Watsu is most likely the first non-traditional water bodywork style in the western world. It’s used now by practitioners of chiropractic and other forms of Complementary and Alternative Medicine as a way of treatment for muscle and nervous system disorders, stress and injury. It can also be used by family and friends exactly like massage with warm water and total unconditional love and support of the individual.
Like many things, watsu will only work if it is received regularly. There’s a good deal of difference between regular massage therapy and receiving a traditional Japanese aqua bodywork. There are three important elements involved in getting a massage treatment: the massage itself, the atmosphere and the receiver. If any one of those elements is missing, then the outcome will be very poor.
Watsu can only work on the muscles and tissues that are being worked on. Consequently, if the whole body isn’t being treated, then it is ineffective. When I give a massage to clients, I make sure that I start with the significant part of the body – the neck and back. I then proceed to work my way into the feet and then the lower limbs and then towards the upper body. I then repeat the process with the warm water flowing gently in my hands as I massage each area of the client’s body one at a time.
The reason that I emphasize the entire body is as there are differences between traditional Japanese water and massage. Watsu is more concerned with stimulating the superficial muscles and soft tissues of the neck and back area while traditional Japanese therapies work deeply into the muscle layers to treat the state of a patient’s whole body. This is why you can hardly find a therapist practicing this kind of therapy in the West today.
Another big difference between watsu and aqua therapy is that water uses both physical and psychological procedures. Aquatic bodywork on the other hand uses warm water massage combined with friction and stretching massage. Although there’s often some amount of hand pressure during a water treatment session, it’s typically applied by means of both hands and the fingers only. With aqua therapy, on the other hand, the therapist just applies physical pressure through the use of their hands.
Besides using various hand pressure methods, aquatic bodywork often incorporates the use of various massage strokes and techniques. These include: Shiatsu (a finger-pressure type treatment ), Usui (an open palm stroke), Hanga (a palm to palm stroke), Hapy (a slow and circular motion ), and Paneer (a thrusting motion). It is common for therapists to combine these techniques with different types of treatment like touch and foam massage, Swedish massage or other kinds of deep tissue massage.
Although I think water is far superior to regular massage when it comes to providing therapeutic advantages to a patient, many patients do not like the concept of needing to’bear’ the pain. To this day, I have yet to meet a normal massage client who enjoys having to endure a rigorous session of shiatsu. In addition to the fact that most people are not comfortable with the idea of having their whole body massaged while they are seated, I also feel that most people would prefer the solitude of receiving a regular massage rather than have their entire bodywork, particularly if the massage therapy takes longer than expected. For discuss this reason, most cats therapists will advise their patients to find a massage therapist who is willing to offer you a warm compress to apply during a treatment session. My experience with watsu within the past several years has been that warm compresses provide the most relief and healing to my customers.