Watsu is probably the first non-traditional water bodywork style in the western world. It’s used now by practitioners of chiropractic and other forms of Complementary and Alternative Medicine as a means of treatment for muscle and nervous system disorders, stress and injury. It may also be used by family and friends exactly like massage with warm water and complete unconditional love and support of the individual.
Like most things, watsu will only work if it’s received regularly. There’s a good deal of difference between regular massage therapy and getting a traditional Japanese aqua bodywork. There are three important elements involved with receiving a massage treatment: the massage itself, the atmosphere and the receiver. If any one of these elements is missing, then the outcome will be very poor.
Watsu can only work on the muscles and tissues 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 I start with the significant part of their body – the back and neck. I then proceed to work my way to the toes and then the lower limbs and then finally 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 one at a time.
The reason that I emphasize the whole body is as there are differences between traditional Japanese massage and water. Watsu is more concerned with stimulating the superficial muscles and soft tissues of the back and neck area while traditional Japanese treatments work deeply into the muscle layers to take care of the condition of a patient’s body. This is the reason you can hardly find a therapist practicing this form of treatment in the West today.
Another large difference between watsu and aqua therapy is that water uses both physical and mental procedures. Aquatic bodywork on the other hand uses warm water massage combined with friction and stretching massage. Although there’s often some quantity of hand pressure in a water treatment session, it is typically applied by means of both hands and the fingers only. With aqua therapy, on the other hand, the therapist only 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 common for therapists to combine these techniques with other kinds of treatment like touch and foam massage, Swedish massage or other types of deep tissue massage.
Although I think water is far superior to regular massage when it comes to providing therapeutic benefits to a patient, many patients do not like the concept of having to’bear’ the pain. To this day, I’ve yet to meet a regular massage customer who loves having to endure a rigorous session of shiatsu. Along with the fact that most people are not comfortable with the concept of having their whole body massaged while they are seated, I also feel that most people would prefer the privacy of receiving a normal massage rather than have their whole bodywork, particularly if the massage therapy takes longer than anticipated. Because of this, most cats therapists will advise their patients to get a massage therapist who is willing to offer you a warm compress to apply during a treatment session. My experience with watsu over the past several years has been that hot compresses give the most relief and recovery to my customers.
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