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Floating in the warm water.  The echos in the pool muffled as my ears slide under.  Drifting and being held in strong, capable arms. I have to remind myself again to breathe.

I had a Watsu massage last week.  I love Watsu and it’s not my first time in the pool with my therapist Derek.  What strikes me about this is that my experience is so different every time.

Watsu is a massage technique that’s based in shiatsu, which is based in acupuncture.   It takes place in a therapy pool, extra warm.  Ideally the water should be body temperature, a technique used in sensory depravation.

Because of the water, Watsu does not put any pressure on the joints.  It’s more like a position/release therapy than like the deep stimulation of classic shiatsu.  As a technique it actually reminds me of Orthobionomy more than massage.  It works with the body where it’s comfortable rather than pursuing the edge of tolerance.         

Do I sound like I’ve been trained as a massage therapist yet?  My first try at Watsu I talked with Derek about the technique.  I told him which of my vertebrae were out of alignment and which meridians were weak.  I knew Derek, had taken a class from him.  I trusted his training and skills as a therapist.

I laid back in the water and totally checked out.  I don’t know if I dozed or if I just ‘went somewhere’.  The time was too short.  At the end of the session I felt rested, invigorated.  I was moving a lot more comfortably as well.

Maybe it’s the water.  I’ve had clients, and heard many stories, about people having emotional releases in therapy sessions.  It’s not usually how I respond, but it’s not uncommon.  There is something about emotion and water that goes together.  I asked Derek once if he found Watsu a particularly powerful technique for releasing emotions bound up in physical issues.  I got a classic therapeutic, “It certainly can do that.”

It’s different every time.  Any therapy session is of course.  In the moment you address the body where it’s at.  What are the needs today?  What is possible right now?  But the added meditational element I find with Watsu expands those possibilities beyond any other therapy I’ve experienced.

I’ve had a Watsu where I felt like I was revisiting my childhood, both in joy and in pain.  I’ve had a session where I just cried.  Not sobbing, but tears flowing down my cheeks along with the waves from the pool.  Stress freely being released.   I’ve had a session where I went to my spiritual center and just renewed my connections with the Divine.  I don’t fight it, I just go.

This last session was different again.  It has been awhile since I’ve been in and my back was particularly tight.  I had expectations of drifting off and taking a little break.  Instead I found myself resisting.  Derek would put a hand on my shoulder and I would jerk away.  He would push me through the water and I would hold my self stiff, muscles tight and ready.


Awareness doesn’t always make relaxation easier.  I needed to do more than that.  I needed to find a way to breathe through the process.  I needed to get out of my own way.  I needed to lay back and float.  I needed Acceptance.

Acceptance of my body as it is right now.  Free to flow through the water.  Opening up my chakras.  Open up my heart with light and breath.  Accepting both the limitations and the support.  Accept the help being offered by these gentle supportive hands.


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