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Natural Awakenings Chicago

Zen Shiatsu Chicago

Nov 21, 2018 12:12AM

Based on thousands of years of Chinese and Japanese medical philosophy, shiatsu is a distinctive form of bodywork that provides the nurturing satisfaction of touch with a unique energy balancing experience. Zen Shiatsu Chicago provides a certification program for those wishing to become therapists, as well as a clinic for clients to receive shiatsu treatments.

        Sarah Salem is a current student at Zen Shiatsu Chicago. After an initial period of discovery and revelation, she found that Zen Shiatsu Chicago offers the training she was hoping for and relocated to Evanston to complete her certification training.

What influenced you to study shiatsu?

Two years ago, I found myself in the midst of a seemingly hopeless struggle with my digestive system. Even on the strictest of diets and assisted by cutting-edge supplements, my symptoms got increasingly worse. My life revolved around physical discomfort and the heaviness of wondering why I was experiencing such distress.

        My work with Raili Raud, a practitioner of classical Chinese medicine at the Alchemy Healing Center, in Northhampton, Massachusetts, was transformative for me. She would listen to my pulse, read my tongue and quietly go about administering acupressure and moxa. I would pepper her with questions about the purpose of what she was doing, always excited by the seeming magic of Chinese medicine. Before sharing what she heard in my pulse, she would insist I remember that each day is different—that our bodies are dynamic, not static. She perceived the discouragement I had internalized from practitioners saying my body was deficient and wanted to help me cultivate a new outlook.

        After a while of working with her, I stopped needing to take daily herbs for the first time in years and began to trust my body again. I also learned how to hold events of my life with more ease and to breathe tension out of my body.

How did this experience affect your career?

My experience with Raili gave me many insights that I hope to carry with me in my studies at Zen Shiatsu. When I first made an appointment at her clinic and filled out the intake forms, there was a question that asked, “What do you hope to gain from treatment?”

        The first thing I wrote was, “Hope.” I came to the office with a certain sense of defeat, and it was Raili’s trust in both my ability to heal and the integrity of the therapy she offered that served as an anchor in the beginning of our time together. I understand now how vital it is for a practitioner to be able to see a path towards healing for their patients, and to hold up that hope when the patients can’t see it themselves.

How will this translate to your interaction with clients?

I’ve also learned the importance of giving advice that is tailored to a patient’s specific needs, as opposed to blanket health tips. For example, when I asked Raili questions about diet, she tended to give me advice that expanded my possibilities, instead of narrowing them. She knew that I already had a balanced diet and that the further restrictions would only add to my stress. Her treatment focused on strengthening me so that I could increase my food choices, which felt empowering and energizing. At the same time, I can understand how another patient might benefit from the exact opposite recommendation. Her attunement to my needs allowed her to use her words with discretion and intention.

What’s next?

I hope to be able to offer back, in my own way, the trust, healing touch and compassionate and clear sight that I have so thankfully received. By applying to Zen Shiatsu Chicago, I feel I am answering a longstanding call to develop my skills as a healer. It feels like a radical act of self-empowerment to study alternative medicine, and I hope to use what I learn to be of service to my friends, family and community.

What does that look like?

I want to be able to provide care that is affirmative of the mysteries of our beings and that helps patients expand into great levels of vitality and self-expression. I am also curious and excited to feel the shifts and transformations that will take place in my own being as I immerse in study and practice. To me, Chinese medicine says; “Another way is possible! One that connects us deeply to ourselves, each other, the Earth and our sense of the sacred.”


Zen Shiatsu Chicago is located at 825 Chicago Ave., in Evanston. Introductory classes start in Jan. and Feb. For more information, call 847-864-1130, email [email protected] or visit