Channel Marilyn

TOKUJIRO NAMIKOSHI developed shiatsu in 1911 to treat his mother’s rheumatoid arthritis, applying pressure to parts of her body.

Just over a decade later he opened his first shiatsu treatment centre in Japan, but the practice remained unknown overseas.

That all changed when Holywood icon Marilyn Monroe visited the centre in 1954 while on honeymoon with baseballer Joe DiMaggio.

Women’s magazines and newspaper gossip columns reported that shiatsu had helped Monroe with her insomnia, and the media attention helped the treatment became popular around the world.

Cristina Galvez, a Melville-based shiatsu practitioner, says the treatment is based on traditional Chinese medicine.

“Shiatsu started in China, but Korea and Japan took it on and developed it in their own way,” she says

Shi is Japanese for finger and atsu means pressure, so the massage uses a lot of finger pressure along with palms, elbows, knees and even feet.

• Shiatsu practitioner Cristina Galvez in her Melville treatment room. Photo by Jenny D’Anger

Therapists focus on the life-force qi (chi), which passes through meridian channels linked to five major systems – muscular, vascular, lymphatic, nervous and energy.

Perhaps if Monroe had stuck to shiatsu instead of Martinis and prescription drugs, she might not have tragically died six years after visiting the clinic, aged 36.

Along with a host of physical ailments the massage therapy can help with depression, fear, anger and anxiety.

“Working through the channels to open up emotions…shiatsu can be used to treat everything from tummy problems to emotional stuff,” Galvez says.

Patients lie fully clothed on a mat on the floor and there are no messy oils involved.

Galvez originally studied naturopathy before an interest in Chinese medicine led to her doing a 36-month shiatsu course.

She is part of a 16-strong team at Melville Osteopathy on McCoy Street, Myaree, which offers a variety of treatments including therapeutic massage, exercise physiology, acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine. For more information go to or call 9330 1212, or Cristina Galvez on 0138 100 988.


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