In shiatsu, each organ has an associated energy channel and is linked to one of five elements: water, wood, fire, earth or metal. They are interconnected, so that an imbalance in one will cause disharmony in another. This is known as the Five Element Theory. Shiatsu uses this theory to rebalance body and mind and so promote well being.
The kidneys and bladder are linked with the water element, which represents energy at rest or floating. It is therefore associated with the season winter and to dormancy, or rather the potential for growth. This is called the ‘essence’ in traditional Chinese medicine and is effectively the life force that we are born with, which becomes depleted over our lifetime. People born with less essence need to work harder at looking after themselves to compensate.
Harmony in the water element results in strong willpower and endurance, whereas disharmony manifests as fear, which may inhibit growth (for example fear of making a decision or taking action on an issue).
The liver and gall bladder are linked with the wood element, in which energy is rising, like sap in the spring. It gives vision and drive when in harmony, but disharmony leads to anger and frustration.
Four ‘organs’ are linked to the fire element: the heart, small intestines, pericardium (or heart protector) and the triple heater. The triple heater is not related to an actual organ, but represents the processing of food and waste in the upper, middle and lower regions of the body. The fire element represents energy expanding, the peak of activity and the season summer. It is associated with consciousness and harmony in this element is expressed as sensitivity, love and joy, disharmony as being ‘on edge’, insomnia and in more extreme cases as manic behaviour.
The spleen and stomach are the earth organs and represent energy descending, as in autumn. It is associated with thought and transforming ideas into action. Harmony in the earth element results in good concentration and analytical skills. In disharmony it results in overthinking, worry and becoming stuck.
The lungs and large intestines fall within the metal element and represent energy meeting. They are associated the corporeal soul and our ability to take in and to let go. Harmony in this element leads to optimism and a childlike ability to live in the moment, disharmony to grief.
I hope that this and my previous two posts have helped your understanding of the history and theory behind shiatsu. If you would like to experience a shiatsu treatment for yourself, do get in touch.