the spa people

Watsu – a most relaxing massage experience

I recently had the pleasure of experiencing my first WATSU experience. It was totally relaxing, and once my brain switched on again, I briefly interviewed Andrea Varnava, my Watsu practitioner

1) What is Watsu and where does it originate from?
Watsu describes the method of water shiatsu developed by Harold Dull in the early 1980’s in USA. Watsu is a modality that combines the healing properties of warm water with soft and deep tissue massage and passive stretching techniques based on Zen shiatsu principles.

2) Where did you study Watsu and how long was the course?
I studied Watsu over a part time course of 3 years with international and local trainers. Currently there is a comprehensive 2 years aquatic bodywork course available in South Africa accredited by the Hydrotherapy Association of South Africa.

3) Do you need to be a qualified therapist to study and perform Watsu?
It would be to your benefit if you are qualified as a practitioner in Shiatsu or another form of bodywork although it not a necessity. You need a minimum of Grade 12 and certification in Anatomy and Physiology.

4) How is Watsu different from other conventional forms of massage?
Watsu can affect every level of our being. Warm water provides an ideal environment for the whole body to be stretched and manipulated in flowing movements. Multidimensional stretching has been found to release blockages in our meridians, the channels through which our “chi’, or life force flows. The release of energy and tension in the tissues can allow for emotions and trauma to surface and be released. Watsu frees the spine and stretches new life into neglected tissue and muscles in a way that cannot be achieved on land.
5) What are the benefits of Watsu?
A Watsu session can reduce muscular tension, increase flexibility and range of motion, extend the vertebral column, improve circulation, reduce depression and stress, calm the nervous system, address emotional and psychological traumas, alleviate spinal and muscular tension during pregnancy, and reduce acute and chronic pain.

6) Who should book a Watsu treatment?
The beauty of water is that it embraces any form that enters it and is suitable for anyone interested in trying something different. Watsu can be enjoyed as a physical, mental and emotional stress release treatment as it imparts a deep state of relaxation on the recipient. Watsu can assist in the healing process post surgery or injury. For sports men and women it addresses muscle recovery and for mom’s to be it is a wonderful treatment to incorporate into antenatal care as the environment mimics the womb world of her growing baby. Clients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis and multiple sclerosis have found that Watsu reduces their symptoms and assists to manage chronic pain.

7) Who should NOT book a Watsu treatment? What are the contra indications?
Clients who severely suffer from motion sickness will not be able to tolerate a Watsu session. Clients very sensitive to pool chemicals may experience side effects from the chemicals. Significant open wounds, urinary tract infection, high fever, excessively high or low blood pressure and contagious infection are also contra indication for a Watsu treatment.

8) How long is a typical session?
A Watsu session is an hour long. It is a one on one session with the client floating on the surface of the water. The clients face is kept above the surface of the water throughout the session unless the client chooses a waterdance underwater session. Waterdance is another form of aquatic bodywork.

9) How often should one book a Watsu treatment?
If Watsu is being integrated as part of a multidisciplinary approach to rehabilitation once a week would be recommended. Most other clients will have a Watsu session once a month or as and when the need arises.
10) Does one need to be able to swim before they can book a Watsu treatment?
No, clients do not need to be able to swim to enjoy a Watsu treatment. The buoyancy of the water and the Watsu practitioner will keep them safely on the surface of the water during the treatment.

11) How much does a session cost?
A Watsu session will cost you R400.

12) Where can people come in order to experience a Watsu treatment from you?
I work from an indoor heated pool at the Green Genes Wellness Centre in Craighall Park. Please visit or email to make a booking.

Written by Sheila

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