An Afternoon of Zen Shiatsu

Anne Cousins Shiatsu Healer at Balance Health Hong Kong


There are as many doors to wellness as there are individuals.’

An afternoon of Zen Shiatsu

Anne Cousins’ face is framed by tiny brown ringlets, and she looks much too petite to take on what I presume will be an afternoon of intense energy expenditure. Her Zen Shiatsu practice is located at Balance Health, in a steel and glass skyscraper in the Mid-Levels.

My Shiatsu session starts with the filling out of a form, capturing personal details and the state of my general health. Anne asks if I have any specific ailments and enquires about family medical history. Though I run and do yoga regularly, I have a persistent auto-immune skin condition and a stiff right shoulder from working long hours on my laptop.

Anne’s little corner is almost completely taken up with a futon. The walls have Korean calligraphy, a chart with a diagram of the human body illustrating meridians and acupressure points of the Zen Shiatsu system.

Zen Shiatsu Meridian Chart on Anne's WallZen Shiatsu Meridian Chart on Anne’s Wall

Leaning on the right hand bottom of a large glass window, is a small image of Jivaka, Buddha’s personal physician, who hailed from the state of Bihar in India. Jivaka is revered as the father of Thai traditional medicine. Personal memorabilia includes a shell with a vein like structure, she said it reminds her of the beaches of Senegal where she spent her childhood. A couple of small potted plants add a green touch.

Concept of Shiatsu

Jivaka, the Indo-Thai physician

Jivaka, the Indo-Thai physician

Anne likens the body to a city and the liver to a general whose command and control of ‘qi’ –the life force–keep all body functions smooth. In Chinese medicine, major organs are categorized as yin or yang. They are defined in terms of their relationship with other organs. Each yin organ is paired with a yang organ and they have intricate set of inter-relationships. Energy highways known as meridians distribute qi and blood throughout the body and the disruption of this flow leads to pain and disease. By aiding or redirecting the movement of qi, a Shiatsu massage restores the body’s equilibrium. Anne is an Iokai Shiatsu practitioner. This technique uses two hands in synchronisation to provide a pressure that is deep, stable and moves unhurriedly along the body. My style of Shiatsu emerged from over 10 years of dedicated practice in search for answers to the question “What is a disease (dis ease)?”  says Anne. ‘I studied four years along with a Japanese Master, Kazunori Sasaki Sensei, in the lineage of Shizuto Masunaga Sensei.’

Shiatsu Theory has roots dating back thousands of years when the world was considered whole–the Tao. The Iokai Shiatsu practitioner views the person as an entire universe; a microcosm within a macrocosm. Shiatsu is a natural and empowering way to fight stress, release emotions and prevent health imbalances such as insomnia, headache, nervousness, back, muscles and joint pain, lumbago, sciatica, poor digestion and infertility. Iokai Shiatsu, was developed by Master Shizuto Masunaga, who blended psychology and western physiology with orthodox Shiatsu practice.

My Zen Shiatsu Experience

plant by the window at Anne's Zen Shiatsu studio

Plant by the window at Anne’s Zen Shiatsu studio

I lie down on my back in a relaxed position and ever so gently, Anne sets about massaging the meridian points that lead to the liver and kidneys. My arms are rotated, firm finger pressure is applied to exact points in my abdomen, under my arms and along the contours of my rib cage. At times I feel Anne’s entire hand working along specific energy pathways to open them up. She then applies moderate pressure on my big toe and on my little finger.

The entire session is slow and gradual. I am asked to breathe in and out, keeping my exhalation long and slow. Lulled by all this, at some point I fall into a deep sleep. I am awakened gently. My session is over. My entire being is relaxed and at absolute ease.

Leaving Anne’s cubicle, I glance back. One of her little green plants is shooting up determinedly, in spite of being on a window that looks out at the mass of concrete that is central Hong Kong. Its enduring life force seems to echo the energy infusing the Shiatsu massage I just experienced. I step out rejuvenated, ready to face the city again.

Anne recommends to initiate a treatment course with at least four sessions per month for in order for the person to experience significant long lasting changes. Especially when working with a specific condition or when a particular support is needed. Afterwards, the sessions can resume bi-monthly or monthly, according to the interest and commitment of the person toward his/her own journey to balance. When trust and understanding is built after several sessions, it is similar to “peeling an onion” as the person learns to let go and reconnect. 

To know more about a Shiatsu session with Anne, contact –

Balance Health

2705, 27/F, Universal Trade Centre
3-5 Arbuthnot Road
Central, Hong Kong

Tel: +852 2530 3315
E-mail: [email protected]

Anne Cousin photo courtesy : Alex Siu


Graphic designer Deepa Kamath, is co founder of 'Amplify' a Hong Kong based digital design and marketing agency. An avid reader, globe trotter and museum junkie, she tries hard to eat healthy and keep as fit as possible.