Watsu is a very soothing type of massage that takes place in warm, waist-deep water. Its name comes from a combination of the words “water” and “shiatsu.” It was developed by Harold Dull back in 1980, when he started applying Zen Shiatsu stretches to students floating in the warm pool at Harbin Hot Springs in California.
What Happens During a Watsu Treatment?
A spa has to have a special Watsu pool heated to the exact same temperature as your body. It should be private and quiet, like any other treatment room. Some spas have outdoors Watsu pools surrounded by walls, with cloth panels overhead to create a combination of sunlight and shade.
You and the massage therapist both wear bathing suits. You enter the water and while you sit on a step, she puts floats around your ankles. This helps your buoyancy. During Watsu the therapist literally cradles your body, with one arm supporting your knees, the other your back. One of your arms is wrapped around the therapist’s back, the other floats free.
She then twirls you through in the water, first one way then another, taking your body through a series of passive stretches and twists. Being held in the warm water is deeply relaxing.
What Are the Benefits of Watsu?
Watsu’s gentle stretches have a therapeutic effect on the body. The buoyancy and support of the water allow the spinal column to be moved in ways that aren't possible on land. Many people also find it works on an emotional level as well, promoting trust and connection.
Some people find that the first session is all about learning to trust the fact that someone is there to support you. Others are trying to overcome a fear of water. (If this is you, be sure to tell your therapist.) Others are able to fully relax and find it deeply soothing from the very first session.
For more information on Watsu or Water Dance