Shiatsu vs. Reiki: How Are They Different And Which Is Better?

Shiatsu vs. Reiki

For both Shiatsu massage and Reiki, the two are often confused or misunderstood.

It’s true that we all could use a total body and mind innovation.

Due to an expansion in various massages used in spas and facilities, your choices may feel overwhelming. With unfamiliar sounding names like shiatsu and reiki, it can be difficult to distinguish exactly what each method involves.

While you are free for exploration, you may want to educate yourself before committing to one.

Today we’ll discuss these two incredible choices and their inherent differences.

Shiatsu massage: What is it?

The word ”shiatsu” translates to “finger pressure”. Originally, it was practiced in Japan using traditional Chinese medicine in combination with other techniques. It was a branch of another Japanese therapy called anma, also referred to as “healing hands”.

The creation of this therapeutic massage has the goal of encouraging the body to heal itself naturally. By using specific techniques, it is used to stimulate healing properties that your body possesses.

When performing shiatsu, the therapist will use fingers, elbows, knees, and even feet to target meridian points of the body. By using firm pressure on specified areas, it releases muscle tension. The therapist will use balance and weight to apply appropriate firmness.

How does Shiatsu massage work?

By applying pressure, the therapist works into the muscles of the body to promote energy flow and harmony throughout, known as Qi or Ki. While the person lays flat, completely relaxed, the massage begins to rid issues related to stress, poor circulation, and pain management.

What does Shiatsu do for the body?

Shiatsu massage has been widely used to treat and cope with ailments. Because it helps the nervous, lymphatic, and circulatory compartments of the body, you can expect to see improvement in problem areas. Some of the benefits you receive:

  • Lifts mood and decreases depression

  • Detoxifies the body

  • Increases blood circulation

  • Helps poor posture

  • Improves joint pain

  • Relieves sciatica pain

  • Lowers blood pressure

  • Ease muscle tightness and tension

Risks and side effects of Shiatsu massage

There have been reported mild side effects of shiatsu such as:

  • Headache

  • Stiff Muscles

  • Fatigue

Most of these symptoms dissipate quickly and are of no real concern.

How is it performed?

Shiatsu massage is given by a licensed massage therapist with training in this technique. If you are curious to see this massage style in action, this video some of the techniques that are commonly used. Here, you will get a breakdown on what you could expect during a session to help you get a visual example.

As you can see, the therapist uses her body weight to create pressure throughout each section. That helps increase energy pathway distribution throughout the body.

Reiki: What is it?

Similar to shiatsu massage, reiki is a Japanese-based technique for proper energy flow and stress management. The term “reiki” translates to two separate Japanese phraseologies, “rei” and “ki”. Rei meaning, “higher power” and “ki” as we discussed above is life force energy.

Reiki translates in full to “spiritually-guided life force energy”. The belief is that if our life force energy is low, we are more susceptible to illnesses and other negative impacts on our health. When the life force is balanced, it creates a healthy flow, making your inner-self rejuvenated and vigorous.

How does Reiki work?

Rather than using physical touch or pressure, reiki uses the life force energy, projecting it through the hands and into your body. During this process, the practitioner’s hands will remain a few inches off the skin and may only come in contact lightly and briefly.

While the energy transfer happens, the receiving party feels a wholesome peace flowing over them. The sessions are very relaxing and will be effective if you are awake or asleep during the process. Each session should provide an overall sense of serenity.

What does Reiki do for the body?

Many swear by the favorable results of reiki therapy. Most practitioners will work with you to create a wellness plan that best suits your personal goals. That will determine how many sessions will be most beneficial for your circumstances. While not a religious practice, it is a spiritual experience.

While outcomes vary, some benefits of reiki include:

  • Creates a sense of peace from anxieties

  • Provides chakra balance

  • Creates harmony and balance in the body

  • Dissolves energy blockages

  • Unites the mind, body and spirit

  • Releases toxins, strengthening immunity

  • Generates self-healing

  • Spiritually awakens the mind

Risks and side effects of Reiki

While uncommon, some side effects have been reported from recipients such as:

  • Anxiety

  • Upset stomach

  • Faintness

  • Fatigue

Reiki is also not meant to be a replacement for traditional medical care.

How is it performed?

A reiki master will begin the session by holding the hands over top of the body, but not touching. They will slowly move down the body, throughout the chakras to see if there are any particular areas that need more attention than others.

The reiki master then begins to transfer the energy, starting with the third eye, as demonstrated in this video.

You can see here that the reiki master is using her energy to transfer to the recipient through her hands. As she explains, this can happen through touch, or no touch. The energy will transfer as it needs to.

Shiatsu vs. Reiki: Let’s compare

Shiatsu massage and reiki have quite a few common denominators and several variances. While shiatsu massage and reiki promote self-healing in the body, the methods to achieve these results differ slightly, but aim to achieve similar result.

Let’s discuss shiatsu vs reiki in a brief overview the likenesses and differences between the two.


  • Both techniques were created in Japan

  • Both share a goal of self-healing

  • Both focus on the power of Ki, or life force energy flow

  • Both help alleviate emotional issues

  • Both promote even circulatory distribution

  • Both help with stress management

  • Both aim to provide balance both emotionally and physically


  • Reiki is achieved through energy, or non-touch, while shiatsu massage is a physical massage

  • Reiki is performed by a reiki master, whereas shiatsu is performed by a licensed massage therapist

  • Reiki is spiritually focused, unlike shiatsu

  • Shiatsu bears greater focus on physical balance, while reiki focuses on mind-body-spirit balance

How Shiatsu and Reiki differ in terms of spirituality

Reiki is much more of a spiritually geared experience. It focuses on each of your chakras, incorporating a much more of a metaphysical standpoint than shiatsu.

Reiki shows us that our bodies are made up of seven chakras. The chakra system is not a new concept, originally conceived in India between 1500 and 500 BC.

Our chakra systems are comprised of seven center points: Crown, third eye, throat, heart, solar plexus, navel, and root. The idea of reiki is to balance out these chakras to heal all the areas, leading to a much more balanced sense of self.

Reiki is also conducted by a reiki master. One becomes a reiki master by being attuned by another reiki master. Attunement is an initiation by which the reiki master passes the energy to the student so they can practice.

Shiatsu does share the common goal of generating life force energy flow; it has a much stronger base in the physical elements. Relying on physical techniques and modern teachings, there is no focus on the metaphysical or spiritual commencement.

Is Shiatsu or Reiki right for you?

Deciding which technique is more appealing will hopefully be easier for you now. Ultimately, you can formulate your decision around what you wish to experience overall. Shiatsu massage and reiki therapy both have something special to offer.

While many are fascinated by the concept of reiki, others may not find it to be fitting with their lifestyle. On the contrary, if you believe in the healing power of raw energy, you may prefer this over physical touch.

Reiki requires the recipient to have an open mind and acceptance of the energy pushing into their body. If you remain closed off, you may not reap the benefits as you should.

Because each therapy has a common theme in terms of creating abundant energy flow, either could work wonders for you. You can even try both to see which your body responds best to.

Deep Shiatsu
Author: Deep Shiatsu
Preserve your ki, and restore your health and balance with an ancient Japanese artform.
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