Wataru Ohashi was born near Hiroshima, Japan, and became a sickly child after the atom bomb was dropped near the end of World War II. After his health was eventually restored by Eastern healing techniques, he decided to dedicate his life to the practice and teaching of the Japanese pressure-point therapy of Shiatsu. The practices of Zen Shiatsu, established by Shizuto Masunaga, were the basis for Ohashi’s modified Ohashiatsu, which came to fruition after his arrival in the United States in 1970.
Ohashi actually means “big bridge,” and his method links the practitioner and the client through the balance and harmony produced by their natural presence in the moment and the quality of movement in the practice. Trust, sensitivity, and respect are essential. Unlike many forms of bodywork, the well-being of the practitioner is emphasized, because when the giver is comfortable, natural, joyful, curious, and childlike, he can be more sensitive to the client’s needs and more open to change, rather than working to a set agenda. The bodywork itself energizes and rejuvenates the practitioner’s energy as he moves in a relaxed, meditative way, ready for anything but not wasting energy by exerting himself. This attitude communicates itself to the receiver, who will be more relaxed and more likely to reveal what needs attention. In this practice, the receiver is considered the teacher, since listening to his needs is what guides the giver.
Ohashiatsu puts great emphasis on training practitioners to feel the flow of the life-force energy (ki in Japanese) in the body. Being able to sense ki requires a deep understanding of the qualities of energy called kyo and jitsu. Kyo is considered more yin and represents a lack of energy, whereas jitsu is more yang and signals an abundance of energy. When the practitioner finds that a location or point on a meridian is low in energy, he may need to tonify it. If there is too much energy, then some dispersing or sedating is likely necessary. However, to accomplish the proper redistribution or balancing of an individual’s ki requires a profound understanding of the quantum and spiritual levels of energy, in which qualities, waves, vibrations, resonance, and the universal energy field are distinguished. Paradoxically, the actual laws governing energy change as the interactive resonance between the giver, receiver, and the universal energy field takes on a deeper dimension in which conscious awareness takes the lead rather than a particular technique. When considering the nature of energy, there is always more to experience.
Ohashiatsu treats the whole body rather than just symptoms and uses elements of Shiatsu that can have a psychological and spiritual effect on the recipient. Essential elements include smooth and effortless continuity of touch and movement, the use of two hands, respectively known as the mother and messenger hand, and the techniques of cross-patterning movement. Continuity means that there is constant contact with the receiver’s body without any disruptions that cause the client to feel disconnected. First, the practitioner positions his relaxed body so that his hara (the lower abdominal energy center and the center of gravity) is close to the receiver’s hara, while leaning into the client’s body and supporting it. As the practitioner gradually changes positions, this contact is maintained. The bodywork’s two-handed techniques and its seamless flow of gentle movement and stretches become an energizing dance that gives comfort to the client as his awareness expands. The mother hand is usually the one that provides a constant, stationary connection to energy and communicates with the receiver, while the messenger hand roams to various locations and applies pressure to meridians under the direction of the mother hand. All pressure is applied in a sequence that follows the direction of ki flow within the meridians. There is a constant, deep, subtle level of communication between the hands throughout the session. Rather than working on specific tsubo (pressure points), the emphasis is on affecting the overall energy flow throughout the body to create balance while relieving stress, tension, and fatigue. As the practitioner moves to work on different parts of the receiver’s body, he uses a crawling movement pattern called cross-patterning that requires less effort and prevents fatigue.
A session starts with a complete form of diagnosis in which the practitioner uses observation (a broad and full way of seeing), touch (energetic contact with the client’s core), questioning (open discussion), and deep listening (using the entire body, not just the ears) to understand the recipient’s whole body. The state of the client’s hara is examined to see which meridians need work and if there are any excesses or deficiencies of energy that need to be sedated or enlivened. Since every part of the body tells a story about a person’s condition, the diagnostic process can also incorporate reading the lines on the face; the appearance of the eyes, mouth, tongue, nose, and ears; and the condition of the skin and feet. These readings will give information about the person’s strengths and weaknesses; the identification of strengths can give a client a sense of hope for either improvement or recovery. It is also considered important to realize that even the most extreme condition or problem can offer an opportunity to achieve its opposite by turning it into an advantage. A complete diagnosis is not meant to give the client a pile of issues to worry about, but rather to uplift and inspire him through awareness of the unity of his body, mind, and spirit.
The bodywork is begun with the client lying face-up on a floor mat. Although there is no fixed routine, since the sequence of work is determined by the specific needs of a client, a session often progresses from the hara to the lower body and then to the upper body. The practitioner gently and smoothly moves the receiver’s body into positions in which he is sitting, lying face-down, or lying on his side so that there is better access to different areas of the body. Great respect is given to the neck, as that is considered a very sensitive area. Pressure is often applied to the Ohashi point on the back center of the neck. Hands are often placed on acupoints or meridians as the client exhales, and hand pressure during a session can be gentle or as deep as needed, but without causing the pain that is commonly associated with traditional forms of Shiatsu. Even though the hands, thumbs, fingers, and elbows are used (and sometimes even the knees), the contact should be felt as a solid, relaxed, energy-based presence. As the practitioner gradually moves, without abrupt changes, to work on different areas, the client’s body parts are stretched in various ways that help free up the flow of energy within particular meridians. The client is also assisted with the stretching exercises, called meridian stretches, before and after the treatment.
Contact: Ohashi Institute – www.ohashiatsu.org
This modality comes from “Our Inner Ocean”, a book by Captain LeCain W. Smith: The author, LeCain W. Smith, learned early in life that his personal path to awakening was through ocean sailing, bodywork, and transformational energetic experiences. When living on the sea, making friends with the elements and with nature, he uncovered his passion for adventure, exploration, fitness, and health. He spent many years studying and experiencing bodywork and practicing yoga, qigong, breath-work, and meditation. This passion, combined with seeing numerous friends struggle with health problems, eventually drove Smith to reach out and help others through the writing of this book. If this endeavor changes the life of only one person, he will consider it a success.
Good health is something we all aspire to, but it’s so much more than just being free of disease. A perfectly functioning body, tranquil mind, and vibrant spirit working together harmoniously create the joy and happiness that put the good in good health and the worth into a life worth living. Our Inner Ocean describes ancient and new holistic modalities of practitioner-applied bodywork and revitalizing self-care practices.