Watsu or WaterShiatsu is a relaxation technique in warm water, based on oriental methods of relaxation and acupressure massage. The participant is held, rhythmically moved about and massaged in warm water heated.
The buoyancy of the water takes the weight off the back and enables the spine and joints to move more flexibly. The whole body is stretched and pulled in flowing movements.
Warm water is well-known as a natural form of pain relief during the process of childbirth. In a soothing, warm bath, the contractions intensify yet feel less painful. Indeed, the benefits of warm water are welcome at any time throughout pregnancy. Moving weightlessly in water is a wonderful feeling: mother and unborn child float in the same element and can enjoy together the warmth and sense of security that water creates.
Besides taking place in a warm water environment, Watsu sessions focus around being held, rocked and moved by an experienced Watsu practitioner. As you relax, your breathing becomes noticeably calmer, deeper and slower. The comforting sensation of warmth and weightlessness makes all unnecessary muscular activity stop. You just let go – which from a therapeutic point of view, is an ideal way to rid the body of toxins, tensions and blockages.
Humans move differently in water and on land. In water, our movements are more complete and flowing. In an aquatic setting, pressure on the body is evenly distributed, because water is buoyant and supports evenly in all directions. This has a relaxing effect, making possible the characteristic Watsu moves and stretches which would be unthinkable on land. The movements are coordinated to match the rhythm of breathing.
During a Watsu session, the recipient's heart and respiration rates decrease, depth of respiration increases, muscle tone decreases, and recipients report a deep state of relaxation. Deep relaxation of Watsu balances the autonomic nervous system (ANS), decreasing sympathetic response and increasing parasympathetic response, with far-reaching benefits. Compressive forces of hydrostatic pressure combine with deep relaxation to enhance functioning of the lymphatic system and reduce swelling in cases of edema. For orthopedic impairments, combined effects of relaxation, warm water, and gentle movement decreases muscle spasm, provides pain relief, improves soft tissue mobility, and increases range of motion. The rhythmic rocking motions combined with repeated trunk rotation and elongation relaxes muscles and improves mobility.
Many patients and clinicians report psychological benefits for stress reduction and resolving past traumas.