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Shen Tao Acupressure

by Eliana Harvey(more info)

listed in acupuncture, originally published in issue 14 - August 1996

Shen Tao holds a special place in the spectrum of therapies that go under the heading of Acupressure. Shen Tao Acupressure has its origins in ancient China. The practice of touching specific body points, for promoting or restoring well-being, originated from Northern China in prehistoric times. Charts dating from 400 B.C. have been found showing lines corresponding to modern acupuncture meridians, but minus the points. This suggests that the meridian system and its flows of Qi was used therapeutically using touch in addition to needles. By 200 B.C. these practices involving touch, intuition and psychic “seeing” had become highly developed and were known as Anma Arts. Shen Tao techniques are based on the view of the Universe called Taoism which developed the philosophy of Yin and Yang to explain the inner and outer workings of nature.

Shen Tao treatment

Acupressure is usually understood to be a practice of activating the Acupressure points through heavy finger pressure. However, Shen Tao Acupressure is a unique form, with a subtle touch, that has been called the Mother of Acupuncture, in other words according to ancient legends healers had a high degree of ability to move and balance the Qi (life force) of the body but through time lost the ability to use their fingers alone and subsequently developed the use of tools, originally sharpened bone, then gold and silver needles. The original form of healing based on a balance of perception and intuition was probably a primal form of contact healing in China and has never totally disappeared. However, its more technological successors acupuncture and moxibustion are better known today.

Of these ancient healing arts, a diverse number have survived in various forms which are found in Tibet, Korea and Japan. Early medical treatises from Han dynasty tombs, revealed charts showing meridians but no acupuncture points. This affirms that this perception of the flow of Qi was real rather than theoretical. These different forms are collectively known in the orient as the Anma Arts. Anma, like acupressure is a generic term referring to the use of hands on certain points of the body to promote healing  and well-being, of these Shiatsu from Japan is probably the most well known. Here, the client is treated at a ground level on a firm pad using the body weight of the practitioner and strong pressure from thumbs, fingers, elbows and even feet, and there is some manipulation of the limbs. Single points are stimulated by pressure, rubbing, stroking, tapping or vibration.

Of the other Japanese forms Do In and Ge Jo are mainly used for first aid and self treatment. There are self help books available at most alternative bookshops for those who wish to explore this. Jin Shin Do and Jin Shin Jijitsu originated in Japan and were developed in the United States, these treatments are given by a trained practitioner. Several of these arts were developed under the Buddhist influence in Japan, however, their origins were in China.

Qi Gong has re-appeared in China and been brought to the West in recent years. It is both a physical form of movement as Tai Qi and a therapy, using strong thumb and finger pressure in a therapeutic way, although Chinese massage with pressure on the acupuncture points and along the meridians (energy flow lines) is again better known.

Shen Tao Acupressure can be translated as ‘The Path of Spirit’ or ‘The Way of Compassion’ – it is this extra quality or energy called upon that differentiates it and lifts it to another level from other forms of acupressure. Shen Tao has the solid background of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Taoist philosophy and the training is parallel to that of classical acupuncture, except that needles are not used. In addition the practitioner is helped to develop skills of sensitivity and perception. This ancient healing art is considered by many to be the parent of Acupuncture. It activates the energy centres of the body through subtle but not heavy fingertip pressure.

The practitioner has a direct awareness of the Qi –- life force energy – at all times and is able to effect subtle changes, moment by moment, through the quality of touch. During a treatment both hands are used to energise the points, thereby forming a circuit of Qi with the client. The sensitivity developed by the practitioner enables him or her to diagnose through the energy quality of the Qi as well as traditional pulse and tongue diagnosis.

According to traditional Chinese medicine the Qi flows throughout the body through a network of pathways rather like rivers, these are known as meridians, channels or the Jing-Lao system. This flow can be influenced through the acupuncture points, which are points of low electrical resistance and can be likened to energy vortices or whirlpools along the flow of the river.

Shen Tao unlike other forms of acupressure links in with the Chakra system–- seven energy vortexes on the center of the body from base of spine to the crown of head. Recent research by Dr. H. Motoyama, a Shinto priest, metaphysician and healer has confirmed this through highly sensitive instruments which he has developed.

Shen Tao can be defined by certain precepts to account for what happens during a treatment.

  • All energy (Qi) has the capacity to move and to organise itself. This is tantamount to saying that Qi is a primal form of intelligence.
  • This movement and organisation results from charge, or polarity, which is explicable in Taoist terms of Yin and Yang and expresses itself in the Jing-Luo system.
  • The Jing-Luo system is a ‘bridge’ between the internal state of the body and the external environment. As part of this system, the acupuncture points mirror the adaptive functions of the body on an energetic, rather than physico-chemical, level.1

This gives a clue as to how the practitioner/patient interaction works. The sensitive practitioner directly experiences their own life force and that of the person being treated – this could be called the dance of Qi. The energetic exchange between practitioner and recipient is linked to the rhythm of the breath and the pulse interpreted and perceived by the practitioner as forms of Qi echoing in their own as well as their recipients meridian system.

From the practitioner’s viewpoint it is the quality of attention that is paramount, This includes a still mind able to act as a mirror for the recipient, attention to the breath and the ability to truly be present in a spirit of compassion. The practitioner also aims to be an open channel of universal healing energies, the hands and fingertips acting as focused transmitters of this energy. In this way the practitioner becomes a direct instrument of healing rather than the needle.

This quality combined with a thorough knowledge of Chinese Medicine, the therapeutic effects of activating each acupuncture point, accurate point location, pulse and tongue diagnosis, reveal Shen Tao to be a profound and harmonious balance of knowledge and focused intuition.


On a practical level a treatment will last one hour, the patient remains clothed and relaxes on a couch without being turned or manipulated or requested to move.

Following an initial in-depth consultation, pulse and tongue diagnosis, the treatment ‘patterns’ are chosen. This consists of a number of points held both together and sequentially appropriate to the condition presenting. In imagery this may be likened to a musical score, or hologram of harmonic resonances. There are usually three phases of the treatment.

Initially one of the 8 Extra Extraordinary meridians is activated. These are also called the psychic channels; they have a widely balancing action being likened to lakes, rather than rivers, able to absorb excess Qi or supply deficient Qi according to the need. They are primal in their quality and seem to affect the chakra system also. In addition it renders the Jing-Luo system more receptive to change.

This is usually followed by patterns of points mainly focussed on one or more meridian flows. Following this phase the treatment progresses to a fine tuning stage with certain potent point combinations, or those chosen for specific effects such as the Back Shu points on the Bladder meridian close to the spine, or the Yuan source points.

Finally the treatment ends with a pattern that focuses on specific points on the shoulders, neck and head, this ensures that the Qi released earlier in the treatment can circulate unimpeded throughout the system.

What does a Shen Tao treatment feel like?

A thorough  initial diagnostic session is followed by a pulse and tongue reading. Subsequently the actual treatment usually lasts one hour, during which a profound relaxation is experienced. Clients usually report a floating sensation, warmth or tingling in certain areas of the body. This relief from stress, physical and emotional tension is one of the general benefits from a Shen Tao treatment. However, it has an effect on the whole person –- physical, mental, emotional and spiritual at a fundamental level. Both chronic and acute diseases or symptoms may be relieved at source.

Regular Shen Tao treatments especially at change of seasons are beneficial as a form of preventative medicine, tending to regulate and balance the system before blockages and imbalances build up. It is also useful as an indicator, locating potential problems before they develop into serious conditions.

Shen Tao has been found particularly effective in aiding the following conditions: allergies, asthma, chronic constipation, digestive disorders including appetite problems, depression and many stress originated conditions, high blood pressure, and circulatory disorders, irritable bowl syndrome, insomnia, migraine, muscular tension, menstrual disorders including PMT, post viral syndrome, skin problems, water retention and many other conditions. Although in common with most complementary therapies Shen Tao Acupressure does not claim to cure, but acts as a precisely directed catalyst for the body’s own natural healing abilities. Since the approach is fundamentally wholistic, the recipients undergo transformation and healing at all levels, this leads to amelioration of symptoms and frequently total relief.

This non-invasive therapy makes the benefits of Chinese Medicine available to all those who are anxious about the use of needles. It is particularly suitable for those who are very sensitive, children, and fragile older people.


1 Extract from an article by Chris Low. ICOM, Nanjing. Chris was instrumental in assisting the author with reviving and re-introducing Shen Tao Acupressure in its present form.

The Shen Tao School of Acupressure offers a fully professional certificated three year training in the beautiful but gentle healing art. It covers; Traditional Chinese Medicine – Development of sensitivity and awareness, skills involving the whole person and western anatomy & physiology  and pathology to a high standard. Regular introductory workshops are held for those interested in training.  The school is affiliated to ‘The International Federation of Vibrational Medicine’

Please apply with A4 s.a.e. to the director; The School of Shen Tao Acupressure, Middle Piccadilly, Holwell, Dorset, DT9 5LW, Tel. 01963 23468 – Fax 01963 23764


  1. Penelope Strong-Caldwell said..

    Does The School of Shen Tao Acupressure off any online classes? I reside in Mexico. I have used The Tao Internal Excerise program for years and now wish to learn all I can about Shen Tao. I would appreciate your help and information.
    Thanking you in advance
    Penelope Strong-Caldwell

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About Eliana Harvey

Eliana Harvey – author of Acupressure published by Headway Lifeguide – Hodder & Stoughton. Founder of the Shen Tao School of Acupressure. Co-founder of Middle Piccadilly Natural Healing Centre in Dorset.


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