Watsu is a very soothing type of massage that takes place in warm, waist-deep water. It was developed by Harold Dull back in 1980, when he started applying Zen Shiatsu stretches to students floating in the warm pool at Harbin Hot Springs in California. Its name comes from a combination of the words “water” and “shiatsu.”
What Happens During a Watsu Treatment?
A spa has to have a special Watsu pool heated to the exact same temperature as your body. It should be private and quiet, like any other treatment room. Some spas have outdoors Watsu pools surrounded by walls, with cloth panels overhead to create a combination of sunlight and shade.
You and the massage therapist both wear bathing suits. You enter the water and while you sit on a step, he/she puts floats around your ankles. This helps your buoyancy. During Watsu the therapist literally cradles your body, with one arm supporting your knees, the other your back. One of your arms is wrapped around the therapist’s back, the other floats free.
The therapist then twirls you through in the water, first one way then another, taking your body through a series of passive stretches and twists. Being held in the warm water is deeply relaxing.
The Benefits of Watsu
Watsu’s gentle stretches have a therapeutic effect on the body. The buoyancy and support of the water allow the spinal column to be moved in ways that aren't possible on land. Many people also find it works on an emotional level as well, promoting trust and connection.
Some people find that the first session is all about learning to trust the fact that someone is there to support you. Others are trying to overcome a fear of water. (If this is you, be sure to tell your therapist.) Others are able to fully relax and find it deeply soothing from the very first session.
Where Can I Get Watsu?
Because of the special pool, it’s still a relatively unusual service. It is easiest to find in California and at resort spas. Here’s a list of major places to get a Watsu treatment.
Watsu in California: Spas in California that offer Watsu include Miramonte Resort Spa in Palm Springs; Two Bunch Palms Resort & Spa in Desert Hot Springs; Sea Spa at Loews Coronado Bay Resort and Spa in Coronado; and Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa and Raindance Spa at The Lodge at Sonoma, both in Sonoma.
Watsu in Arizona:Spas in Arizona that offer Watsu include Canyon Ranch Tucson, Mii Amo at Enchantment Resort in Sedona; Golden Door Spa at The Boulders Resort in Carefree; The Sanctuary Spa at Camelback Mountain and Alvadora Spa at Royal Palms Resort and Spa, both in Phoenix.
Watsu in New Mexico:: In New Mexico, you can get Watsu at SháNah Spa and Wellness Center at Bishops Lodge Resort & Spa in Santa Fe.
Watsu in Florida: Spas in Florida that offer Watsu is Marco Island Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa on Marco Island, Florida
Watsu in Las Vegas: Spas in Las Vegas that offer Watsu include Aquae Sulis Spa at JW Marriott Las Vegas; Canyon Ranch SpaClub at The Venetian Hotel; and Spa Bellagio at The Bellagio.
Watsu in Scotland: One Spa and Health Club at the Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa in Edinburgh, Scotland, offers Watsu.