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Shiatsu and Swimming

Shiatsu and Swimming Article Image.

I look forward to hosting my third open house this year at The Five Lights Center of Shiatsu in New York City on April 11th and teaching another Level 1 class next month.

I started the year talking about this season-winter/water, and the Five Element Theory in the first open house at The Five Lights Center. I have been asked to share how I feel about two skills that I teach, and the two are Shiatsu and swimming.

When I began studying shiatsu in the late 80's, I was very active in sports. I worked as a lifeguard and ran cross country and track in college. When I started to teach swimming for the continuing education departments at two colleges in the Bronx, I became an adjunct professor, and had to get used to being called 'professor'. I have coached swimmers of all levels, physical capabilities, and backgrounds. But, I consider teaching the swimmers with disabilities the most rewarding. I worked with a young man who had lost both of his legs, but in a short time, he was swimming a mile and more because I taught him how to use a 'pull buoy' using his arms to do the crawl stroke. He was swimming a mile without stopping that semester.

A few years ago, I was teaching a visually impaired college student. I became fascinated by how he 'listened' to the world through all his senses. To keep him from crashing into the wall at the end of a lap, I would tap the pool deck with a wrench, and he would glide into the wall unhurt. (Sound travels through water four and a half times faster than in air.) By the way, hearing is the organ associated with the water element. Eventually, I had three visually impaired swimmers training for their first triathlon.

When I began to teach swimming again after the pandemic, I decided to only work with the adult population. One thing I did differently, however, was to introduce Tai Chi movements to the students as the dry land warmed up before getting into the pool.

I have been studying Tai Chi for many years and in my teens I studied Karate. I became a certified Tai Chi Practice Leader last year at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies. It was a big risk to do Tai Chi with my students because I did not know how they would respond, but I was happy to see that they embraced my philosophy. I simply believed that doing slow, deliberate movement with breathing and 'flow' on land, would translate to easier movement through the water. My main goal has always been to improve awareness of movement, awareness of the body's natural buoyancy, and specifically being comfortable in the streamlined position.


Another challenge I have is that many adults are not very active, especially after the pandemic. Yet there are more reasons people do not learn to swim early in life. Economics is a big factor as well as accessibility to a pool, but fear of the water is the biggest reason I come across. (The emotion connected to the water element is fear).

Many adults have deep-rooted fear and anxiety because of an unpleasant or traumatic experience early in life. I also realized that the swimming movements did not have to be perfect. As long as one is relaxed and can do some kind of rhythmic breathing comfortably, with coordinated arms or leg movement there will be progress through the water.

I will inevitably make comments related to water when I teach Shiatsu. For example, the 'crawl' or freestyle is one of the main swimming strokes. In shiatsu, we 'crawl' on the floor to learn how to move from the Hara. I want to impart to my students to be fluid in their movements.  Good posture, breathing, and relaxation are essential for fluid movement. New students are encouraged to 'move from the Hara'. Fitness experts say, "Move from your core."

In Tai Chi, it is "Move from the Tan Dien." Multiple forms of Tai Chi and Qi Gong reference water. In addition, many tsubos refer to water as well. Hopefully, I can share this knowledge with my students at the Five Lights Center. And sometimes it is good to not move, to just relax completely, as in floating, or in meditation. So many connections.

I am looking forward to teaching Level 1 this spring season.


About The Author:

Author Image of Jose Rios

Jose Rios began his study of bodywork in the late 1980's, and began his shiatsu training at the Ohashi Institute, graduating in 1993.  He is also a personal trainer and completed the Sports Massage training at the Swedish Institute. 


His interest in the healing arts led him to get certifications in Thai Massage, as well as Reiki. Jose recently became certified as a practice leader in Tai Chi and Qigong, through the Healer Within Foundation, an organization he has practiced and studied with for many years. 


Jose graduated from Lehman College in the Bronx and works there as an Adjunct Professor with the Continuing Education Department where he teaches the adult swimming classes year-round. 


Jose has been studying printmaking for more than ten years and continues to make and teach folk art, such as masks, dreamcatchers, and medicine wheels in his free time.     

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Rudy Lucas
Rudy Lucas
06 de abr.

Please forward details re Jose Rios April 11th Shiatsu & Swimming Open House.

Rudy Lucas


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