Those looking to relieve stress and pain might test the water with Watsu, a form of water therapy.
In a heated therapy pool, Watsu incorporates the systematic pressure and gentle stretches of Zen shiatsu to balance energy, reduce stress and pain and encourage relaxation.
Massage therapist Diane Novak, certified in shiatsu and Watsu, practices Watsu in one-on-one 60-minute sessions in the therapy pool at the Galter LifeCenter, part of Swedish Covenant Health. In each session, Novak cradles the head of the person receiving Watsu in the crook of her arm, while her other arm supports the person’s spine. Floatation devices near the knees prevent legs from sinking. The chest-deep water is at a comfortable 95 degrees.
“We begin with slow breathing so the client can drop down into a deep state of relaxation,” Novak says.
She then gently stretches the person’s joints and slowly moves their body in a variety of ways.
“We can get more mobility in the water,” Novak says. “The movements relax the whole nervous system, so people can get out of their stress cycle and into a more restoring cycle that helps them sleep better, digest their food better and strengthen their immune system.”
People with chronic pain, such as arthritis and fibromyalgia, those recovering from a stroke or surgery and those with special needs, among others, may benefit from Watsu, she says.
This complementary therapy can also have a valuable psychological effect, Novak says. “People might also be able to process whatever feelings may come up, because water is the element of emotions.”