What the Heck is Watsu?

watsu-1Imagine floating in warm water and feeling all the stress, exhaustion, and pain ebb away from your body. Can anything compare to that? That’s what Watsu does. Watsu is a therapeutic combination of massage, shiatsu, joint mobilization, dance and muscle stretching.

This medley of relaxing and healing techniques is performed in a pool of warm water by a Watsu practitioner. You can blissfully let go of your body weight and tension, allowing your instructor to manipulate your spine, joints, and muscles with gentle stretching exercises, point work, and massage for a deeply calming and healing experience.

A Short History of Watsu Therapy

Watsu, also called water shiatsu, dates back to 1980 when Harold Dull began applying the principles and moves of Zen Shiatsu he had learned in Japan. He would float people at Harbin Hot Springs to help them attain a state of deep relaxation and to help them get better physically and emotionally. Watsu stretches open conduits through which the chi energy flows. Watsu practitioners believe that optimal health depends on the continuous flow of chi through a person’s meridian channels. It is believed that the therapy is even older than acupuncture.

When to Opt for Watsu Massage

Due to some physical constraints such as pregnancy, injury, or age, you may find yourself unable to hit the gym. Special needs may also prevent you from exercising. But we all know how important exercise is. If you are unable to exercise, try Watsu. It offers neuromuscular benefits and eliminates the need for gravity-defying exercises.

watsu-2Most importantly, Watsu supports the spine during exercise and massage, something that would be impossible out of the water especially for patients suffering from physical debilitation due to injury, disease, disability, paralysis, or pregnancy. It also enhances coping mechanisms for those afflicted by hydrophobia and sexual dysfunction.

Other than spas that offer Watsu for relaxation, most medical institutions now incorporate Watsu into their mainstream medical interventions. It is effective in the management and treatment of conditions such as spinal injuries, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, brain injury, cerebral palsy, post-mastectomy care, post-traumatic stress disorder, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and ankylosing spondylitis and others.

Who Can Benefit From Watsu?

Watsu is beneficial to all people, but the following groups benefit more from the therapy:

  • Children: it helps them relax and controls hyperactivity and ADHD
  • Athletes: for muscle injury recovery and improvement of mental clarity
  • Pregnant women: relieves muscle strain and aches and improves mother and baby bonding
  • Adults: treats insomnia, anxiety, problems of the respiratory, circulatory and digestive systems
  • The elderly: offers improved sleep, eases joint pain, and raises self-esteem

Your Session in the Watsu Pool

Before embarking on this palliative journey, you need to complete a health questionnaire and take tests to ascertain your physical condition. A session takes about an hour and is mostly done indoors in a Watsu pool.

watsu-3The session may also take place outdoors and in such instances, you will need sunscreen in addition to a swimsuit and a towel. Your therapist will tell you about the activities planned for the session and address your concerns before the session begins. Sometimes the practitioner may have a helper on hand to assist in the moves and in supporting your body.

Once in the water, the therapist may wrap floats around your legs to keep you afloat throughout the session. He will support your head and your lower back or knees and move you through the water gently in a continuous motion. The practitioner may add stretches, massage, and point work to the flowing movements. Your face will be above the water so you may choose to wear earplugs. You will enjoy the feeling of sinking into nirvana with no sounds – the warm water gently lulling you as the therapist gently rocks you. Gradually, you will feel yourself letting go of your cares, tension, and fatigue.

As the session ends, you will be brought to an upright position and supported until you feel stable enough to support yourself. Watsu’s effects of loss of gravitational force, decreased tactile sensation, and reduced sensory input may make you momentarily disoriented after the session. Relax for a while and drink some water as you regain your equilibrium. You will wish the session could go on forever. If you feel any discomfort such as motion sickness, dizziness, or pain before, during, or after the session, be sure you inform your therapist.

Benefits of Watsu Therapy

A dip in the Watsu pool has numerous therapeutic benefits. They include:

  • Muscle relaxation
  • Improved sleep patterns
  • Improved digestion
  • Reduced stress and tension
  • Pain relief
  • Enhanced immune system
  • Decreased respiration and heart rate
  • Reduced muscle spasm and increased muscle tone
  • Decreased emotional pain and anxiety

Watsu Training for Practitioners

Getting trained on this invaluable therapy offers you the competence of touching lives with its moves. The training may be for professional advancement purposes or to enable you to offer Watsu to your friends and relatives.watsu-4

Some of the modules offered to prospective practitioners include the Healing Dance, the Water Dance, and select classes in aquatic bodywork and Watsu. Watsu is an intimate and intricate therapy, and a therapist needs skills in observing boundaries and ethical requirements to protect the integrity of the art. Much time goes into teaching therapists touch and holding, movement, self-awareness, and bodywork.

The training takes place both in water and on land. To maintain standards, the Worldwide Aquatic Bodywork Association (WABA) must register professionals. Those with prior training in massage and physiotherapy have an advantage since they get cross-crediting for some modules. For you to get to practitioner level, a WABA certified instructor must train you.

Try Watsu Therapy Today

There are many reasons to try Watsu. It helps you relax, relieves stress, and enhances physical and emotional well-being. Enlist for a session and enjoy its immediate and long-term benefits. As you continue with the sessions, you’ll wonder why you never started earlier. See a qualified and certified practitioner to benefit from this water bodywork.

Body work is available in many modalities.  All of them can be very beneficial because they help move congested energy in the body.  The congested energy is what causes stiffness, inflammation and pain. Watsu Therapy has the advantage of eliminating the strong pull of gravity on the body.  With this additional support for relaxation your results may be more powerful for you.

I have personally not experienced this before although since learning more about it, I know I am going to try it!watsu-5

Author: Esateys Stuchiner

Esateys (pronounced Ee sáh teez) is an International Life Transformational Speaker, Author, Master Facilitator, Life Coach and Expert in the Human condition. She is a Nationally and Board Certified Nurse Practitioner. For over 30 years, she has practiced, taught and lectured extensively in the allopathic and alternative medicine field.

Esateys is known for her groundbreaking work in the areas of personal empowerment and health restoration using mindset and inner connection as the catalyst for all change.

Esateys describes herself as the ‘Architect of the New You’ and has dedicated her life and professional career to helping her clients create “New Beginnings” by facilitating self empowerment, economic freedom and restored health.

For more information, go to esateys.com.