SHIZUKO YAMAMOTO is recognized as one of the world's leading shiatsu practitioners and macrobiotic consultants and the creator of the Macrobiotic Shiatsu style. She has led seminars in the United States and Europe for over 30 years. She has dedicated herself to the spreading the simple message of living according to nature. To further world-wide communication in the natural healing field, she initiated the International Macrobiotic Shiatsu Society. She has authored several books including Barefoot Shiatsu, The Shiatsu Handbook, and Whole Health Shiatsu. She continues to maintain an active teaching and treatment schedule. Her books have been translated into seven languages.
Shizuko Yamamoto is the founder of Macrobiotic Shiatsu and the International Macrobiotic Shiatsu Society
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by Shizuko Yamamoto
Each individual must depend on their inner strength and commitment to succeed and achieve their goal of sound health and contentment. The following is my personal story. It is an account of my change to a better, healthier way of living. It's a journey that began many years ago.
At one time I was seriously ill. It was when I was in my twenties in Tokyo. My doctors felt that I was very close to having leukemia. I also had vision and eye troubles. I suffered over ten operations trying to correct my eye problem. Even more than the eye troubles generally I just didn't feel well. I was in and out of hospitals for three years. After my hospital traumas I stayed at home, almost hiding out for more than eight years. Because of these experiences I lost trust in western medicine. From my education and upbringing I grew up with a deep sense of trust and confidence in western ways. After my prolonged experience, I completely lost trust in this approach. Therefore I began looking for some alternative. I was committed to change and I knew what kind of outcome I was looking for. I wanted to be healthy.
While I was living at home with my parents I was introduced to shiatsu (Japanese style of finger-pressure massage). There was an older women, a shiatsu practitioner, who came to the house once a week to give my parents shiatsu treatments. She was an honest and sympathetic person. However at that time I hated the idea of the classical Oriental healing arts. My educational background had trained me to reject such unscientific and primitive nonsense. The problem was that because of my eye trouble and its effect on my neck and shoulder I had a great deal of stiffness and pain. I was deeply uncomfortable and complained to my mother. Finally I relented to my mother's request that I take one of Mrs. Fukumorita's shiatsu treatments. It felt so good! She was a nice person so I could talk to her about what I was going through. From this initial experience I began my study of the Oriental healing arts.
Change Begins -- In Japan
The first step began with my reading a book on yoga that was given to me by my aunt. This led me to attend yoga classes After taking these classes I immediately changed my way of life. I began with my diet. I started by cooking brown rice. I completely stopped eating animal foods, such as meat, chicken, and pork as well as sugar. Not eating sugar was very difficult for me, as I have since discovered is the case for almost everyone. I cooked brown rice, a variety of local vegetables, and seaweed. Everyday I would go out and walk a lot. I would do exercises and I began to meditate. In the morning I would open all the windows to let in the fresh air and perform deep breathing exercises for sometime. I practically changed my life overnight. Within one month I felt different. I felt much better.
From there I began to help out and teach at a Yoga training center. I saw many people guiding them with the Yoga exercises that I had learned. The Yoga style that I know has more movement than regular Hatha Yoga. It also includes individual corrective exercises. As I worked with more and more people I could see that each had variations of the same problems. The symptoms appeared to be different. But really the problems were the same. No one knew how to breathe or to move correctly. Each person improved using correct breathing and movement exercises. It was proven to me that if you make simple lifestyle adjustments you can get results. Sometimes students would need some extra help. They would do the Yoga techniques the best they could by themselves but their healing progressed slowly. At such times I would help them with shiatsu. I had taken beginning studies at the Namikoshi and Nishizawa schools of shiatsu. These shiatsu styles relied on the use of the practitioner's hands to do the treatment. While working at the Yoga dojo (training hall) one of my fellow teachers showed me how to use the foot during a partner exercise. After trying it during a shiatsu session I realized that using the feet was easier than using only the hands. I treated my friends with my feet and gradually developed a barefoot shiatsu style that included this foot technique. I never learned about using the feet in a class or school. It naturally evolved.
I continued my search of alternative healing methods with the study of Seitai. Seitai is a system of guided self-corrective exercises. This study was accomplished with Hidea Noguchi. His techniques are very effective.
I began to incorporate martial art principles into my style after my study of Aikido. Aikido was founded by Mr. Ueshiba and is considered a unique martial art. Through this study not only was I exposed to technical skills but also to universal principles of how nature functions. Realities such as the illusion of conflict and the unification of opposite forces deepened my understanding about the nature of reality. This further helped to develop my shiatsu style. I found the corrective exercises of Yoga particularly useful so I combined them with shiatsu treatment. The two together achieved a much greater response than either one alone.
Fundamentally my initial search in Japan led me to the understanding that the foundation of the macrobiotic diet coupled with corrective exercises and shiatsu had tremendous power to cause change within an individual and the alleviation of suffering. For me this was a revelation. Especially considering my original outlook seeing natural healing techniques as foolish and a waste of time.
The Change Continues -- On To America
For the next ten years I applied myself to understanding traditional healing methods. While I was pursuing my studies of the healing arts in Japan I developed a holistic beauty school. People would come and be introduced to macrobiotic foods, healthful cooking, yoga, and exercise as well as beauty tips such as facial treatments and cosmetics. The school was developing nicely when my teacher, Mr. George Ohsawa suggested that I could be more useful working in America to spread macrobiotics.
I carefully considered Mr. Ohsawa's point of view and decided that he was correct. I would go to America. My purpose for coming to America was, following Mr. Ohsawa's wishes, to help promote macrobiotic activities. At that time I didn't have any plans to do shiatsu treatments. After I arrived in New York there was some legal trouble regarding macrobiotics. Consequently there were not many activities going on. Because of this I decided to work with Gloria Swanson, a famous film star, helping her with macrobiotic cooking. From Gloria Swanson's job I got another job working in a macrobiotic restaurant. While working in the restaurant some employees would complain about stiff neck and shoulders so I would quickly work on them for a few minutes and apparently they felt better because soon I was being asked to do many treatments. The employees would come to me and they told their friends who also would come for treatments. The fact that I was giving shiatsu spread by word of mouth. It was soon after that I began to earn a living from shiatsu.
Developing My Shiatsu Style
My treatment style had developed to include both the skills that I had learned from schools in Japan that primarily used the fingers and hands, plus the foot technique from my time at the Yoga center. These two styles along with the technical additions that I invented while working on the people of New York and the use of the macrobiotic diet became the "Barefoot Shiatsu" style.
New Yorkers are hard working people who tend to eat large amounts of beef, pastrami, hot dogs, eggs, and other animal source foods. This excessive consumption of animal protein together with their stressful mental work and lack of physical exercise produces exceptionally stiff, tight bodies. I developed a technique that is specifically directed toward addressing such inflexible conditions.
Technique wise from the beginning I would put a great deal of energy into giving a treatment. As time has progressed and I have seen tens of thousands of patients, the technique has become simpler and simpler. I have always taught this holistic style of treatment that includes diet, breathing, and corrective exercise with shiatsu. Before there were any macrobiotic training schools many young people would gather at Michio and Aveline Kushi's house in Boston and I would spend time sharing my experience with them. We did this many times. I was always treating patients and teaching students what I had learned. Later as interest grew large seminars were developed to share shiatsu with the public. Now many years later this information is being taught around the United States and in Europe. Shiatsu continues to grow and is sought after by many people.
Though I had many physical and emotional troubles, they were all healed. After I made the profound change to macrobiotic living principles my problems were cured. With these changes I developed more of a positive outlook. It has become easier for me to look on the bright side. When I was sick everything appeared negative to me. As my body healed itself I was able to do more work. I became involved in many interesting activities. I was able to forget my personal troubles. I soon began to feel good about things again.
After 40 years of living in Tokyo with my parents and friends, life gave me an opportunity to start over. It started with my practice of yoga and macrobiotics. It has continued with my move to the United States. This process initiated my new life. Before that time I had hardships with my illnesses but I never really had to work hard nor to depend on myself. To break away from my old ways and start a new life really felt good to me.
I feel that human beings who are in really good condition, those who are healthy in body and mind, will naturally have a positive outlook. Even if the environment is difficult and there are many hardships we can have a positive outlook. When your body and mind become weak everything looks bad, even if you are in a great environment. Everything is in a moving balance in nature. As we all belong to nature we aren't supposed to have many troubles. If we are healthy, we are able to cope and adjust to the challenges that inevitably affect us all. We have to follow nature's order to survive. When we violated nature's order trouble is sure to come. Most people however, never realize we are part of nature. My experience has proven the truth of this to me. To fundamentally change for the better we must learn from nature. We have no choice. If you don't have the will to change, your life is finished. You won't die right away but you will never change and your physical and emotional miseries will remain. Is this the life you were born to experience? If we as human beings cannot understand the simple message that we belong to nature we will be incapable of curing physical or emotional troubles. Nature created us. We cannot control nature. The key here is "how to discover what is nature's order." As humans, we have lost this sense. We must be able to feel it. If we can practice self-reflection, meditation, and even honest talking to ourselves, we will discover that we are part of nature. Nature is in us.
Much of the illness that exists today can be traced back to
lifestyle. The number one cause of death is heart and vessel disease.
This illness is practically 100% avoidable with dietary modifications.
Although all scientific evidence points out this fact it has not
been acted on by either the medical nor lay communities. I suggest
that common sense action be taken immediately. This stance appears
to be revolutionary. It may be revolutionary as it meets the current
needs of a serious problem in an innovative, untried manner. It
is my desire that individuals within society take it upon themselves
to make appropriate changes. To take a stance individually and
act upon it with logic and reason, particularly when it is outside
the norm, takes courage. If society is to continue without extreme
financial and emotional burdens, significant change must occur.
The numbers of people afflicted with serious illnesses are ever
increasing. A fundamental and rapid change to preventive health
care and holistic techniques is essential to turn around human
kind's race toward degeneration. The solution is simple and it
can be done. In one of his poems American poet Robert Frost said,
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--I took the one less
traveled by, and that has made all the difference".
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