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A Typical First Year Shiatsu

In the first year of study, my students learn a simple sequence of bodywork including stretches and rotations, basic 5 element theory, back diagnosis including back, lumbar and sacral stretches.  They also learn more advanced touching techniques, touching with intent and focus and how to bring the use of Qi Gong into their session, so that their Shiatsu does not become mechanical.

Firstly, we have to realise that the horse as a prey animal does not always like having us in his space and we as predators, have to insinuate ourselves upon him sometimes very gently.  I never give titbits to horses - it encourages fussiness with their mouths and nipping.  I like to get into their space by cupping my hand over the Yin Tang point on their forehead, immediately between the eyes and making contact.  This is very nice for them when the weather is cold and you have a warm hand.  Following this I would do all over body stroking mainly to feel for hot and cold areas, but also to allow the horse to feel what I’m doing.  By this time, I will have worked over the Yu points on his back and decided which points are empty and which full.  As a first-year student, I would not have learnt the meridians yet, they come in the 2nd year.  I am simply perfecting my sense of touch on the back to find where the energy is and where it isn’t.  However, what I can do is to find which point is the most empty and hold on to it until the energy comes in and which point is the most full and proceed to sedate it.  These Yu points link directly by nerve reflexes under the skin to the major organs in the body so by feeling the condition of the point, we can assess the condition of the energy in the organ.

Then I would do:

  • Spinal rocking, and tapping just below the spine
  • Shoulder loosening and front leg stretches
  • Lumbar and hindquarter shaking and loosening
  • Tail work
  • Neck work
  • Face work

All of this is highly interchangeable.  You might work down the spine and feel the need to do the tail next, or the hindquarters.  It doesn’t matter which way you do it, there’s no right or wrong but personally I like to do “something” to the spine and the Bladder meridian which sits ventrally to it as this is a place where the horse is very familiar with being touched.  I like to leave face work until last as it is always a place to work very quietly and leave on a good note.  However, if you look at the horse and the neck just screams at you then get on and do something there - simple massage techniques, working the top, middle and bottom line with the heels of your palms, little rotations on these lines with your fingers - whatever grabs you.  Even at this stage you can use your intuition, so if it just feels right then go with it!  At the end of the session, simply close the horse down by wiping down his body with your hands and then stand back and thank him.

I don’t feel it appropriate to go into depths in this book over what to do with difficult horses.  Each one is different and must be treated as an individual however having said that you need to look to yourself carefully.  Have you entered his space as quietly as you could or are you being predatorial?  Is your touch gentle or spikey?  Are you being mechanical?  In other words, is it you that’s making him difficult?  This is the point that you need a good teacher on a one to one basis, either in the flesh or on the end of the phone!  I did once have a very good student who whispered down the phone at me in the middle of a Shiatsu session to ask if it was OK to continue working on a horse who had just laid down and gone to sleep!

If the horse is simply fidgety, remember that he needs to move his feet.  It’s part of his make-up and goes back to his dinosaur days when he had to be constantly on the move.  I find that horses often move around a lot when they first experience Shiatsu. They feel energy move and it feels tingly.  Let them move, but move your own feet as little as possible.  Be grounded and rooted.  They soon settle. If you get half way through what you want to do and they become fidgety, look to yourself.  Have you become ungrounded? Are you thinking about the cup of tea the nice owner will give you when you’ve finished?  Or has the horse simply had enough.  There is no harm in taking him for a short walk to freshen him up and keep his interest in the middle of a session but if he’s really had enough then call it a day.

So, this is a simple 1st year type session outlined above.  A typical 2nd year Shiatsu once you have learned your meridians, would include a looking diagnosis, backed up with maybe feeling Yu points and back diagnosis, or maybe channel palpation. Use whatever works for you.  Then you would have an idea of which channels you want to work - one empty, one full - and then you would use whatever stretches and rotations of limbs or neck you need to, to open up these channels together with work on the points, to help the energy flow. After all this you would close the horse down with a quick body sweep or maybe just holding a Yu and Bo point together.

Most sessions take around 45 minutes. As a beginner you might take an hour.

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