Watsu began in the warm pool at Harbin when Harold Dull began floating his students of Zen Shiatsu, applying its stretches and moves. Zen Shiatsu, which Harold studied with its founder in Japan, emphasizes stretching as an older, more effective way to balance our chi energy than working with points.

Warm water’s therapeutic benefits, and its freeing of movement, make it an ideal medium for passive stretching. The support water provides takes weight off the vertebrae and allows the spine to be moved in ways impossible on land. Gentle, gradual twists and pulls relieve the pressure a rigid spine places on nerves and helps undo any dysfunction this pressure causes to organs serviced by those nerves.

In water watsuers can support and brace stretches with their own body. Beginning with and periodically flowing back to positions close enough to facilitate these powerful stretches, a deep heart connection and a coordination of movement with a shared breath pattern, distinguishes Watsu.

While most bodywork on land is based on touch, the holding that working in water necessitates, brings the receiver to a new level of connection and trust. Being floated level with someone’s heart, rising and sinking to the same breath, can help heal deep wounds of separation. Tears often appear. Having been trained to just “be” with someone, the watsuer doesn’t question whether they are tears of sorrow or joy, or stop to process whatever emotions might be surfacing. The continuous flow of Watsu allows whatever comes up to be released, a valuable lesson to take out of the pool. Typically, by the end of the session, both giver and receiver recognize the connection they feel in Watsu as their connection to everything, their Oneness. Accessing that level, they are better prepared to deal with any disturbance, past or present.

A giver of Watsu can receive as much benefit as a receiver. Besides discovering new ways to connect, learning to adapt the flow to each person in their arms can increase their sensitivity to others. Those who continue on to explore Free Flow find themselves connecting from the most creative levels of their own being.

Excerpted from Watsu.com