Watsu combines the benefits of both water therapy and shiatsu massage. The therapy, which involves a focus on deep breathing while the client’s body is moved weightlessly through warm water by the massage therapist, is often called water breath dance.
Watsu borrows many of its stretching techniques from shiatsu massage, because it focuses on releasing blockages along the bodys energy points, the meridians. In addition, Watsu also borrows techniques from acupressure, a therapy that applies various pressures with the fingertips to restore the free flow of life energy (Qi) to the body.
Watsu is administered in accordance to the same meridian map that is so vital to Shiatsu massage and acupressure. However Watsu therapy also incorporates gentle stretching in order to loosen and relax the muscles. Watsu sessions are performed in a therapeutic pool, so that the therapist can gently maneuver their client into the various stretches, without disrupting the relaxing and peaceful setting.
During a Watsu session, the therapist will support their client while moving them through a continuous series of gentle stretches. The therapist will typically gently rock their client’s body in the cradle position. Cradling is considered the most nurturing pose as it recalls the position that a mother holds her baby. As the therapist rocks their clients body, muscles are isolated and stretched.
The water allows the therapist to move gracefully through the stretches, and to apply acupressure massage to the upper body, then the lower body, while continually supporting the spine. This is because in the water a client will float due to the anti-gravitational characteristic of water. The warm water (96 °Fahrenheit) also encourages the muscles to stay relaxed and improves circulation.
Watsu is said to bring about a deep sense of calm, due to the warmth of the water and the tender touch of the practitioner. In fact, many clients compare the emotions they experience during a Watsu session to what a fetus must feel like within their mothers womb warm, relaxed, loved and safe.