Watsu Massage Therapy

Among the most misunderstood conditions by most people is that of massage therapy. It is a shame because it would seem that a simple technique like the massage offered by a masseuse would be very easy to learn. Folks assume then that anyone should be able to understand how to give a great massage to another human being. However, learning how to give or receive a massage isn’t too easy and there are various skills required to be successful in this area.

Watsu is probably the first non-traditional water bodywork style in the western world. It is 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 friends and family just like massage with warm water and total unconditional love and support of the individual.

Like many things, watsu is only going to work if it is received regularly. There is a great deal of difference between regular massage therapy and receiving a traditional Japanese aqua bodywork. There are three major elements involved with receiving 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 tissues and muscles that are being worked on. Therefore, if the entire body is not being treated, then it is ineffective. When I give a massage to clients, I make sure that I start with the major portion of the body – the neck and back. I then proceed to work my way to 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 every area of the client’s body at a time.

The reason that I emphasize the entire body is as there are differences between traditional Japanese water and massage. Watsu is much more concerned with stimulating the superficial muscles and soft tissues of the neck and back area while traditional Japanese treatments work deeply into the muscle layers to treat the state of a patient’s whole body. This is the reason you can hardly find a therapist practicing this form of therapy in the West today.

Another large difference between watsu and aqua therapy is that water uses both physical and mental methods. Aquatic bodywork on the other hand uses warm water massage combined with stretching and friction massage. Although there’s often some quantity of hand pressure during a water therapy session, it is normally 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 techniques, aquatic bodywork often incorporates the use of various massage strokes and techniques. These include: Shiatsu (a finger-pressure type therapy), Usui (an open palm stroke), Hanga (a palm to palm stroke), Hapy (a slow and circular motion ), and Paneer (a thrusting motion). It is typical for therapists to combine these techniques with other kinds of treatment like foam and touch massage, Swedish massage or other kinds of deep tissue massage.

Although I feel that water is far superior to regular massage in regards to providing therapeutic benefits to a patient, many patients do not like the idea of having 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 concept of having their entire body massaged while they are seated, I also think that most people would prefer the solitude of receiving a normal massage rather than have their entire bodywork, particularly if the massage session takes longer than anticipated. For this reason, most cats therapists will advise their patients to get a massage therapist who is willing to offer a warm compress to employ during a treatment session. My experience with watsu within the last several years has been that warm compresses give the most relief and recovery to my clients.

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