Watsu: Massage therapy in the water?

Watsu: Massage therapy in the water?

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Watsu massage takes place in a pool of warm water (Shutterstock photos)

Watsu massage is not necessarily one of the more well-known massage modalities, like Reiki or hot stone massage, but it is finding popularity due to its combined use of shiatsu techniques, muscle stretching, joint mobilization, dance, and other gentle massage strokes... and all while the therapist and the client are submerged in water.

According to the Aquatic Body Work Association, “the receiver (of Watsu) is continuously supported while being floated, cradled, rocked and stretched. The deeply relaxing effects of warm water and nurturing support, combined with Watsu’s movements, stretches, massage and point work, create a bodywork with a range of therapeutic benefits and potential healing on many levels.”

How does Watsu massage work?

Massage Health Therapy states Watsu massage is a gentle and deep-stretching form of massage. The massage therapist is able to use the buoyancy found in the water to manipulate a client’s body and stretch muscles which would otherwise be difficult to treat.

Most Watsu sessions last approximately an hour and take place in a pool of warm water.

Watsu massage therapists have a collection of floats available to allow the individuals receiving treatment to relax without sinking into the pool.

The massage itself mainly consists of stretching different parts of the body while allowing the client periods of rest. While stretching is the main component of the experience, relaxation is the ultimate goal.

“Once you’ve been wrapped in water a bit, your mind starts to slow down,” Keith McDaniel, a Watsu therapist at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, explained to the Bloomberg Businessweek Magazine. “You’re between dreaming and being awake, and all of the little things go out the window.”

What are the benefits of Watsu massage?

Watsu massage is not for everyone, cautions David Erlich, spa director at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn Spa in Sonoma, California in the Bloomberg Businessweek Magazine. According to Erlich, Watsu massage is a very unique experience and requires a great deal of trust between the massage therapist and the client. Individuals who are too tense may not benefit as much from the experience.

float pool 410x243 Watsu: Massage therapy in the water?

Most Watsu sessions last approximately an hour and take place in a pool of warm water. Watsu massage therapists have a collection of floats available to allow the individuals receiving treatment to relax without sinking into the pool. The massage itself mainly consists of stretching different parts of the body while allowing the client periods of rest. While stretching is the main component of the experience, relaxation is the ultimate goal.

The benefits of this form of therapy may be different for each individual; however, potential general benefits include:

  • Deep relaxation
  • Reduced stress/anxiety
  • Decreased pain
  • Improved sleep
  • Improved digestion
  • Improved sense of overall health
  • Reduction of muscle tension
  • Improved flexibility
  • Deeper breathing

While there are no major scientific studies linking Watsu massage and specific disease treatment, Massage Health Therapy indicates a number of conditions may benefit from the procedure including:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Stroke
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Brain injury
  • Spinal cord injury

Watsu massage is also considered safe for injured individuals, children, pregnant women and the elderly.

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