An Interview with our Shiatsu Therapist

Lisabetta Vilela, Shiatsu Therapist at The Little Escape

Shiatsu is a Traditional Japanese bodywork used to stimulate the body by applying pressure to points across the body to affect the circulation of Ki (energy). Deep rhythmic movement, assisted stretches and the treatment of specific release points helps to release and stimulate the body to regain its natural equilibrium. Shiatsu treats the whole person, concentrating not only on the symptoms but also on the individuals’ vitality and innate healing power. 

How did you first find out about and get into Shiatsu?

Firstly I discovered Reiki in 1999 and learnt how to give and use Reiki on myself, family and friends. After a year I wanted to learn a similar therapy with a focus on energy, but one within a system of medicine with its own history and lineage – with greater diagnostic methods to help people in more depth.

I came across Shiatsu at my local college and enrolled on a 10 week evening course. I was completely hooked! Not only did I love receiving and giving Shiatsu but I also loved learning about the ‘Ki’ energy system and its mechanisms, traditions and knowledge. I left each class feeling uplifted and excited. On the final class I was paired with the instructor and gave twenty minute swaps of the techniques we had learnt in the past 9 weeks. Her treatment was amazing – so different from any other massage I had experienced before in the way that she connected with me on a deep level. Through her treatment I became aware of the anxiety I had been carrying all day and was finally able to release it. Afterwards I felt calm, peaceful, yet energized.

Within months I enrolled on a 3 year Professional Practitioner Course with the European Shiatsu School and begun my shiatsu journey in the autumn of 2002. I completed the course and received my Practitioner Diploma in 2007 and have been practising ever since.

What about Pregnancy Shiatsu?

Shiatsu during pregnancy is a brilliant support system for all women. It is a gentle yet deeply relaxing therapy which supports and nurtures women through the rapid changes of pregnancy helping them adapt to their changing bodies as well as evolving emotional states.

I was pregnant during my course and as a result I received a lot of shiatsu from students and teachers alike. I loved it and looked forward to my lessons not so much to learn or give but to receive! I guess I needed the support at the time.

The focus on treatment changes as the woman’s body and emotional needs change. This is an aspect of Shiatsu as a whole; the treatment is adapted to suit the individual and their needs at any point in time. Last year I learnt with Suzanne Yates who is the leading expert on shiatsu in pregnancy and labour and runs courses for midwives and massage therapists. Her knowledge and dedication in this field is truly inspiring. She demonstrates how Shiatsu can be a supportive therapy during circles of change in a woman’s life: like pregnancy, labour and menopause.

Where else did your studies take you?

I have completed several courses with prominent Shiatsu teachers specialising in particular fields, or just vastly experienced and hugely inspiring.  I’ve worked with Dan Stretton who deals with pelvic re-alignment, posture and working with back problems; Bill Palmer on movement shiatsu; Suzanne Yates on Pregnancy Shiatsu and Michael Rose, a prominent shiatsu teacher full of great wisdom and humility. I also took a workshop on Shiatsu for Autism, which was not only fascinating but renewed my belief that Shiatsu as a therapy can be helpful for everyone.  I attended this course more out of curiosity as a friend’s young son was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. From the Practitioner’s experience many of the children responded and appreciated strong holding pressure. They wanted to feel their physical boundaries and the practitioner created a space for this to happen, making a 30 minute treatment fun and physical.

I’m also interested in the energetics of food, based on eastern and oriental system of medicine and tradition. I was fortunate to have met the late Chris Jarmey who was an expert in this field and founder of the EuropeanShiatsuSchool. He was one of the first practitioners to have practised shiatsu in an NHS hospital in the 70’s. His research into food energetics was inspiring and empowering.

My interest in healing all aspects of ourselves has led me to study other energy systems; the Light body system, the aura, the chakra system and how bringing these systems to balance can help clear and heal long standing issues.

Shiatsu for me is a labour of love.  There is a lot to learn and experience and I’m looking forward to the journey.

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Powerful Private Pilates

Another treat I got to experience as a receptionist at The Little Escape was a private Pilates session.  I often attend Yoga but have yet to get myself to a Pilates class,  so when our wonderful instructor offered me the chance of a one – to – one session I was straight on that mat!

Julia began the session with some warm ups and a brief introduction to the principles of Pilates practice.  It is very posture focussed and builds up your core strength. The exercises are quite similar to those in Yoga but with Pilates you get to practice with some interesting props and equipment.


Julia worked with me on getting the breathing and posture correct throughout the entire session. The benefit of having a private session is that you get to focus on the areas that you want to work on.  Being in a large class means you get none of the instructors personal attention or expertise.

It also made me focus more as it was just Julia and I in the room, I wanted (had to) work harder.  No opportunity to slack off here! By the end of the class I felt like I had achieved a lot.  The one – to – one set up really worked for me as I felt I had put 100% into the session and not hid at the back like I usually do at Yoga!  Julia was a patient and sensitive instructor.  I felt really looked after by her.  I would definitely suggest a private class.  It ups your game and you really get value for money. As for Pilates, I would definitely go again.  So brilliant for toning and discipline.


What Are You Thinking?

It is estimated that we have around 50-60,000 thoughts a day; that a lot of these thoughts are the same thoughts as we had yesterday, and that many of these thoughts are negative.

are you used to being anxious?

Can you practice not being anxious and stressed?

This raises the following questions:

How many of your thoughts are positive, constructive and nurturing?  How many are negative, destructive, judgmental and self-critical?

What we know about the way the brain works is that what we practice, we get good at….

Scientists have done numerous studies looking at how repetition affects the way the brain develops. They have shown that if someone practices playing the piano daily, then the neurons in the brain will develop connections and get faster and stronger. In 2000, scientists studied the brains of black cab drivers, and found that the hippocampus, which is associated with spatial awareness, was highly developed compared to the general population.

Many of us know people who are prone to worry, anxiety or panic attacks. What you may not appreciate is that if many of our 60,00 thoughts are anxious thoughts, then we are actually training our brain to become good at generating anxiety etc.

I run free monthly talks at the Little Escape about techniques we can all use to train our mind to change your brain, based on discoveries in Neuro-Science. If you are interested in coming to one of these free talks, feel free to get in touch.

Simon Pimenta

020 8299 9534 / 07906 568 843

Let the Sunshine vitamin in!

So- one of my patients has been diagnosed with severe Vitamin D deficiency- this came as something of a surprise!

It wouldn’t have occurred to me that a healthy, professional woman who eats well, walks to work, keeps active and takes several holidays a year, would be at risk of being Vitamin D deficient… and if she is then maybe its true that nearly everyone in London is!?

Office based, living in the shade of buildings, driving or taking public transport and letting the good old British weather scupper any outdoor activities- really it can be hard to get enough of the miraculous sunshine exposure (on bare skin too remember!) that we need for Vitamin D synthesis… Added to that is everyone using sun-protection whenever the sun is actually out for fear of wrinkles and cancer, and a lack of oily fish in the diet and its actually hard to imagine that we could get enough!  I also read somewhere that Vitamin D could be washed off your skin before it gets to the deeper layers- yet another hindrance for hygienic city types! Indeed it seems we need to learn much more about the skin’s vitamin D production and how much is actually washed off easily…… (So grubby summer festivals are really medicinal despite excesses..!?)

Sunshine - grab it while you can!

Sunshine – grab it while you can!

This patient was diagnosed because of a stubborn cough, and after 3 days of supplementation it cleared up.  Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with a vast range of ailments and conditions aside from being necessary for Calcium absorption.

Jayne Totty our Nutritional Therapist (amazing font of all food knowledge!) had this to say:

“Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin as it is synthesised by the body via the skin, so make sure you get out and catch a few rays during your lunchbreak and embrace outdoor activities at the weekends. Dietary sources of vitamin D include oily fish and some fortified foods; but ensuring adequate exposure to sunlight, should be a priority as this allows the body to build up it’s own stores. Good levels of Vitamin D are crucial for bone health as it aids calcium absorption, it also helps maintain our level of immunity and may have a cancer protective role.
(Note: Supplementation may benefit some people but it is important to speak to your health advisor to discuss your individual requirements as excessive intake could have a negative impact on health)”

Which also reminded me of a theory I learned in my first degree about evolution and the distribution of ethnicities in the world:  Caucasian skin has the potential to absorb excess vitamin D, and therefore absorb excess calcium which in turn could cause calcification of the joints – an evolutionary hindrance in sunny Africa and the tropics- hence the move towards the poles…. Darker skin on the other hand prevents excess absorption and needs more sunlight to access enough Vitamin D- which can be a hindrance in this country…. at the moment in fact we are seeing a sad upsurge in Rickets in the UK, and Black and Asian children are more at risk of this….

So- a big subject, and food for thought…

make the most of any Indian Summer sunshine to prepare for the shorter days ahead, consider a good fish oil supplement perhaps if you are concerned, or consult a professional for more discussion…! 🙂