The following was taken from a feature about Hydro-Health and Watsu in the July 2006 issue of Staffordshire Life Magazine.
Text By: Jenny Amphlett. Pictures By: Malcolm Couzens.
Staffordshire Life Magazine July 2006:
"Watsu's a Watery Treat"
It may sound like an accompaniment to sushi or a tasty choice from your favourite Chinese restaurant, but watsu is actually a form of holistic aquatic bodywork which is growing in popularity and reputation in the UK. What's more, one of just four registered practitioners in the country is handily based in the heart of the Staffordshire countryside. Staffordshire Life features editor Jenny Amphlett went along to meet her, and to find out just what watsu is all about.
Relaxing is often much more difficult than it sounds. Kicking off your shoes, flopping into your favourite armchair and pouring a glass of your favourite tipple may work. But more often than not the problems of the day will soon come trickling back.
Some people swear by relaxation tapes, others have mastered self-hypnotism. Some enjoy pounding away their problems in a dance or exercise class, or having the physical manifestations of stress relieved through massage.
Above: The Private Pool in the Staffordshire Countryside in which Dawn carries out her sessions
I recently tried watsu, to discover how it compared with my tried and tested glass of red wine technique.
An aquatic form of zen shiatsu, watsu was invented in the United States in 1980.
It involves similar stretches and moves to shiatsu, but with greater freedom of movement and the therapeutic benefits of warm water.
My session was with Dawn Watts, one of just four registered watsu practitioners in the UK, who works from a private indoor swimming pool 15 minutes from the centre of Stafford.
Dawn has more than 20 years of experience, having trained as a swimming instructor and then branching into aquafit, ai-chi (an aquatic form of tai chi) and most recently watsu. "I've always been involved with water, right from my childhood," she said. "What I'm doing now has been a natural progression."
Above: Dawn Watts carries out a watsu treatment on fellow practitioner Hillary Austin
She worked as a swimmining instructor as a leisure centre and for the local education authority in Wolverhampton, but after being made redundant set up Hydro-Health; slowly evolving to incorporate different water-based techniques and therapies.
Becoming a registered watsu practitioner took Dawn five years to achieve, and involved training in Reading and also in Portugal and Italy.
She has built up a good relationship with local GPs and physiotherapists, with watsu being used to relieve tension before treatments or after treatments to keep muscles loose.
Above: Dawn gives one-to-one swimming lessons using the Alexander Technique, which can address reasons why an individual may have had difficulty learning to swim or why a swimmer's results may not reflect the effort applied.
Watsu is said to help relieve anxiety, pain, fatigue, muscle tension and headaches; working particularly well with those suffering from back complaints or even cerebral palsy. Alternatively it can simply be an effective alternative if you're looking for a little relaxation.
Stepping into the warm pool to standing depth, floats were attached to my legs to aid bouyancy. Dawn floated me onto my back, invited me to close my eyes and the session began. Every session is unique, tailored to the expectations, flexibility and physical fitness of the person being treated.
Some have described being moved and manipulated through the water as a flying sensation, and there is certainly an element of freedom.
There is something quite liberating about completely relaxing in water, knowing that someone else will ensure you stay afloat and you face is always above the water. At times I felt rather like a foetus, called up into a tight little ball with my eyes closed and the warm water lapping gently around me.
Yet at others my arms and legs were stretched out, and I could feel the tensions of the office drain out of mu shoulders.
Unlike a conventional massage there is not an ever-present solid surface beneath your torso, and unlike yoga or stretch class you can switch off and benefit passively.
I came away feeling relaxed and refreshed and slept extremely well both that night and the night after too.
In other words, it was more effective than a glass of red wine. I'd recommend it.
To contact Dawn for more information, call 07968 499893.