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What’s a Watsu? Benefits of aquatic massage therapy extolled

By Laurie Loving

Are your joints — especially your hips, elbows and hands — aching with the throbbing pain of arthritis? Is your body stiff and contorted with the muscular contractions of Parkinson’s disease? Are you feeling stressed and overwhelmed from juggling children and a busy career? If you are experiencing chronic pain or stress, you many be an ideal candidate for the warm-water massage therapy known as Watsu.

What’s a Watsu?
WATer-shiatSU is a form of aquatic bodywork in which the “provider” supports and gently moves the “receiver” through warm water in graceful, fluid movements combined with gentle stretches, massage and finger-tip pressure to points in the face, torso and back (shiatsu therapy). Watsu promotes a deep state of relaxation with dramatic changes in quieting the autonomic nervous system, resulting in a profound effect on the neuromuscular system.

How can aquatic massage help me?
Varying levels of relief from pain and stress may be realized following a Watsu session. Watsu is being incorporated into aquatic programs for clients with chronic pain, strokes, fibromyalgia, post-mastectomy, traumatic stress disorder and more in hospitals, clinics, and rehabilitation centers from around the world. Therapists report the following benefits in their clients

Immediate benefits reported after first session:
* increased range of motion
* increased muscle relaxation
* decreased muscle spasm
* decreased spasticity
* decreased pain

Long-term benefits reported after multiple sessions:
* improved sleep patterns
* improved digestion
* improved healing and immune system response
* greater decreases in physical and emotional pain
* decreased anxiety
(Source: Physical therapist Peggy Schoedinger, http://www.tantsuyoga.com/watsu/benefits.html):

Research on the benefits of Watsu is underway on an international level. An 18-month self-assessment study of 16 residents at a retirement center receiving 30-minute sessions twice monthly concluded that 73 to 100 percent of the clients reported end-of-session no-to-minimal pain and stress and a much greater level of body flexibility and the ability to relax. Even more importantly, the majority (60 to 78 percent) reported diminished pain and stress up to three days or longer following the session.
(Source: William A. Vogel, http://www.waba.edu/SpecialNeeds/watsu%20with%20elderly.pdf)

Comments from receivers:
“This is the most wholesome activity I can experience because it treats my whole body, mind and spirit. It helps my aches and pains, calms my mind and lifts my spirit.”

“I am profoundly relaxed at the conclusion, much more so than at the end of having a table massage, having had table massages for 32 years.”

“Not pain-free at the end of a session but feeling so much better and knowing that I will sleep better than any other time.”

“Let me count the ways that it has helped me: Watsu has improved my quality of life. There is a euphoria that lingers and as it fades it is replaced by a feeling of well-being and a sense of peace that is delicious.”

What will happen during a Watsu session?
Watsu is provided in a shallow pool heated to near body temperature (95-97 degrees) to avoid chilling. If needed, floats are wrapped around the receiver’s legs to provide buoyancy.

Held securely by the provider, the receiver floats on his or her back, eyes, nose and mouth always above the surface of the water; ears below, and eyes closed. Guiding the body through the water, the provider gently stretches, bends and twists the body, rotating shoulders and hips to carefully maximize joint movement.

Mild to moderate massage is added to enhance the experience. Periods of stillness are included so that the subconscious and physical effects can integrate. Muscle tension is released, diminishing many physical pains, creating emotional calming and centeredness.

— Laurie Loving, MSW and Watsu practitioner, is the owner of Loving Aquatic Massage in Davis, and an expert in tranquility and nurturing touch. For information and appointments, contact Loving at 530-756-7335, [email protected] or www.LovingAquaticMassage.com.

Special to The Enterprise

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