Watsu (a short for Water Shiatsu) began in 1980 when Harold Dull started floating people while applying the stretches and principles of the Zen Shiatsu he had studied in Japan.
Watsu is a passive form of aquatic bodywork/therapy that supports and gently moves a person through warm water in graceful, fluid movements. Watsu promotes a deep state of relaxation with dramatic changes in the autonomic nervous system. Through quieting the sympathetic and enhancing the parasympathetic nervous systems, Watsu has profound effects on the neuromuscular system.
It is a gentle passive form of aquatic bodywork/therapy performed in warm water, (around 95°F or 35°C) in graceful, fluid movements. It combines elements of massage, shiatsu, joint mobilisation, muscle stretching and dance. The receiver is continuously supported while being floated, cradled, rocked and stretched. The deeply relaxing effects of warm water and nurturing support, promote a deep state of relaxation with dramatic changes in the autonomic nervous system. Through quieting the sympathetic and enhancing the parasympathetic nervous systems, Watsu has profound healing effects on the neuromuscular system.
Moments of stillness alternate with rhythmical flowing movements, which free the body in ways impossible on land. The warm water relaxes the muscles and supports the spine. With this support and without the weight of the body, the spine, joints and muscles can be manipulated and freed in a way unique to water work. The effects include a very gentle, yet deep stretching and a release of muscular and joint restrictions, along with a state of deep relaxation, which encourages the release of stress and tensions.
Watsu helps decrease muscle tension and increase range of motion. The support of the water provides relief from compression forces in the joints. The movements through the water provide gentle stretching into all ranges for the spine and extremities while these joints are unloaded.
Each person’s experience is unique and varied, for many the focus will be on the physical effects of letting go, relaxing, the gentle full body stretches, freeing the spine and joints. Others might experience emotions, new personal insights and/or resurfacing of old memories. Many receivers will remark on the deep sense of beauty, or lightness, ease and grace experienced during their Watsu; or a sense of nurturing, safety, relaxation, maybe at a level never felt before or remembered from ‘long ago’. The way Watsu is experienced is as varied as individuals themselves and so there is no right or wrong way to receive, practitioners do not ‘push’ any particular aspect, but simply listen and allow and support whatever the receivers experience is in any particular session.
Here are some of the potential benefits of Watsu:
Here’s a video that demonstrates and explains Watsu: