About Aquatic Bodywork Therapy
WATSU principles are rooted in Eastern Philosophy that focus on whole body health, balance, and holistic healing practices. WATSU (also referred to as Aquatic Shiatsu) is fundamental to effective Aquatic Bodywork Therapy. The practice was developed by Harold Dull at the Northern California School of Shiatsu and Massage. Inspired by his Zen Shiatsu studies in Japan while floating students in warm water, Dull incorporated the Shiatsu stretches and methodologies into his water practice. With his deep understanding of our body’s ability to store trauma, to release it and renew, he knows freedom rests in unlocking those blocks to bring about a healthy state. Like Shiatsu, WATSU focuses on releasing impediments along our meridians – the channels through which our “Chi” or life-force flow.
WATSU sessions are held in 96 degree saltwater – the same temperature as our skin – and incorporate a series of stretches that gently strengthens muscles while increasing flexibility and range of motion. The recipient is cradled in a floating position by the WATSU practitioner as their head rests just above the water and their ears are just below it. Noise is quieted, and with eyes closed, the buoyancy of the warm water relieves the weight on the body, which frees the spine, takes pressure off the vertebrae and relaxes the muscles. When the spine is freed the pressure points along the body are slowly opened, blood circulation improves, breathing becomes deep and even, and energy begins to flow. The support of the water allows the spine to be moved in ways impossible on land as gentle, gradual twists and pulls relieve the pressure that a rigid spine places on nerves. The movement can help to undo the dysfunction this pressure can cause to the organs serviced by those nerves. The WATSU recipient experiences this greater flexibility and freedom which can unlock the blocks created by past experiences.
``We are already wisdom.``
- Arnaud Desjardins
Warm, safe, buoyant, connected and evolving. Before we were born our mother’s womb prepared us for the world. She provided us with a body of water where we were nurtured in a perfect environment, where our needs were met. As we evolved, we developed limbs, bones, blood, tissue, organs including a brain, heart and lungs, and memory. They all worked in tandem to give us life. At birth we were introduced to light, distinct noises, pungent smells and taste, air, cooler temperatures, and physical contact. Within each of us, a system of energy exchanges were perfected to keeps us breathing, our hearts beating, our brains operating and our consciousness alert. It was our beginning.
Throughout the years, we grow, our bodies adapt, and our brains develop. At some point along the journey we encounter incidents, accidents and traumas that impact our bodies, minds and spirits; each creating memories that are recorded on our tissue, much like muscle memory. While most memories keep us informed, active, engaged and moving toward the future, the traumatic events leave their imprint in a different way, in specific areas of the body. These records can create blocks that lead to compromised immune systems, increased physical injuries, anxiety and pain, emotional turmoil and unhealthy decisions. When our bodies are in a state of reaction by holding onto that incident, it becomes a challenge to stay in present time; letting go, into the flow of life becomes nearly impossible. WATSU strives to open those blocks, not by reliving the past, but in a present state to create new pathways that lead to a better, healthier, more fulfilling existence.
WATSU founder, Harold Dull, shared the below with his practitioners in his At the Heart of WATSU:
“If the person in our arms is in their own coherence, it may be a unique opportunity for them to let whatever they have been suppressing, or obsessing on, with the emotionally incompetent brain, find a place in the heart’s understanding. In Watsu we call this ‘letting things go into the flow.’ We never interrupt a Watsu to ask what is wrong when we see tears come to someone’s eyes. At the end of a session, we never pry for details. Asking someone to recall events behind whatever came up may throw them back into the chaotic state that Watsu has been leading them away from, and undo Watsu’s most valuable gift. Watsu is at the opposite pole from therapies that posit reliving past traumas or catharsis as the way to release them, something that those at HeartMath also find counterproductive.”
WATSU is used around the world by professional bodyworkers, physical therapists, psychologists, and the general public.
WATSU® and Pregnancy
WATSU is often used during pregnancy, sometimes weekly, especially during the last trimester. It has helped expecting mothers to relax, relieve their discomfort, alleviate back pain, ease leg cramps and improve sleep. The stretches strengthen muscles and increase flexibility, and some mothers have reported feeling more connected to their unborn child as the 96 degree saltwater pool mimics the womb. WATSU is safe and perfect for both the mother and unborn child as they experience freedom and expansion together.
Waterdance was developed by Arjana Brunschwiler and Peter Aman Schroter in 1987. It takes the principles of WATSU – beginning with being cradled by the practitioner above the water who floats and stretches the recipient as they ease into relaxed breath – and extends them to underwater meditation that deepens with flowing movements, waves, rolls, twists, inversions, and quiet stillness in a slow-motion dance. From floating above the water to gentle submersion with a nose clip, the buoyancy of the 96 degree saltwater creates a womb-like experience; external sounds are diminished, light is dimmed, internal noise is quieted and the 96 degree saltwater flows over, under and around the recipient. Tension is released, the present is welcomed and a dance of physical, mental and spiritual freedom alchemizes.
Healing Dance was developed in 1990 by professional ballet dancer Alexander Georgeakopoulos. It is based on the healing power of movement, is heart-centered and combines WATSU, Trager Work, Waterdance and pure movement in 96 degree saltwater. It begins above the water and gradually, gently submerges the recipient who is wearing a nose clip. Each session incorporates a series of wave rolls, quiet embraces, releases, and spacious movements that are wide, smooth, flowing, deep and shallow in an unending flow. Heart-centered, the practitioner and recipient together create an alchemy that unlocks blocked energy, frees the spirit and heals, allowing life and movement to re-enter the body. Aquatic Bodywork practitioner and Wave Academy advisor, Theri Thomas, has said of the Healing Dance, “movement is the medicine.”
WATSU® is a registered trademark of Harold Dull.