5 Empowering Benefits of Watsu Water Massage Therapy

The healing qualities of this gentle hydrotherapy are attracting global followers.

Watsu Massage Therapy.

(Bee Bonnet / Shutterstock.com)

Imagine the heavenly feeling of lying on your back and floating in chest-deep warm water while supported by a qualified therapist who is in the water with you, and letting you enjoy the moment without a care. You are gently moved around and are given a deeply relaxing massage, a treatment offering your body and soul a rich healing experience. What’s not to like about Watsu Massage Therapy?

All the power of hydrotherapy with added value

The therapeutic benefits of being in water are well documented, with hydrotherapy, or the appreciation and use of water as treatment, practiced since ancient times around the world. Today, Watsu Massage Therapy, considered a union of Japanese shiatsu massage and the therapeutic essence of being immersed in water, is growing in popularity and gaining a global following, as its health benefits become more widely known, Sha Magazine reports.

As Healthline details, Watsu regards the resistance of water as able to sooth physical tension and facilitate relaxation and a healthy flow of energy to boost health. In this practice, also known as passive hydrotherapy, the client doesn’t actively move, as the therapist is moving their body in the water in movements that include massaging pressure points and rocking or cradling. 

This article details five areas in which Watsu Massage Therapy can offer relief.

Enhances general wellbeing

As Watsu.com explains,  Harold Dull is credited with creating the Watsu method of aquatic bodywork in the 1980s in Harbin Hot Springs, California. He studied Zen Shiatsu with Master Shizuto Masunaga, in Japan, which advocates gentle stretching of the body to unblock and balance the energy flowing through it. Returning to California, he decided to apply these principles into the aquatic dimension as Dull observed that water was the ideal medium for this work. He also realized that the holding required to float and support someone brought them to a level of healing beyond touch.

As the  above Facebook post  details,  this unique practice performed in water heated to body temperature, combines elements of muscle and meridian stretching, joint mobilization, shiatsu and intuitive movements.

A 2020 study evaluating the small but growing body of research into Watsu Massage Therapy also points out the “safe harbor” reassurance that being in close contact with a caring therapist can offer clients; the idea of touch as a therapeutic agent and as a reliever of subjective feelings of social exclusion.

Dull has set up an “Aquatic Bodywork Registry” on Watsu.com which lists available classes and trained practitioners on the internet.

Relieves anxiety and stress

As Watsu.com details, this therapy is a powerful and effective treatment method that can release  stress at every level be it physical, mental or emotional.

It can be seen as an ideal way to escape the stresses of modern life. As the website explains, the lack of gravity creates the perfect conditions in which the body can freely explore its own movements. This opens the door to a profound peace and relaxation experience that in turn leads to better sleep at the end of the day.

The body of the person who is being gently supported, is now able to release tensions, while balance and vitality are restored.  Healthline details that Watsu is typically done in a peaceful setting, often enhanced by soothing music.

Sha Magazine puts it like this:  “If you’re feeling stressed and disconnected with yourself, watsu is just what your body needs. It helps you relax, reconnect with your body and let go of everything around you.”

Supports women in pregnancy

The gentle practitioner in our video below emphasizes  the spiritual dimension of Watsu for pregnancy, and draws parallels between the protective and cocooning watery womb environment and the experience of the Watsu technique she delivers.  

Watsu Massage Therapy has been found to help with the lower back pain common in pregnancy in some smaller studies, Healthline reports. In a 2015 study looking at its effectiveness in the third trimester of pregnancy in healthy women, all participants reported an enjoyable experience, most often commending its power to help relax them. They reflected on the joy of experiencing an aquatic environment with their unborn children. Many also praised its ability to promote flexibility, mobility and to reduce pain.

An ultra holistic therapy?

Watsu Massage Therapy has been credited with relieving a long and growing list of health issues and challenges. According to Sha Magazine, these include improving digestion and aiding body recovery after strenuous exercise.  Healthline concurs on its range of benefits, outlining that this therapy is generally used to reduce pain and discomfort arising from assorted ailments that include neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis and mental health challenges including depression.  It can also help with injury rehabilitation.   

A key benefit of this therapy is that it can be adapted to each person’s needs. It can be focused on the physiological aspects of the massage, taking in tension relief, stretching, and articular movements. But it can also be a meditative, even spiritual experience to enable people to completely disconnect and relax.