Your sofa may not be as cool as this 19th century German “fainting couch” but even so you can use yours as an easy way to get into self shiatsu. If you don’t have a sofa you can exercise your imagination. Try a wall (more challenging) but finding a free wall is often more difficult than it sounds. Go for some kind of support though because the prime directive here is to be able to really, really relax.
Start by laying on the floor in front of your couch (a mat or other soft surface here is not a bad idea).. You may have to shove a coffee table out of the way but sacrifices must be made in the journey toward brilliant good health. Place your feet (without shoes if necessary) and legs up on the couch and try to get your bum as close to the couch as you can so that your legs have two 90 degree angles at the hips and knees (three if you include your ankles).
The seat of the couch is square to the backs of your knees. You can then use this point at your knees to provide a lever to lift your hips when you need more weight on your upper- and mid-back or for more resistence in general for your core. The important thing for now though is to allow gravity to help you to achieve a flat back.
Straightening the spine is also important for standing meditation (zhan zhuang) but there gravity works from head to foot with the muscles hanging like a coat on the bones. In sofa shiatsu, gravity and the weight of the organs push on the spine from front to back and the muscles are freer to relax because the earth (or floor) is supporting the whole from the coccyx to the base of the skull. Standing meditation is special because your goal is to achieve as much relaxation in the midst of a natural tension needed for standing. When you give up your body to the earth like this with the feet raised your goal is more to capture and review the condition of the body and allow what has pooled in the legs and feet to join the party at your heart. As we lay there, relax and turn on our parasympathetic nervous system we can begin to breath more deeply encouraging venous return (no not the planet).
Traditional shiatsu moves from the center (hara) outward, from your abdomen downward into your pelvis and legs and upward into your thorax, shoulders and head. From the hara you can radiate your attention into the trunk or legs but you can also follow the line of energies from belly to brain along the spine. So after your feet have been elevated a while and you begin to notice a wave of of venous blood (or whatever) flowing out of your feet, move any joints you become aware of in your lower extremities. Shake the feet, ankles and knees to “empty” the lower legs even more and when the “wave” reaches a part of your leg that your hands can reach without straining than systematically massage from knees to groin. Experiment with your touch and pressure.
When you’ve “pulled” some blood up into your belly, pause to let it collect there, massaging in spirals or just collecting yourself there. Decide now if you want to kip the whole mass (mess?) from side-to-side and then work accross the diaphragm examining liver and stomach in their turn or whether you want to follow a central line into the heart center. Either way you will eventually land at the shoulders before making the transition into the neck and head. Take your time getting here and once over will take about twenty minutes. Chose one or two spots to investigate in detail and you have about a thity minute meditation/workout/massage.
I try to make time for this procedure before bed. I actually end up making time for it only once or twice a week but I think it pays off and the more often you make time for a little ritual like this the better at least that process of getting to sleep will be. Sleep is wildly important you know and if you don’t want your fanny to sag too much as you age so anythingwe can do to improve the quality of our sleep no matter how ridculous it looks (more on this later) is a good return on investment.
I’ll be going over the couch/sofa (like couch but sofa has aliteration) protocol in detail at the Centrepoint Leap Up! Wellbeing Day on February 27, 2016 at the Lohnhof in Basel. There you can see a bit more in detail how you can tinker with your own toy.