WATSU: Watsu is a form of aquatic bodywork used for deep relaxation and passive aquatic therapy. Watsu is characterized by one-on-one sessions in which a practitioner or therapist gently cradles, moves, stretches, and massages a receiver in chest-deep warm water.
Watsu, originally developed by Harold Dull at Harbin Hot Springs, California in the early 1980s, combines elements of muscle stretching, joint mobilization, massage, Shiatsu, and dance, performed in chest-deep warm water (around 35°C = 95°F). The receiver is continuously supported by a practitioner or therapist while being backfloated, rhythmically cradled, moved, stretched, and massaged.
Watsu is performed in one-on-one pool sessions in chest-deep warm water. During a session, a provider (practitioner or therapist) gently cradles, moves, stretches, and massages a receiver (client or patient). A typical session consists of a progression of breath coordination, movement patterns in different positions, and massage. Movement patterns including gentle cradling and rocking, more dynamic stretching and mobilization, stillness, and specific mobilization techniques focused on the needs or condition of the receiver. A session may last anywhere from a few minutes to longer than an hour. During a session, the provider continually monitors the state of the receiver, mindful of subtle changes in muscle tension and respiration, and responsive to adapt the treatment accordingly.
During a Watsu session, the recipient’s heart and respiration rates decrease, depth of respiration increases, muscle tone decreases, and recipients report a deep state of relaxation. Robert Scaer suggested that deep relaxation of Watsu balances the autonomic nervous system (ANS), decreasing sympathetic response and increasing parasympathetic response, with far-reaching benefits. Compressive forces of hydrostatic pressure combine with deep relaxation to enhance functioning of the lymphatic system and reduce swelling in cases of edema. For orthopedic impairments, combined effects of relaxation, warm water, and gentle movement decreases muscle spasm, provides pain relief, improves soft tissue mobility, and increases range of motion. The rhythmic rocking motions combined with repeated trunk rotation and elongation relaxes muscles and improves mobility.
Many patients and clinicians report psychological benefits for stress reduction and resolving past traumas.
Orthopedic and neurologic rehabilitation
For physical rehabilitation, Watsu is used by aquatic therapists to improve function and increase quality of life. Watsu has been applied for treatment of patients with orthopedic and neurologic impairment, in particular for limitations in range of motion from soft tissue restrictions, muscle spasm (hypertonicity), and pain. By improving soft tissue mobility and decreasing spasm, patients can respond better to functional activities. For severe cases, short periods of Watsu can be alternated with short periods of functional activities
For psychological rehabilitation, Watsu has been used to improve psychological function by calming the nervous system, enhancing relaxation, increasing body awareness and decreasing general anxiety. Watsu is sometimes recommended as an adjunct therapy to help process trauma, in conjunction with a psychotherapist.
WaterDance: is a type of aquatic therapy which was developed in Switzerland independently of Watsu. While wearing nose clips, a person is gently guided underwater, pulled, swayed, and “flown” while being regularly brought to the surface for breath.
WaterDance (also known as Wasser Tanzen or WATA), developed by Arjana Brunschwiler and Aman Schroter in the 1980s, has been called “an underwater three-dimensional journey where time and space lose their meaning” WaterDance emphasizes gentle flowing movement underwater. After being stretched and relaxed at the surface, the receiver is given a noseclip, to prevent water from entering the nasal passages, and then gradually guided entirely underwater. Touch or movement signals are used to communicate when the receiver is to be submerged, and the therapist carefully times submersion to ensure the receiver has a full breath. Movement is coordinated with breath and incorporates elements of massage, Aikido, dolphin and snake-like waves, rolls, somersaults, inversions, and dance.