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Types of Water Massage and Aquatic Bodywork

Water massage, also called aquatic bodywork, takes the techniques of massage and adds the benefits of floating in warm water.


In 1980, Harold Dull, a Zen Shiatsu practitioner, started working in water with shiatsu techniques. He found the relaxing effects of warm water increased the effects of the acupressure and meridian stretching techniques of Zen Shiatsu. The water takes the weight off the vertebrae of the spine, letting the spine move in ways not possible on land. He called his water shiatsu technique Watsu.

In a Watsu session, you float in the water with your nose and mouth remaining above water, while the massage practitioner massages, rocks and rhythmically moves, and stretches your body.

Watsu Demo Video

Other Types Of Water Massage

Waterdance was developed in 1987 by Arjana Brunschwiler and Peter Schröter. This technique starts like Watsu, with you floating on the surface of the water. Waterdance then gently and gradually leads you underwater for stretches and snake-like and dolphin-like movements to deeply relax you.

Healing Dance founder Alexander George studied Watsu with Harold Dull in 1990. As a professional ballet dancer and Trager practitioner, George began using these skills to develop a flowing and dancing branch of Watsu. He further refined his Healing Dance after studying Waterdance with Arjana Brunschwiler in 1993.

Dolphin Dance, developed by Lilia Cangemi, a registered Watsu and Healing Dance therapist and instructor, uses practices and principles from Shiatsu, Swedish and Deep Tissue, Trager, Reiki, and more.

Aquassage combines gentle rocking, acupressure, and stretching designed for people with mobility issues that prevent vigorous movement and deep stretching. For support, floats are placed under your knees and neck. This technique was developed by Maria Gerondoudis in South Africa.

Jahara Technique has more of a therapeutic focus. Developed by Mario Jahara of Brazil to treat clinical conditions, the Jahara Technique uses a flexible floatation device called the Third Arm to help make micro-adjustments to the body's structural alignment.

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Photo Credit: CoreyPud CC