Hannah Mackay

We caught up with Hannah Mackay,  a Shiatsu practitioner based in Manchester to hear the story of her Shiatsu journey. 

I started my Shiatsu training in 1994, and I have been doing Shiatsu ever since! I am now the branch leader at Shiatsu College Manchester, and I have recently become accredited as a Teacher Trainer by the Shiatsu Society. I am excited to begin working with our two brilliant teaching assistants, Vicky and Barbara, so that they can become teachers of Shiatsu, joining our teaching team alongside me, Anne, Karey and Rachel. I am also the main organiser for the Shiatsu College Residential this year, which is happening in April, so I am currently quite involved in dreaming up that event, and putting everything in place to make it as good as possible.

The core of my Shiatsu remains my client work. I see clients four days a week, in Chorlton and in central Manchester. I have given treatments in intensive care, in beautiful gardens, on maternity wards, on an office floor, in dance spaces, on campsites, at home, in a school hall, in a Buddhist Centre, over zoom and during a home birth. I am constantly fascinated by what crops up when working with people, and by the experience of being physically in contact with another person, in a healing context.


Looking back, the roots of my Shiatsu career can be found in my teens. At that time I received sessions from Carrie Jost, a kinesiologist who went on to develop 'Creative Kinesiology'. She was a friend of my Mum's, and I went to her first as someone for her to practice on while she was training. I had sessions focused on a variety of things over the years, including physical recovery after I broke a bone in my foot, and support with exam preparation. I stopped eating sugar and spent time looking at green colours to get ready for my O levels! Our sessions developed holistically to include Life Path issues and releasing ancestral trauma. I recognise some aspects of her approach in the Shiatsu sessions I offer today.

At this time I was also supporting and holding space for several friends who were dealing with difficult experiences and mental health issues. I can see the giving and receiving of healing practice in my life at this time.

I went on to University to study Psychology, and I was also very involved for about 5 years as a volunteer with 'Nightline', a student-to-student support/listening service. I worked on the phonelines, trained other volunteers and worked as part of the set-up team for new Nightline services.

I then went on to do a PhD in Psychology, studying emotion change processes in psychotherapy. My interest in emotion, change, therapeutic practice and psychology all inform my Shiatsu today.

Shiatsu development

I started training in Shiatsu just after I started my PhD studentship. I went to a one-day workshop, and just kept going! I trained with the British School of Shiatsu-Do, alongside my great friend Zoe Pirie. I completed my Shiatsu training and my PhD at around the same time. I think it was a good combination for me, as I got one weekend per month crawling about on the floor, giving and receiving bodywork, which counterbalanced the intense academic work nicely.

Since then I have trained with different teachers, being interested in a breadth of shiatsu input. I did a postgraduate course with Suzanne Yates at Wellmother, and I have enjoyed integrating maternity work into my Shiatsu practice. I did a 3 year postgrad course with the Shiatsu College, including learning from Carola Beresford-Cooke, Nicola Ley, Cliff Andrews and Paul Lundberg - teachers with very different styles of Shiatsu.

I have been offering Shiatsu sessions continually since 1994 (with a couple of short maternity breaks). I moved to Manchester in 1998. Some of my current clients have been coming to me regularly since 2000.

I have been a member of the Shiatsu Society from the beginning; I joined the Management Committee shortly after graduating. I have written several articles for the Journal and I've been on the Audit and Research Sub-Committees.

Weaving together different strands

As well as training in Shiatsu, there are a number of different strands that inform my practice today - both as a practitioner and as a teacher.

I have researched Shiatsu professionally, working at the University of Salford on the European Shiatsu Federation Shiatsu Research Project. I was involved in Complementary and Alternative Medicine research groups, attended conferences, and had papers published. This gives a different perspective on what we are doing, when we do shiatsu!

My work is informed by my holistic creative practice - particularly dance (5 Rhythms and Movement Medicine). This has given me deep experiences of processing my own energetic patterns through my body. I also practice creative writing - you can see some of my work here. I have recently started to use more of my poetry in my teaching.

I have learned a lot through the clients I have worked with. It's a great privilege to work with people for many years. I have developed my shiatsu work around hypermobility, chronic illness, fatigue, vicarious trauma and neurodiversity, through my experiences with my clients. This clinical experience feeds into my postgraduate teaching, in particular.

Looking ahead

I am currently excited about the adventure of going to a Shiatsu Summer camp in the Highlands in June, and about meeting people again at Rydal Hall for the Shiatsu College Residential. We are getting students booking onto our courses starting in September - it will be interesting to see how their journey with shiatsu will progress! I love the way that Shiatsu can help us to connect together as a wide community, as well as being a contained experience between two people.

I enjoy supporting Shiatsu students and practitioners to bring their Shiatsu gifts into the world. Sometimes this involves inspiring, being creative or bringing new information. Sometimes it's more of a nudge, a structure or a deadline to get people to do what is needed to complete a qualification or to set up a new part of their practice. Supporting each other, we can find greater opportunities to connect through Shiatsu.