Dancing through Shiatsu

Recently we spent an evening exploring Shiatsu through dance Cat Westwood. Cat's interest in Shiatsu developed originally from her dance training in Body Weather Laboratory - a Japanese contemporary dance form which utilises nature and the environment. After studying with Oguri in Los Angeles in 2010, she went on to train in Zen Shiatsu with the Shiatsu College Brighton. Cat is also a Meridian Yoga Teacher and International Movement Artist.

During the hour we spent together we learned about the 5 seasons in Chinese theology, and how the year begins in November with Autumn. The world sheds its leaves preparing the ground for the new growth that will form in spring. 

Using texts and music Cat created the atmosphere of each season giving us inspiration to move  from two different texts. I have included some of the texts below, for each season there were two texts, one about the element and the other giving a taste of the season. I have included one below and a piece of music for each season, you may want to experience her session by embodying the text, music and sentiment in your own time if you feel inspired. 

Season: Autumn

Element: Metal

‘The Celtic year follows the natural cycle of growth but does not begin in Spring when life returns. Neither does it begin in January when our calendars start afresh. The Celtic year begins in November when everything around is dying, because this is when the trees drop their seeds and the cycle of growth begins. The trees are also dropping their leaves so the new year is sown in the compost of the old. This teaches us two things. The first is that all life is born in the presence of death, is dependent upon it and sustained by it. So all new beginnings will, if we allow ourselves to feel it, be full of ambivalence because something must be lost as well. The second thing is that nothing just bursts out of nowhere and takes off and away like a hare. All things begin gently with a seed, an idea, a dream, and this must lie dormant and await its proper time and season before it can grow.’ 

Sound: David Bowie ‘Wild is the Wind’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cSAKlu0OlU

Season: Winter

Element: Water

‘Water seems the most contradictory of the Elements. For every adjective that we can call to mind describing it, the opposite is also true: deep, shallow; gentle, powerful; clear, murky; still, moving. But perhaps its qualities are not contradictory but all-encompassing; perhaps water holds these opposites within itself without contradiction. For this reason, perhaps, the Water Element is the basis of both Yin and Yang in the human bodymind. …Although not all water is deep, water will always sink to the deepest level. In the human body, the Water Element governs the deepest structures and tissues, the bones and their marrow and the spinal cord. In terms of time, it also reaches back to the individual being’s deepest past, the emergence of life from the void at the moment of conception.’ 

Sound: H2drOp ‘Lavadeira no Rio’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEgyZlBgVAY

Season: Spring

Element: Wood

‘The word spring evokes the image of feeling pushing up and bursting out of the darkness as in a spring of water. There is a point usually around mid March when we can feel this happen, both in ourselves and in the land. On our journey up the World ash this is when we meet the surface and find the light. There we can breathe a sigh of relief as we feel that we are at last out of the ashes. …Miracle of miracles. Everywhere we look little green fists push up and out of the soil and open their hands to touch the sun. Down in the dark dens the sleepers stretch and yawn. Life begins to creep and hop and scurry once again. Colour returns. The daffodils, golden cups of sunshine held aloft for all to drink from. The mosses vibrant green carpets to tempt us down to the earth.’ 

Sound: Paganini- Gypsy Jazz style by Hot Club de Piracicaba https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHwzzSYhHrs 

Season: Summer

Element: Fire

‘Fire is one of the contradictory Elements (the other being Water). It has been one of mankind’s great benefactors, warming our hearths, cooking our food, forging our metal; and at the same time it is the swiftest and most ferocious destroyer, whether raging out of control in a dry forest or powering bullets and bombs. Even the sun itself, source of all our light, warmth and well-being, can parch and burn if we do not guard against its power. The ultimate form of Fire as an annihilatoras annihilator is the nuclear weapon, “brighter than a thousand suns”. …It is as if the radiance, the glow and warmth of these man-made lights are symbolic of the same qualities in the human spirit, of what is sometimes called ‘the divine spark within’.’ 

Sound: Baloji ‘Soleil de Volt’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGzvjR6X_Xk

Season: Harvest

Element: Earth

‘As we walk through the countryside at this time the first fruits are a harvest for the senses. The fields of wheat stand like golden platters upon Nature’s table, abundant with grain swelling in the sunshine. In the orchard the fruit trees reveal their ripening treasures as cherries, pears, plumbs, and apples push out shamelessly from among the leaves, swollen with colour, scent, promise and invitation, their whole purpose to seduce. …September comes and the nights creep in, a coolness settles around and within us and there is a sense of turning. The solar energy of the masculine is losing its power and recoiling and we begin now to spiral inward once again. The hedgerows become laden with dark fruit, blackberries, sloes and elderberries. This is a return to the feminine and her shadowy riches.’ 

Sound: Bob Marley ‘Three Little Birds (Don’t Worry About a Thing)’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApAth15BXVc

Readings taken from the following books:

C. Beresford-Cooke - Shiatsu Theory and Practice 

Churchill Livingstone Inc, 1996 I. S. Heginworth - Environmental Arts Therapy and the Tree of Life


He should be dancing…


Dancing from Head to Heart