Watsu (Water Shiatsu)

Watsu is a form of aquatic bodywork that combines elements of shiatsu, stretching, and massage, performed in warm water.


Watsu, short for Water Shiatsu, is a gentle form of body therapy performed in warm water, typically around 35°C (95°F). It combines the principles of Shiatsu, a Japanese form of acupressure massage, with the therapeutic benefits of warm water. During a Watsu session, the practitioner gently cradles, moves, and stretches the recipient's body in a series of flowing movements, promoting deep relaxation, increased flexibility, and a sense of well-being.

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Watsu was developed in the early 1980s by Harold Dull, a Shiatsu practitioner and massage therapist at Harbin Hot Springs in Northern California. Dull discovered that combining the principles of Shiatsu with the properties of warm water created a unique and profound healing experience. He began to refine and teach this technique, which he named Watsu, a combination of "water" and "Shiatsu." As Watsu gained popularity, Dull established the Worldwide Aquatic Bodywork Association (WABA) to promote and maintain the standards of Watsu practice and education.


  1. Deep Relaxation The warm water and gentle movements help to release muscle tension, calm the nervous system, and promote a state of deep relaxation.
  2. Pain Relief Watsu can alleviate chronic pain conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, and back pain by reducing pressure on joints and promoting circulation.
  3. Increased Flexibility The combination of warm water and gentle stretching helps to improve flexibility and range of motion in the muscles and joints.
  4. Improved Circulation The massage-like movements and hydrostatic pressure of the water enhance blood and lymphatic circulation throughout the body.
  5. Stress Reduction Watsu promotes a meditative state, helping to reduce stress, anxiety, and mental tension, leading to a greater sense of emotional well-being.
  6. Enhanced Mind-Body Connection The focused attention on breath and body sensations during Watsu fosters a deeper awareness of the mind-body connection.

How It Works

Watsu, short for Water Shiatsu, is a gentle form of bodywork performed in warm water. The practitioner supports the recipient's body, guiding them through a series of flowing movements, stretches, and gentle manipulations. The buoyancy of the water allows for a sense of weightlessness, enabling the practitioner to easily manipulate the recipient's body. The warm water promotes relaxation, reduces muscle tension, and improves circulation. The combination of physical support, gentle movements, and the calming effects of water creates a deeply relaxing and nurturing experience.


While Watsu is generally safe for most people, there are some considerations to keep in mind. Individuals with certain medical conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or respiratory issues, should consult their healthcare provider before trying Watsu. Pregnant women should also seek medical advice before participating in Watsu sessions. It is essential to inform the practitioner of any health concerns or physical limitations to ensure a safe and comfortable experience. Some people may experience discomfort or anxiety due to the close physical contact and the feeling of being in water, so open communication with the practitioner is crucial.

How Much It Costs

The cost of Watsu sessions can vary depending on the location, practitioner's experience, and session duration. On average, a single Watsu session can range from $70 to $150 or more. Some practitioners may offer packages or discounted rates for multiple sessions. It is best to check with local Watsu providers for specific pricing information.

Virtual & Online Options

Due to the nature of Watsu, which involves physical contact and the use of water, virtual or online options are not typically available. Watsu is an in-person experience that requires the presence of a trained practitioner and a suitable water environment, such as a warm pool or specialized Watsu pool. However, some practitioners may offer online consultations or pre-session discussions to address any concerns or questions clients may have before the actual Watsu session. To find a qualified Watsu practitioner near you, searching for "Watsu near me" or consulting local directories or holistic health centers is recommended.


To become a certified Watsu practitioner, individuals must complete a comprehensive training program approved by the Worldwide Aquatic Bodywork Association (WABA). The training typically involves a series of workshops and supervised practice sessions, covering topics such as water safety, body mechanics, and Watsu techniques. Practitioners may also pursue additional certifications in advanced Watsu techniques or related aquatic bodywork modalities. It is important to choose a practitioner who has completed the necessary training and holds a valid certification to ensure a safe and professional Watsu experience.

Complementary Practices

Watsu pairs well with other gentle, water-based therapies like Aquatic Bodywork, Ai Chi, and Jahara. It also complements land-based practices such as traditional Shiatsu, Thai massage, and gentle yoga. Incorporating breathwork, meditation, or mindfulness practices can enhance the relaxation and stress-reduction benefits of Watsu.

Practitioner Types

Watsu is typically offered by certified Watsu practitioners who have completed specialized training programs. These practitioners may come from various backgrounds, such as massage therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, or aquatic therapy. Some spas, wellness centers, and rehabilitation facilities may have Watsu practitioners on staff.

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  • Q: What are the benefits of Watsu?

    • A: Watsu offers numerous benefits, including deep relaxation, reduced stress and anxiety, improved sleep, increased flexibility and range of motion, pain relief, and enhanced mind-body connection. The gentle, supportive nature of the water can also provide a sense of emotional comfort and nurturing.
  • Q: Is Watsu safe for everyone?

    • A: While Watsu is generally safe and suitable for most people, there are some contraindications. These include open wounds, infectious skin conditions, fever, incontinence, severe osteoporosis, and certain cardiovascular conditions. It's essential to consult with a qualified Watsu practitioner and inform them of any health concerns before starting a session.
  • Q: What should I expect during a Watsu session?

    • A: During a Watsu session, you'll be floating in warm, waist-deep water, typically around 35°C (95°F). The practitioner will support your body and guide you through a series of gentle movements, stretches, and rotations. You'll be encouraged to relax, breathe deeply, and let go of any tensions. Sessions usually last around 60 minutes.
  • Q: What should I wear for a Watsu session?

    • A: Most people wear a swimsuit for Watsu sessions. The clothing should be comfortable, allowing for ease of movement in the water. Avoid wearing jewelry or anything that could snag or cause discomfort. The practitioner may also provide additional support, such as a flotation device or padding, for your comfort.
  • Q: How often should I receive Watsu treatments?

    • A: The frequency of Watsu treatments depends on your individual needs and goals. Some people benefit from weekly or bi-weekly sessions, while others may find that monthly or occasional sessions are sufficient. Your Watsu practitioner can help you determine a schedule that works best for you based on your specific condition and desired outcomes.


Watsu, or Water Shiatsu, is a unique and deeply relaxing form of aquatic bodywork that combines the therapeutic benefits of warm water, gentle movement, and shiatsu-inspired techniques. By fostering a sense of deep relaxation, emotional comfort, and mind-body connection, Watsu can help alleviate stress, reduce pain, and improve overall well-being. Whether you're seeking relief from chronic conditions or simply looking to unwind and recharge, Watsu offers a nurturing and restorative experience. With its gentle approach and adaptability to individual needs, Watsu is an accessible and valuable addition to any self-care or wellness routine.