in Shiatsu the “receiver” receives, to me there is a great deal more that happens within the therapeutic relationship between teacher / giver and client / receiver, enough to suppose that the energetic changes that take place in Shiatsu happen in Pilates.

Shiatsu is a mind-body experience. Pilates is a mind-body practice. To any physical technique there are specific guiding principles that inform the intention of a discipline as well as its execution. In Pilates, whilst the principles may vary slightly in name or number from one school to another, the ultimate aim is to explore, discover, and expand; to experience your body and explore its many possibilities.  Principles such as Alignment, Balance, Centering, Stability are developed to help you perfect that challenging Rollover or tune in to the projection of breath to expand the ribcage. The goal is to listen, respond, move. And listen again!

Shiatsu is a Japanese pressure based massage therapy that works on the energetic systems of the body; emotionally, physically and spiritually. What are these energetic systems? Shiatsu has its roots in Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Central to both is the concept of Chi or Ki; that everything in the universe is made up of energy. In human form Ki is the flow of energy through specific channels or meridians that relates to organ functions within the body. A block or weakness of Ki may present as a physical or emotional symptom. Shiatsu seeks to balance, or move the flow of Ki in the body and to align these systems to promote the body’s natural healing ability and restore harmony of mind, spirit and body. 

Balance, alignment, harmony. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Whether your focus is balance standing on a wobbleboard or balancing the Kidney energy of a person who is recovering from shock there is a connection even in the simplest, broadest definitions of these two practices. In fact a person with good Kidney energy may well do better in a wobbleboard exercise than someone with a Kidney imbalance; particularly as the Kidney meridian runs up the back of the body and along with the Bladder meridian is relevant to ones central axis and “uprightness”.

Considering energy more broadly it is not insignificant that one chooses one Pilates teacher over the other. Convenience issues aside, the relationship between teacher and client is key to your experience and to how well you progress. From that first meeting and initial consultation you establish a relationship that is right for you. Central to that relationship is trust. You trust that the teacher will teach you safely and effectively; that you will meet your evolving goals. To borrow an idea from “Meet The Parents” you are firmly inside a circle of trust.!

In Shiatsu this circle is seen as an energetic field, unique to this practitioner and their receiver.  It informs the treatment from beginning to end. It is dynamic, fluid and continuous; and also based on trust. You trust that your practitioner will work safely and effectively to address your needs.

Both the Pilates teacher and Shiatsu practitioner approach their work with respect, positive regard and no judgment, If you trust in this relationship you will get the right teacher or practitioner. As the teacher or practitioner you will always get the right client!

Our friend Dawn Hathaway passed away in October 2015 after a long battle with cancer. RIP Dawn.