I love Watsu

By Paola Bassanese

What…su? Say that again?

Watsu is Water Shiatsu, a type of bodywork performed in a heated swimming pool.

If you are a massage junkie you have either heard about it before or, even better, you have experienced it. If not you are probably feeling quite perplexed, wondering what on earth I am talking about, as if I had just started speaking Japanese without subtitles.


Now, let me tell you a few things about Watsu (the history lesson comes later):

  • it’s the closest thing to an out of body experience you will ever have
  • it can give you a feeling of sheer bliss, lightness and freedom
  • it’s a form of rebirthing without trauma as you are enveloped in a warm water embrace

This is such an uplifting massage (and even the word massage does not do it justice because it is comparable to performance art) that Watsu can become dangerously addictive. Yet, because of lack of available swimming pools in London/UK that have the right temperature, cleanliness, depth and privacy, Watsu is not getting a fair chance of becoming dangerously addictive and that’s a shame.


When I searched for Watsu venues in London I could not find very much at all; one of the few places that offers Watsu is the Aman Spa at the Connaught Hotel: this spa has gained some impressive media coverage (see for example the review of their signature treatment on Hip & Healthy). I got the impression from their website that you have to request for a Watsu treatment especially as it is not featured in the spa treatment menu.

Going back to experiencing Watsu and its life-enhancing qualities: words can only do so much to describe how wonderful Watsu is. A visual artist, Tatiana Civet, has powerfully conveyed the deep emotional journey that both bodyworker and client have during a Watsu session in a beautiful video.

And now, for the history bit: Watsu originated in 1980 by what I can only describe as a genius brainwave from Harold Dull in California (the Watsu website explains the history of Watsu superbly so I recommend you have a look there). Watsu combines the Japanese massage technique of Shiatsu with floating in water which allows the client receiving the treatment to let go of tension while increasing muscle flexibility.

I had the privilege of attending two introductory Watsu workshops and I enjoyed both giving and receiving Watsu treatments in each class. As a therapist, I discovered that you can really benefit from the healing properties of being in water and having a close connection with another human being in a calm and safe environment.

Finally, the most important question is: I want to try Watsu, where can I do it? My recommendation, if you are planning to have regular Watsu treatments, is to find your nearest qualified Watsu practitioner from the Watsu Europe website. You can also combine a clubbing holiday to Ibiza with a bit of Watsu: check out Watsu Ibiza.
And if you have your private swimming pool… I can show you what I learned at class.

4 Replies to “I love Watsu”

  1. Thank you so much Judy! I wish you were based in London… If I ever do a day trip to Brighton I’ll give you a call!

  2. Poala, I just read your post – I love Watsu too and I am a Watsu practitioner – i work from a warm pool in Brighton – just an hour from London by train. Here is my web site in case you are interested:
    Best wishes judy x

  3. I have a swimming pool and I have wanted to try Watsu for a long time. Would you come to the U.S.? You would have a free place to stay! 🙂

    Last November I was at a workshop at Gray Bear Lodge up in Hohenwald, TN and they have a dedicated Watsu pool. For reasons I won’t go into, I managed not to be able to get a Watsu massage.

    Any idea how I could find a Watsu practitioner closer to my home? Does the U.S. have a registry?

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