Watsu Therapy: What Is Watsu? What Are The Benefits Of Watsu?

Published on: 2018/05/11

Kathryne E. “KEO” Opton, Watsu Practioner and Provider for National Certification Board For Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork 


Watsu stands for Water Shiatsu. It is a registered trademark and was developed in the early 1970s. Watsu is defined as: “A form of passive aquatic therapy modeled after the principles of Zen Shiatsu  (massage). In Watsu, the emphasis is placed on stretching the meridians corresponding to the points used in acupuncture, releasing blocked energy. Multidimensional stretching facilitates the surfacing of energy.

Interest Category

Watsu, shiatsu, aquatic bodywork

Do you want to read the full article?


What is watsu?

It is a form of aquatic bodywork or gentle massage therapy performed in chest deep water. It is a combination of massage, shiatsu, joint movement, dance, and muscle stretching. The water used for this therapy is warm at around 35 degrees C.

Shiatsu and watsu

Founded in the 1980s by Harold Dull, a Shiatsu teacher, Watsu is said to provide many therapeutic and healing benefits. Shiatsu is a Japanese therapy based on acupuncture principles. In this, using hands pressure is applied to certain points of the body. The word water and shiatsu are combined to form “Watsu”.

This therapy is performed by certified professionals from the Worldwide Aquatic Bodywork Association. The practitioners are certified on different levels based on their expertise.

The therapy sessions depend on the requirement of each individual. Each session of this therapy is unique and lasts as long as the practitioner decides. Before beginning the sessions for an individual, the practitioner evaluates the person with respect to the medical condition both physical and psychological.

Before the session, the practitioner prepares the individual regarding this therapy and helps him understand how the treatment would be. Typically every therapy session has a series of stretching and twisting moves.

Watsu and nervous system:

The neuromuscular system gets profoundly benefited through watsu. This therapy works on improving the parasympathetic muscular system and subdues the sympathetic nervous system. Parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) and sympathetic nervous system are divisions of the autonomic nervous system of the body. Our body’s unconscious actions are regulated by autonomic nervous systems.

The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the activities that are performed by the body when it is at rest. For example, these activities include eating, urination, salivation, sexual arousal, etc. The sympathetic nervous system complements with PSNS. The flight or fight response is triggered by SNS.

Benefits of watsu:

This therapy is practiced globally in health spas and also by aquatic physiotherapists. The practitioner balances the patient in one hand and uses the other to provide stretching movements to the muscle.

The therapy aids in:

  1. Recovery from injury – post-surgery or injury like spine injury, stroke or injuries related to trauma
  2. Recovery from muscular and joint pain – those with movement restrictions or arthritis
  3. Improves flexibility
  4. Relieves stress – by providing deep relaxation

As this therapy provides deep relaxation, it has benefits for people with many ailments. It helps people with:

  1. Parkinson’s disease
  2. Brain injury
  3. Spine injury
  4. Arthritis
  5. Stroke
  6. Fibromyalgia
  7. Chronic stress
  8. Physical disability
  9. Spondylitis
  10. Sleep disorders

This therapy is not suitable for people with uncontrolled diabetes, excessively high or low blood pressure, epilepsy, perforated eardrums, cerebral hemorrhage, contagious disease, fever, etc. For people with special needs, it is advisable to consult a physician before starting watsu sessions.

Read more about Watsu by Kathryne E, KEO Opton – a Watsu Practioner and a physical trainer, explains how watsu helped her.