What is Watsu Massage?

Combining Water and Massage for a True Mind/Body Water Therapy Experience

Aquatic Therapy Technique, Developed by Harold Dull in 1980

Watsu massage consists of moves and stretches done to the breath while being held and floated by a Watsu massage ® practitioner in body temperature water. Its use, like massage, for therapy and for stress and pain reduction make the Watsu ® the world's first form of Thermal Aquatic Bodywork.

In addition the meditative states and connection it induces make Watsu massage ® more than bodywork. There is one characteristic that makes Watsu massage ® stand out from massage and so many other forms of bodywork is that it gives you the opportunity to go beyond the physical.

When your body relaxes so deeply – as it can in the warm weightlessness of Watsu massage ® – the mind can cease its chatter. And when the body and mind are quiet, what you're left with is the fundamental essence of your being, making it a true mind/body experience.

  • Decrease in pain
  • Decrease in emotional pain
  • Brings locked feelings back into awareness
  • Helps overcome stored tension or trauma
  • Decreases anxiety
  • Promotes profound relaxation, peace and joy
  • Enhances the parasympathetic nervous system
  • Decreases reticular activating system RAS activity
  • Improves sleep patterns
  • Reduce soreness and fatigue
  • Improves digestion
  • Enhances immune system response
  • Improve healing, promote body and soul balance
  • Releases blockages along meridians
  • Opens chi (Qi) energy pathways
  • Increases body energy
  • Encourages detoxification
  • Simulating the endocrine system
  • Releasing hormones responsible for urine and metabolism
  • Increase range of motion
  • Strengthens muscles
  • Increases muscle relaxation
  • Decreases muscle spasm
  • Decreases spasticity (muscular hypertonicity)


Alcohol and smoking are prohibited during activities.

There are several precautions you need to consider before participating the thermal aquatic bodywork:

  • confusion or disorientation
  • after ingestion of alcoholic beverages
  • under the influence of narcotic
  • medications
  • respiratory problems
  • hypertension
  • medical condition affecting the spine
  • spinal disc herniation (slipped disc)
  • pregnancy
  • limited strength, endurance, balance, or range of motion


You can not participate if you suffer from any of the following conditions:

  • incontinence diarrhea, bowel/bladder incontinence
  • vomiting (emesis)
  • seizure (epilepsy) disorders
  • open wounds or non-healing ulcers
  • contagious skin condition
  • herpes
  • high fever
  • HIV
  • hepatitis C
  • infectious diseases
  • ear infection (otitis)
  • urinary infections
  • perforated eardrum
  • eye infection
  • heart disease (abnormal heart function), cardiac failure
  • blood pressure disorder (untreated)
  • pregnancy (after the 17th week, with your physician approval)
  • chemotherapy and radiation therapy (after the 3rd month)
  • allergies or sensitivities to pool chemicals
  • excessive fear of water
  • colostomy bag/catheter use by patient

Watsu Applications by Harold Dull

Basic Watsu by Harold Dull

Tandem Watsu by Harold Dull

Harold Dull

Harold Dull

Watsu massage ® began at Harbin Hot Springs, California, where Harold Dull came to teach the Zen Shiatsu he had studied in Japan.

Zen Shiatsu incorporates stretches which release blockages along our meridians, the channels through which our “chi” or life force flows. In the orient stretching is an even older therapy than acupuncture which focuses on points along these meridians. It strengthens muscles, and increases flexibility and range of motion.

Harold Dull found these effects can be amplified and made more profound by stretching someone while floating them in body temperature water.

Watsu ® effects a greater increase in the range of motion than traditional methods.

By supporting, rocking and moving the whole body while stretching a leg or arm, Watsu massage ® lessens the resistance that occurs when a limb is worked in isolation.

When the whole body is in continual movement, each move flowing gracefully into the next, there is no way to anticipate what's coming next and build up resistance.

Without pain, the body can move beyond those limitations fear would otherwise impose. New life is stretched into long neglected connective tissue and the restricted body is shown new possibilities of freedom.

Each person is different. What each person gets out of Watsu® is different.

  • Some speak of an increasing awareness of where tension is stored in their bodies, and how to better deal with it.
  • Others overcome a lifelong fear of water.
  • Some float all the way back into the womb.
  • Some re-experience their birth.
  • Many delight at being able to feel the energy coursing throughout their body.
  • And some experience a rising of energy, a moving up into a world of light.

Zen Shiatsu's principle of continuous support takes on a new dimension in water.

On land this is furthered through the use of the 'mother hand', the hand that stays in one place while the other hand works. In water, this kind of support, without which the receiver could go under, takes on a new meaning.

Once you realize the support is continual, and trust is established, a powerful bonding takes place, a bonding reminiscent of that between a mother and child, but one free of any emotional demands or dependency. It is just 'being' with the other.

This is the basic principle of Zen Shiatsu – that of Being not Doing.

Body temperature water is the ideal medium for freeing the body.

Let yourself be floated in a Watsu massage ® practitioner arms in water that gently lifts you each time you breath in, its warmth penetrating, melting the tension in your body.

Drift into deeper and deeper levels of relaxation as your body is stretched freer and freer.

Flow into states of consciousness to which stored tension or trauma otherwise deny access.

Flow onto a level of being where is such joy and peace and wholeness, the causes of that tension or trauma can no longer overwhelm you.

Important Links

More on Watsu Massage Therapy