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Natural Awakenings Bucks and Montgomery Counties PA

Community Spotlight: The Healing Power of Shiatsu

Sep 01, 2012 04:00AM
How Shirley Scranta Used Shiatsu to Clear Her Body of a Childhood Trauma

by Linda Sechrist

Decades before she became the owner and director of the International School of Shiatsu, in Doylestown, Shirley Scranta’s peculiar association with water began. At age 4, barely beyond the toddler stage, Scranta got stuck, from hand to elbow, between two wooden rollers of the motorized wringer of an old-fashioned washing machine.

“I reached into the tub to grab a doll dress that was swishing around in the washtub full of water. As I was holding tight to the dress and it was being pulled through the wringer, I was quickly lifted up off the floor and into the tub. My tiny arm was also pulled in and I was stuck. There was no one else around when it happened and I was traumatized because I thought I was going to die. By the time someone rescued me, my 4-year old mind had decided that I needed to drink all the water in the tub to keep from drowning,” says Scranta. Within days of the physical and psychological shock, Scranta developed an unquenchable thirst and began drinking five gallons of water every day.

In the hope of finding a solution, her perplexed parents took her to various chiropractic and medical doctors who eventually labeled her condition diabetes insipidus, an uncommon disorder characterized by intense thirst and the excretion of large amounts of urine. Scranta lived without an explanation for her idiopathic disorder until she was old enough to begin her own extensive research into why she was severely dehydrated. “I read everything there was to read on nutrition and even went to the Himalayan Institute to learn about ayurvedic nutrition and how to reduce my water intake,” states Scranta.

A trip to Virginia Beach in 1991 proved fruitful when a friend suggested that Scranta try a shiatsu massage session to determine if it could provide any relief. Five sessions later, Scranta was interested in shiatsu, an energy-based therapy that uses pressure from hands and palms to balance the flow of chi in the body. Although the results were unmistakable, Scranta felt that the practitioner’s touch wasn’t the right one for her.

Several months after returning home from her journey, Scranta discovered The Book of Shiatsu: The Healing Art of Finger Pressure by Saul Goodman in a health food store. After reading several chapters, she bought the book and went looking for the International School of Shiatsu, in Doylestown, which Goodman founded in 1978 based on the theories of Masunaga Zen Shiatsu, Kushi Macrobiotic and his own Shiatsu Shin Tai.

In 1996, Scranta became one of Goodman’s clients. “I lived 120 miles away but because each treatment made me feel better and stronger, I committed to weekly treatments. After five sessions, I knew that in my career as an educator, I could use shiatsu to help my students with their learning problems so I enrolled in classes and graduated later that year,” says Scranta, who retired early from a 33-year career as a librarian to attend the Integrative Nutrition school in New York City.

“Nutrition is what kept my body functioning until I could resolve my health issues of losing vast amounts of nutrients through excretion,” notes Scranta, who found that Michio Kushi’s macrobiotic diet, which is part of her school’s teaching curriculum, worked best for her.

Kushi’s macrobiotic practices include eating more whole grains, beans and fresh vegetables, increasing variety in food selections; using traditional cooking methods, eating regularly and less in quantity; and maintaining an active and positive life and mental outlook.

Now the owner and director of the International School of Shiatsu, Scranta remarks, “Shiatsu helped my body to re-establish its own intelligence system, which was distorted by my childhood trauma. Connecting to my body’s intelligence helped me to honor my body and do what it needed to rejuvenate itself. This meant letting go of the emotional pain, developing a sense of humor, moving more and making better choices in my diet. I now enjoy seeing it do that for others who come to the school to learn.”

For more information on the International School of Shiatsu, visit or call 215-340-9918. September 2012

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