BRATTLEBORO -- The Shiatsu School of Vermont will open its doors next month.

The new school, which will be located at 24 High Street in Brattleboro, promotes itself as a healing arts learning community for personal and professional growth. "The cure always comes before the illness" is its slogan, attributed to an anonymous source.

"It is an innate instinct for us to touch to treat pain and illness," said founder and director Marjorie Pivar. "Anybody can do it."

As a registered instructor of Asian Bodywork Therapy, Pivar previously taught students at Equilibrium in Brattleboro. She also rented space and taught at River Valley Aikido on Cottage Street after Equilibrium closed.

While teaching at Equilibrium, one of her students, Sarah West, agreed to give Pivar feedback on her classes. The two started to meet for dinner to talk shop.

"After several meetings, we hatched an idea to start our own school," said Pivar, who soon found out the High Street building was available. "I had an idea that this school didn't need to be limited to professionals learning Asian Bodywork Therapy."

West is now Pivar's assistant and their plan is to teach a system of health care that involves holding, pressing and massaging parts of the body to treat ailments.

The school will have statues with meridian lines drawn on them. Some will be replicas of art in the classical canon.


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Those lines refer to parts of the body that acupuncturists put their needles into.

Teaching people all the lines can be complicated, Pivar told the Reformer. Training will largely focus on learning an energy map of the body that contains those lines.

"(Meridian lines) are actually these energy channels that go into the body," Pivar said. "For example, if someone's having an asthma attack or somebody's having a headache or anxiety or PMS, their body is in a state of stress and so those energy lines will reflect the pattern of stress, whether it's going through the lungs, any of the organs of the body or muscles."

When a person is cold, they might rub their arms and legs. This effectively gets the energy and blood flowing again by rubbing along the body's triple warming meridian line.

"They're turning up their thermostat," said Pivar.

Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America participants recently painted the walls in the school while Westminster contractor Gary Brodis put in a new floor, constructed the walls and built a raised platform.

An opening celebration party will likely be held during the second week of September. A Thai massage workshop weekend is scheduled for Sept. 6 and 7. Internationally known practioners are expected to be there.

The 500-hour Shiatsu certification program begins on Oct. 6. It includes classes on Zen Shiatsu technique and practice, traditional Chinese medicine, Western anatomy and physiology, Thai massage technique, foot and hand reflexology and more. People can also choose to attend any of these classes individually.

Classes will be open not only to those seeking professional certification but to members of the community who want to learn particular areas of interest. Continuing education courses will be open to those who practice at any level.

The certification program is accredited by the American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia. Payment plans and scholarships are available through the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation.

Some of the community based classes expected to be held at the school will focus on respiratory issues, digestive issues, urinary infections and menstrual health. Massage services, yoga and dance classes will be available. Also at the school, there will be a spirituality for kids class.

David Goldshmidt will be teaching spiritual bio-energetics. Instructor Deirdre Kelley is a licensed acupuncturist, who will be teaching Chinese medical theory. Kelley and instructor Adrienne "Makote" DeGuevara are members of the holistic health care clinic Medicine for the People in Putney. A full list of teachers and classes is available at shiatsuvt.org.

According to DeGuevara, there was a study that found people can die from lack of touch.

"It's really important, like food really," she said.

DeGuevara studied massage therapy at the Community College of Vermont. A friend gave her a Thai massage and she became hooked. After an initial training, she traveled to Thailand and studied there for some time.

"I've been practicing Thai massage for seven years and I love it," said DeGuevara, a certified Thai Acupressure Therapist who will teach the practice at the new school.

Pivar became interested in Shiatsu after learning about perception through Tai Chi classes she was taking after graduating college. She said she learned about energy flowing in her meridians and started to be able to sense things better. Since then, she says her awareness has only grown.

A demonstration of Shiatsu by Wataru Ohashi, who brought the practice to America, inspired Pivar to enroll in his school. That was about 30 years ago.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.