Watsu was invented by Harold Dull in California in the 1980s, who started applying Shiatsu techniques to patients immersed in thermal water pools, with water temperature at around 35°. The name Watsu is in fact a mix of the words Water and Shiatsu.
This is an ever growing and popular method requested in many thermal centres as well as wellness centres, which has consequently led to an increase in specialised schools where certified operators are trained. During the Watsu treatment, the patient floats in body-warmth thermal water about 110/120cm deep and is kept afloat by the operator. The operator holds the patient's head in one hand and his lumbar area in the other and through stretching, torsion and finger pressure can recalibrate the body structure and spinal column. The patient's ears are submersed in the water while the face is always above the water level, there are no immersion or apneas.
This sort of water dance isn't only a technique for stretching and physical manipulation but also an experience that allows the patient to reach a deep state of relaxation. The soft water touch awakens every part of the body, sending the brain all the special stimulation the body is receiving, expanding consciousness and sensibility. This is a practice that is suitable for people of any age group, pregnant women, children and the elderly, even with limited motor skills. Since knowing how to swim isn't mandatory, Watsu can help gain trust of one's body in the water. Watsu is currently waiting for recognition from the EU to certify its operators as somatherapists or counsellors.
We spoke to Stefania Malcuori, who has been practising Shiatsu and water treatments in Tuscany for the past twenty years about Watsu. "Warm water can recall the uterine environment, the prenatal quiet, therefore the body has the tendency to relax more and to releases tension, like returning to the womb. The weightlessness and relax allow the person to limit excessive posture control and to not create tension in the body, therefore the body is more relaxed and can respond in a better way to stimulus. The manoeuvres are a little different to Shiatsu because the body reacts in a different way when immersed in water. The Watsu operator is facilitated because of the patient's weightlessness, pressures are exercised upwards, the weight of the body acting pressuring on the operator's hands. This is generally a more gentle approach than Shiatsu and can be a very intimate, cuddling experience, as often happens with pregnant women doing Watsu with their partners. In this case the basic principles remain unvaried, the techniques stays active on acupuncture meridians and pressure points recalibrating the body structure and spinal column".