What is Watsu?

Watsu is a form of massage therapy performed in one-on-one sessions with a licensed professional. The practitioner incorporates massage techniques; stretching and meditation in a warm therapy pool over 93-95 degrees. The warmth of the water softens and relaxes the muscles to allow for deeper more concentrated work. The support of the water enables the therapist to take the body into further range of motion without risk of harm to the client. Specifically, the spinal vertebrae can move in ways in the water not possible on land making this an ideal form of body work for those who have limited range of motion. Clients also experience a deeper state of relaxation after 1 session.

Benefits of Watsu

There are many benefits of Watsu Therapy such as increased range of motion, stress relief, reduction in arthritic pain, pain associated with fibromyalgia as well as emotional trauma, anxiety and sleeping disorders. Watsu Therapy is also a wonderful treatment for those recently discharged from physical therapy. Some clients also use Watsu in conjunction with other treatment plans such as suggested by chiropractors and acupuncturists as well as in place of pain medication due to improved physiological and psychological effects.

What to expect during a Watsu session 

In the beginning of a pool session, the practitioner will meet with you to fill out paperwork, answer questions, review referrals and records, and discuss needs, expectations, and health conditions. You will be fitted with floats that will be placed around the upper shins or lower thighs to prevent the legs from sinking. This is also to ensure that your back does not hyperextend when support is removed from the sacrum (this can happen during transitional moves).

Though your head will remain afloat there are times where water will come in and out of your ears, ear plugs are recommended for ear care during sessions. It is also recommended to use ear solution for proper ear health after sessions.

The session will begin and end at the wall of the pool. The therapist will invite you further into the pool where you will be floated on to your back (face upwards out of the pool). While facing upward your therapist will support your head in the crook of one arm and will maintain gentle traction of the spine from the base of the skull (occiput) to the base of the spine (sacrum). The therapist will then connect with your breath and take you through a series of movements while maintaining contact and keeping your body supported throughout the entire session. The session will consist of movements such as gently sways, rocking and wave patterns, stretches and rotations. Moves are repeated on each side for balance.

How long will the session last?

Each session is catered to your needs and comfort level. A session can last anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour. A complete session including check in time and recovery time can last up to an hour and a half for your first session. Please allow enough time if the full time is needed.


The session can be stopped at any time if you feel uncomfortable or ill for any reason. It is important to your practitioner that you feel safe and comfortable throughout the session. Please communicate any concerns you may have with your therapist. In addition to your safety the therapist also reserves the right to terminate the session at any time for his or her own safety.

Training and Certification

The Worldwide Aquatic Bodywork Association (WABA) oversees training programs for certification in Watsu and related aquatic bodywork forms (Water Dance, Healing Dance, Aquatic Integration). WABA also maintains an official registry of certified practitioners and instructors, classes, and training institutes. For more information on the WABA site, check out: https://www.watsu.com/waba.html. Training consists of basic and advanced coursework, as well as logged practice and demonstration of mastery. Practitioners are required to maintain their course work and take regular continuing education classes as well as maintain their state licenses to practice massage.

Precautions

The Watsu practitioner needs to constantly observe and analyze each movement for safety, especially in case of injury or illness where movement could cause harm, e.g., osteoporosis, acute rheumatoid arthritis, and ligamentous instability. Slow and smooth movement, without sudden loading of the joints, is generally advisable. Motion sickness, with dizziness, nausea, or disorientation from excess vestibular system stimulation can occasionally result and therapists are advised to watch for signs of overstimulation. Other contraindications: avoid Watsu after recent surgery with open wounds or new tattoos less than 14 days old. If you are currently pregnant, Watsu is considered safe after the first Trimester however it is always suggested to see your physician prior to any bodywork. A medical release from your physician is required to receive a Watsu session.