The term Watsu comes from the words “water” and “shiatsu.” Shiatsu is a type of traditional Japanese massage that uses acupressure to promote relaxation. In Japanese, shiatsu means “finger pressure.”
Watsu was created by Harold Dull, who taught Zen Shiatsu, in 1980. Dull observed that it was easier for his clients’ muscles and tissues to relax in water. In turn, he found that shiatsu techniques were more effective when done in water.
Generally, Watsu therapy is used to alleviate pain and discomfort caused by a range of ailments. The idea is that the resistance of water soothes physical tension and encourages relaxation, which supports overall health.
How does it work?
Watsu therapy is done in a pool or hot tub. The water is heated to 95°F (35°C), which is close to the same temperature as your skin.
During Watsu, a therapist gently moves your body in water. This is known as passive hydrotherapy, because you don’t need to actively perform the movements.
Your therapist is in the water with you. They move your body in specific motions, which may include:
- gentle twisting
- rocking or cradling
- massaging pressure points
The goal is to release tightness in your muscle and fascia tissue. It’s also meant to promote a healthy flow of energy, or qi.
Watsu is typically done in a peaceful setting to increase relaxation. Many Watsu therapists play soothing music during the session.