I Tried Watsu...

by Melissa Schleicher-Park | Jun 04, 2019

I am not a swimmer. I can paddle along, but that’s about it. I do not have a special affinity for the water. I do, however, love massage. Regular massage has been an integral part of my self-care regimen for years as a way of combating stress, promoting healing, and decreasing chronic joint pain. I’ve always been intrigued by Watsu but hesitated to venture away from massage. (For those who don’t know, Watsu is an aquatic therapy that is performed in a heated therapy pool, and it operates largely on the principles of acupuncture and a shiatsu massage.)

I finally tried Watsu a few months ago, and was absolutely blown away! In the midst of it, I was running through a list of everyone I knew who absolutely had to try it – and that was nearly everybody.

It was weird at first. You’re in your swimming suit, you begin by grasping the hands of the therapist, Diane, and you close your eyes (closing your eyes is not required but it’s common). Throughout the session, your body is supported by the therapist as well as flotation devices, so you’re always floating at the surface of the water. Your face always remains above water but the ears are submerged so all you hear is the peaceful sound of moving water and your own breath.

Then came the moment when I had to make the conscious decision to let go and relax into it. From that moment on, all the initial awkwardness began to fall away and it was all the pure joy of a great massage just in a different way. It was soothing and all-encompassing in a way massage never could be. It was deeply relaxing and inherently meditative. She moved me through a series of dance-like rocking and gentle stretching movements. When I really let go, it felt like I had all the grace of a fluid ballerina – something which I am certainly not!

It was deep bodywork but not in the way of a deep tissue massage. It released tension and holding in the way of a good yoga class only without all of the work.  As I relaxed into it and allowed myself to be moved with the water, areas where I was holding tension became apparent. Diane would find them too and would skillfully move my body in a way that encouraged that tension to let go. The water was so warm and the weightlessness was so soothing that I felt relief from my chronic pain to a degree that I haven’t felt in a long time.

After the session, I felt so relaxed and mentally and physically lighter. I wanted to tell everyone I knew about it! I talked to a few people I knew who had also tried it, and they all said they had similar reactions. They were all blown away by the experience, they found Watsu largely indescribable, but they sincerely wanted more people to know about it.

It was more deeply relaxing than a massage – and as a licensed massage therapist, I can attest to the fact that when we take part in activities such as this, on a regular basis, the states of relaxation that are produced are sustained for longer and longer periods of time. Not only does that carry over into our days but it also translates into better sleep. The therapeutic potential is also apparent. Between regular physical activity and caring for two small children, my body holds onto a lot of tension. Sometimes our bodies need to be reminded of how to relax, and Watsu allowed for that in a way I haven’t experienced even from years of massage, yoga, and meditation.

Watsu really is something you have to experience for yourself. There is something in it for virtually everyone. Once you get over any initial reservations about it being so different from other forms of self-care or the added step of getting into and out of a pool or the unusualness of relaxing in water and trusting someone else to move you through it, it really is an incredible, therapeutic experience. Diane has over 10 years of experience in the field of bodywork. She does a great job of explaining the process before beginning and with working within your comfort level. She is deeply passionate about what she does and about caring for each individual, mind, body, and soul – and that is apparent in her work.



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