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500-Hour Five-Element Shiatsu Training


500- Hour Five-Element Shiatsu Training


Description and Objectives

  • The shiatsu training meets one weekend per month (Friday – Sunday)
  • Some of these weekends will be anatomy, adjunct subjects, and clinic preparation runs
  • There are additional weekend intensives (Saturday – Sunday) for Shiatsu Clinics

This is a 500-hour AOBTA-approved program. Karuna is the only school in the state of Massachusetts teaching a full curriculum in Asian bodywork therapy which allows you membership from the AOBTA. Shiatsu originates from Japan and emphasizes a style of body work with roots in Traditional Chinese Medicine, theory and practice. The literal translation of Shiatsu is “finger pressure,” however, one uses fingers, thumbs, knuckles, palms, elbows, knees, and feet in the process of giving Shiatsu. In TCM, harmony of Qi within the human body is considered essential to health and is the aim of Shiatsu.

The Asian tradition describes the world in terms of energy. Shiatsu creates harmony of our inner energies with that of the universe. To stay healthy a person must continually adapt to the changes going on within and outside the body. If these adaptations do not take place, illness or disharmony can manifest. Shiatsu helps facilitate this process of adaptation for the giver and receiver.All people respond to touch and have healing power within them, but to heal others you must first begin with yourself. This Shiatsu training helps you develop the tools to do this.



Our 5 Element Shiatsu Program is an AOBTA (American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia) approved Program.  Our Yoga Teacher Training Program is in compliance with the standards of the nationally recognized Yoga Alliance.


Licensure and Legal Credentials:

Karuna’s Shiatsu Program prepares students to earn the credentials needed for a legal professional practice.  Practitioners of Asian Bodywork in Massachusetts must complete a minimum of 500 hours of training for professional practice.  Certified practitioner status with AOBTA is the appropriate credential for the practice of Asian Bodywork in Massachusetts, as specified by the state statute. Our graduates are immediately eligible for certified practitioner status upon successful completion of the program.  Additionally, graduates are eligible for the national Asian Bodywork Therapy board exam administered by NCCAOM, the same board that certifies acupuncturists and herbal therapists. Passing this exam would require more in-depth study beyond Karuna’s 500-Hour 5 Element Shiatsu Certification.


Graduates of the 500-hour 5 Element Shiatsu Certification Program receive the following:

  • A diploma indicating graduation from Karuna Center for Yoga and Healing Arts that meets the educational requirements for massage licensing in the State of Massachusetts.
  • Eligibility to recieve Certified Practitioner status as an Asian Bodywork Therapist from the American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia™ (AOBTA®).
  • Graduates are legally certified to practice in the state of Massachusetts.
  • Certification with the AOBTA is national.


Program Objectives:

At the completion of the three-level certification program, the student will be able to:

  • Execute a fluid and graceful full-body Shiatsu session in the Five-Element style
  • Plan a treatment strategy after completing the 4 stages of evaluation and derive this strategy from the Generation and Control cycles
  • Trace and palpate the 12 meridian pathways and locate the required points on a partner’s body
  • List the Five-Element associations and use these associations to identify patterns of disharmony on a partner
  • Describe the basic concepts of Qi, Blood, Jing, and Shen
  • Palpate and identify areas of the Hara and evaluate for Kyo and Jitsu
  • Demonstrate a variety of hands-on techniques and positions including: prone, supine, side-lying, seated, barefoot, table, and a variety of stretches and transitions
  • Incorporate into their basic session a number of techniques to facilitate Tonification and Dispersal of Qi including: intention, breath, Generation & Control cycles, use of appropriate points, and amount and duration of pressure
  • Perform Shiatsu energetic corrective exercises and have a rudimentary command of meditation and visualization techniques in order to center oneself and prepare to work
  • Incorporate the elective material into shiatsu sessions, including: Moxabustion, Tui Na, Reflexology, Chinese First Aid, and Cupping techniques
  • Know the contraindications for pregnancy


  • Instill the Five Principles Shiatsu –  “Relax”, “Penetration, Not Pressure”, “Stationary, Perpendicular Penetration”, “Two Hand Connectedness”, “Meridian Continuity”.  These principles work on students from within, directing their intention towards reverence and catalyzing healing without manipulation.


  • Transition gracefully from a shiatsu student into a professional practioner – We are there with students as they begin the process of working with the public, as they step into their roles as shiatsu practitioners, and as they begin to arrange their lives to make bodywork their livelihood. Through our case studies and student clinic our shiatsu practitioners are ready and capable of making bodywork a professional practice.


  • Practice professionally by law – In Massachusetts, Asian body workers are exempt from the Massage Licensing Act if they are Certified Practitioner members of the AOBTA.  Karuna Center for Yoga and Healing Arts is a member of the AOBTA Council of Schools and Programs (COSP), and completion of our Professional Asian Bodywork Program therefore earns students immediate eligibility for certified practitioner status.


  • Communicate fluently between Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shiatsu and Western Physiology.


Adjunct Subjects:

Chinese Medicine
The rich tradition of this theoretical framework of the traditional Chinese medicine gained in our program sets our graduates apart from traditional massage therapists and other bodywork professionals.  You will be able to assess and resolve physical patterns of energetic imbalance and physical disharmony.  This program enables students to deepen their abilities of diagnosis, observation, and treatment.  This training integrates the traditions of Chinese acupuncture and herbalism that influence Shiatsu theory.

In this training students will learn all the major systems of the body and how they relate to shiatsu. Physiology, nutrition, and pathology will also be part of the study. There will be special emphasis on the muscles and bones so that students locate and palpate the specific point locations.  Understanding musculoskeletal anatomy is essential to understanding the location and workings of the meridians. Anatomy helps Shiatsu practitioners bring specificity to their work. It also allows them to describe their work in terms of the western anatomical vocabulary.

CPR/ First Aid Certification Workshop
Learn how to deal with emergency situations through hands on experience and develop greater confidence. This workshop provides important knowledge for yoga teachers in the case of unexpected medical conditions that may arise during class. It is primarily designed for yoga teachers but is open to the public. At the completion of the 6 hour course you will receive an American Red Cross First-Aid and Adult CPR certification.

Moxabustion is probably the most ancient of all medical therapies utilized in Chinese medicine, and plays an important role in other medical systems such as the Tibetan and Indian systems. The Chinese word for moxa is ‘Jiu’, which means ‘burning’. The method of moxabustion involves the burning of the herb Artemesia Vulgaris on specific points on the body in order to regulate its physiological activity. The effectiveness of moxa has been clinically proven for thousands of years, and has recently been given attention in Western biomedical research. We will learn the methods of moxabustion, including the different grades and applications of this versatile therapy. Learn when and how to use moxabustion to address many health issues, including digestive complaints, body pain, menstrual difficulties, health preservation, and psychological issues. Moxabustion is an essential tool for health practitioners and can be easily learned and used in most medical situations.

Pulse Evaluation Workshop
Chinese Pulse Evaluation is a critical diagnostic tool used to assess the internal condition of a patient in order to guide and monitor treatment. We will learn to palpate varying pulses on the body, but focus on the radial pulse. After we practice finding all three positions on each hand and all three depths of each position, we will learn how to assess three aspects of the pulse including rate, volume, and vessel quality. This information will inform us about the overall quality of a person’s Qi (energy) and Blood as well as the condition of the 12 specific organ systems, leading to correct and effective treatment.

In addition to providing important diagnostic information about a person’s Qi and Blood, the pulse is an aid in monitoring treatment in the moment. The pulse will change one or more of its three aspects with the slightest change of input. A practitioner can assess the pulse to throughout the treatment to guide further treatment. We will learn what it means to balance the pulse and how to use the pulse to monitor the effectiveness of our treatment. We will engage in exercises that will train us to detect the slightest change in the condition of the pulse, as well as help us with our point location and choosing correct treatment.

Cupping and Scraping
Cupping: Cupping therapy is the application of vacuumed cups on the surface of the body in order to regulate Qi and Blood flow within the meridians and vessels. Cupping has been used all over the Western and Eastern worlds and has been an important part of many local healers’ and midwife’s toolboxes. Cupping therapy is used in the treatment of many illnesses, including back pain, muscular and joint pain, cough and lung congestion, allergies, abdominal pain, constipation. Cupping can also be used for stubborn muscle knots and sore shoulders. Most patients love cupping and feel immediate benefits after treatment. We will learn the basic methods of cupping, including stationary and moving cupping, and their application for the treatment of various disorders.

Scraping /Gua Sha: Scraping the back and other areas is used to release blocked Qi (energy) and to cure other illnesses. Guameans “to scrape” and Sha means “red skin rash” (in other words, the result of the Gua).  Gua Sha is used to cure the common cold, flu, bronchitis, asthma, headaches, fevers, chills, cough, abdominal complaints, diarrhea, as well as chronic disorders involving pain and blocked Qi.  The practitioner uses a section of cow horn or a wooden scraper to scrape the back, neck, buttocks and limbs. Oil is used as a lubricant on the skin to lessen the pain of the scraping.

Chinese Medical First Aid
Chinese medicine has a long lineage of using external plasters and liniments for the use in ‘first aid’ situations including strains, sprains, bruising, bleeding, muscle and joint pain, and acute colds and fevers. This workshop offers an introduction to the use of some external and internal herbal remedies for these sorts of first aid situations. You will leave with a basic understanding of the physiology and pathophysiology of muscle and joint pain, and be able to differentiate Wind Cold and Wind Heat and what formulas to give a person in a straight forward case. We will experiment with various liniments and plasters, and experience for ourselves how they act on the body.

Local Herbs and Plants as Medicine
Herbs are the most widely used remedies in the world, time-tested for tens of thousands of years. Herbs are as much nourishing foods as they are medicines, and most have far fewer side effects than the mildest pharmaceutical drugs.  Disease is the body’s inability to respond effectively to stress, imbalance, or invasion. While herbs do relieve symptoms, they work better and more suitably at the source of illness, helping the body to return to ease, balance and health.  Medicinally potent on their own, herbs become even more successful when they are used as part of an overall health program that includes lifestyle and nutritional guidance. Herbs also supplement and complement modern medicine.  In this course you will take herbal walks and forage indigenous herbs to learn to make your own medicine.  We will learn to make tea, tinctures, glycerin, oil, and liniments.  We will use materia medica for our understanding of all the herbs that we will study.

Holistic nature of the training
Our certification program emphasizes holistic healing through knowledge in both eastern and western traditions.  This approach allows shiatsu therapists to communicate fluently with physicians, massage therapists, yoga therapists, acupuncturists, and other holistic healing approaches.  In the last 50 years Shiatsu in the united states has moved from being regarded as a complimentary therapy to one that now plays an integral role in patients healing.

Student Clinic:

Through our case studies and student clinic our shiatsu practitioners are ready and capable of making bodywork a professional practice.

Student Clinic is where all of the work that you have done previously becomes integrated. At the end of each semester, the students will have the opportunity to use their knowledge of the practical and theoretical work so far studied and bring it into the professional realm.  Under supervision, shiatsu sessions will be performed by the students on the public in a group setting. Students will practice and observe each other and learn to give professional feedback in a mindful way. 70 hours of clinic will be completed before graduation.
Prior to beginning Student Clinic, students will learn how to use an intake form, be clear on contraindications to treatment and be well versed in treatment planning.  This is like stepping into the shoes of what it will be like to be a professional practitioner.  Prior to the clinic you will be taught how to maintain clear boundaries between you and the client.  Having clear boundaries between practitioner and the client facilitates a development deeper listening skills which is necessary quality for successful treatment.

Cultivation of Qi:

Culitvation of Qi, Prana, or life force, is an integral part of this training.  You will learn how to cultivate and increase your own energy and understand how not to allow that energy to be leaked out or depleted. Through meridian exercises, yoga, and meditation you will learn how to assess, stretch and strengthen your body. Yoga therapeutic modalities will be taught in order to preserve your wrists and hands through easeful principles.  If understood, shiatsu will become a moving meditation which is both energizing and fulfilling for the giver and receiver.

Why Choose Karuna’s 500-Hour 5 Element Shiatsu Certification Program?

Everyone responds to touch and has healing power within them, but to heal others you must first begin with yourself. Karuna’s shiatsu training helps you develop the tools to do this through inquiry, feedback, reflection, and self-study. This is done in addition to the study of theory, TCM, and Shiatsu Practice.  It is seen as an integrative part of the whole. Studying Shiatsu will deepen your awareness of what energy does in your own body.  You will become aware of the patterns of your own life, and your self-awareness will be greatly refined.  Our intention is that you will gain more appreciation, as well as more control, of the quality of your life and activities.  Our hope is that you will use this knowledge to help yourself and other people feel better and heal themselves.  Students in this program receive regular, personal feedback and mentorship during this program and in the years to follow.

Shiatsu as a Career:

Graduates from Karuna Center for Yoga and Healing Arts are legally qualified to work in private practices, fitness centers, hospitals, acupuncture offices, spas, wellness centers and chiropractic offices.  One of the unique qualities of being a Shiatsu practitioner is that it affords you a flexible schedule, which means that you can maintain other aspects of your life whilst being a shiatsu practitioner.

Benefits of Shiatsu:

  1. Promotes a sense of well-being
  2. Is restorative, energizing, and balancing
  3. Boosts the immune system and counteracts the effects of auto-immune disorders
  4. Is a good remedy for headaches
  5. Is a good remedy for back-aches
  6. Invigorates the skin
  7. Stimulates the circulation of body fluids
  8. Increases suppleness in the muscular tissues
  9. Increases harmonious functioning of the nervous system
  10. Balances the operation of the ductless endocrine glands
  11. Stimulates the normal functioning of the internal organs

National Certification

The 500-hour program fulfills the educational standards set by the American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia (AOBTA). *After completion of the program graduates will be able to practice within the state of Massachusetts. If you wish to practice in other states, you must check on state regulations and additional certifications.

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