I’m sore. Months, nay years, spent hunched over a keyboard have produced a persistent backache and a nagging twinge in the right shoulder that seems to have taken up permanent residence in my spine.
What to do? Salvage was sought in regular yoga sessions until summer scheduling took my Saturday morning class off the timetable; regrettably memories of a particularly inspired Pilates instructor are by now a distant dream (Fabio, Fabio, where for art thou Fabio – er, London).
Massage is always a good fallback, but this Time Outer’s requirements are way beyond some light flute music and a gentle rubdown – I need to call in the troops. Years before, a similarly testy shoulder was expertly treated with a short, sharp shock of shiatsu. Perhaps something similar would work again?
To call shiatsu a form of massage is something of a misnomer. This practice has more in common with acupressure (the name comes from shi, meaning finger and atsu– pressure – in Japanese). In Japan the best-known method (developed by Tokujiro Namikoshi, who, the story goes, started working on his technique at the precociously tender age of seven as a way of relieving his mother’s rheumatoid arthritis), enjoys special legal status and is considered a healing therapeutic technique.
The beautifully calming surrounds of the Talise Spa are about as far away from medicinal as you can get – the air heavy with the scent of essential oils, rather than Dettol – but they know their stuff. Before we begin Sun, my therapist, gets the measure of what I need (as is typical of the shiatsu approach). With back and shoulders established as problem areas, I lay on the bed and she begins, pressing points along the length of my body and limbs.
That this technique feels weirdly alien, despite the fact that I’ve experienced it before, shows just how much massage tends to be associated with kneading and manipulation. But however faintly unnerving it feels to be pressed rather than pounded into wellness, there is no denying how refreshed and relaxed I feel after the treatment. What I don’t immediately feel is free of pain.
Two days later, however, the persistent ache in my lower back is gone. I do a mental double-take to be sure, but it is. Better yet, the pain in my arm and shoulder, while still there, feels reduced. Is this thanks to Sun? I’ve heard that the effects of shiatsu can continue for days. Perhaps a return visit is necessary. Just to be sure.