What are the different water modalities?

“We carry in our bodies the whole history of evolution. When we go into our most primitive moments, the aquatic, we are on our most creative level.”

Harold Dull

Watsu began in the warm pool at Harbin when Harold Dull began floating his students of Zen Shiatsu, applying its stretches and moves. Zen Shiatsu, which Harold studied with its founder in Japan, emphasizes stretching as an older, more effective way to balance our chi energy than working with points. Warm water’s therapeutic benefits, and its freeing movement, make it an ideal medium for passive stretching. The support water provides takes weight off the vertebrae and allows the spine to be moved in ways impossible on land. Gentle, gradual twists and pulls relieve the pressure a ridged spine places on nerves and helps relieve any dysfunction this pressure causes to organs serviced by those nerves. In water, Watsuers can support and brace stretches with their own bodies. Beginning with, and periodically flowing back to positions close enough to facilitate these powerful stretches, a deep heart connection and a coordination of movement with a shared breath pattern distinguishes Watsu.

While most bodywork on land is based on touch, the holding that working in water necessitates brings the receiver to a new level of connection and trust. Being floated level with someone’s heart, rising and sinking to the same breath, can help heal deep wounds of separation. Tears often appear. Having trained to just “be” with someone, the Watsuer doesn’t question whether they are tears of sorrow or joy, or stop to process whatever emotions might be surfacing. The continuous flow of Watsu allows whatever comes up to be released, a valuable lesson to take out of the pool. Typically, by the end of the session, both giver and receiver recognize the connection they feel in Watsu as their connection to everything, their Oneness. Accessing that level, they are better prepared to deal with any disturbance, past or present.

A giver of Watsu can benefit as much as the receiver. Besides discovering new ways to connect, learning to adapt the flow to each person in their arms can increase their sensitivity to others. Those who continue on to explore Free Flow find themselves connecting from the most creative levels of their own being. Learning to hold appropriate boundaries and honoring the commitment implicit when people allow us to work as close as they do in Watsu are focused on throughout the training. The giver maintains a safe place in and out of the pool. Many find a week of Watsu to be one of the most transforming experiences of their lives, a transformation that continues as they go out to float others and connect with those in the worldwide water family. Concurrent with the development of Watsu as a modality for professionals, its simpler moves are being developed as a way to bring the benefits of giving and receiving to everyone. Besides being a form of bodywork, Watsu is becoming a powerful tool for improving communications and dynamics within groups and populations.

The Stages of Watsu Training

Each stage has an organic unity. Rather than being the first step towards something to be achieved later, an achievement is completed at each stage. The sequence or kind of sessions learned can be repeated over and over without losing its freshness or benefit for both giver and receiver. Each stage teaches presence, flow, form, adaption, and creativity which are learned continuously throughout life. Rather than just being a step, each becomes a platform that supports and sustains the next.
• Basic Watsu introduces the body mechanics and the heart/breath connection which grounds the presence with another person in the water
• Watsu 1 includes the basics and introduces Watsu’s timeless continuity through the beauty and grace of its flow from one position to the next
• Watsu 2 creates a complete Watsu form by introducing in each position the Transition Flow, additional moves, and point work
• Watsu 3 fills the Watsuer’s toolbox with powerful stretches, step work, rolls, and other ways to adapt each session
• Watsu 3 (Adaptive) is a clinical approach providing the tools to apply Watsu techniques to a special needs client

“My first Waterdance session took me beyond anything I had ever experienced before. The meditative state along with the therapeutic bodywork allowed my body and mind to relax and rejuvenate”


Waterdance, or “Wassertanzen”, (the original German name), is a form of aquatic bodywork developed by Arjana Brunschwiler and Aman Schroter in 1987.

Like Watsu, it begins with the client being cradled, stretched and relaxed above the water’s surface. But in Waterdance, the client is given nose clips, then gradually and gently taken entirely under the water.

Once freed from the bounds of head support and gravity, the client’s body can be moved, stretched, and worked into literally unlimited ways. Waterdance incorporates elements of massage, Aikido, dolphin and snake movements, rolls, somersaults, inversions, dance, and much more.

The effects of this work include physical release and can induce deep states of relaxation, meditation, bliss, and even visions.

More information about Waterdance:

“Healing Dance could be understood as silent music, consisting of rhythmic impulses of pressure, touch and movement played upon the body’s proprioceptors.”

Alexander George

Healing Dance is a synthesis of Watsu, Trager work, Waterdance, and pure movement. It combines the freedom, scope and 3-dimensionality of Waterdance with the safety and nurturing of Watsu.

The approach is based on the healing power of movement and how the body naturally moves in water. The movements are hydrodynamic and spacious, featuring over twenty different undulating wave movements that integrate the body and release blocked energies.

Quiet embraces, releases, tractions, smooth transitions and massage are all woven together in an unending flow. Life and movement re-enter the body.

More information about Healing Dance: