Watsu is a relatively new (1980) form of bodywork that has been available in the Austin area since 1994. Watsu combines working with Shiatsu pressure points in the medium of a warm (93-98 degrees) water pool. This practitioner also utilizes the ancient healing energy of Reiki during a Watsu session to help bring about a profound state of relaxation. In states of deep relaxation, the body, mind and spirit are empowered to heal in extraordinary ways.

“ I felt “rocked & held by the Universe!” Caroline S.
“ I think this might be the “ wonder drug” I’ve been looking for.” Dierdre S.

It started in 1993 on a hot August day in Austin. A friend and I decided to escape the Texas heat with a driving tour of hot springs through New Mexico, Colorado, and California. We found the first one in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico in humble settings.The one we chose is Marshall Apartments and Baths. There are many hot springs in New Mexico, but we didn’t want to zigzag all over the state. Ojo Caliente Resort, Spence Hot Springs, Jemez Springs Bath House and a private one near Jemez made up the rest of the New Mexico segment. Pagosa Springs is just north of the New Mexico border and watching the sunset from the pools downtown is a great experience. Ouray Hot Springs , Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge , Valley View Hot Springs, and Trimble Hot Springs were our stopovers in Colorado and, as in New Mexico, there are many more to choose from. After that we went to Harbin Hot Springs in California since it was highly recommended. I had no idea that I was about to see something that would affect me so profoundly and change the direction of my life.

Harbin Hot Springs is a two and a half hours from San Francisco near Middletown with rolling hills and oak trees comparable to the Texas Hill Country in many ways. Harbin is beautifully groomed with gardens, waterfalls, restored buildings and the main attraction; the hot spring pools. After checking into a nice room, I went to the main pool, ready to ease my body and soul into the healing warm waters. As I was getting in, I was momentarily distracted by pairs of people involved in doing something unusual in the pool. After settling in I began watching and was spellbound by the expressions on the people’s faces while they were being worked on. They were all obviously transported to a state of blissful relaxation that for all I knew could be reached usually and only by religious ecstasy or deep meditation. I went in search of more information on what I had just seen. A friendly resident informed me that what I had seen was Watsu and guided me to the gift shop where I purchased a book and a video. Over the winter of 1993-94, I watched the video, read the book and realized that becoming part of this process of deep relaxation was important to me. I enrolled at Harbin School of Shiatsu and Massage for being certified as a Watsu Practitioner for the following Spring.

On the development of Watsu, here are the originator, Harold Dull’s words,” In 1980 I began applying some of the stretches and moves of Zen Shiatsu while floating people in the warm pool here at Harbin. Over the subsequent years, with the help of students in countless classes here and in Europe, I gradually developed the Watsu featured in this book.” ( Watsu, Freeing the Body in the Water) The training at Harbin is designed to open the mind, the heart, the body and the soul to the joys of total relaxation and oneness with water as the medium. Much of the class is held in the warm (97 degrees) pools where the instructors demonstrate moves, stretches and positions on willing class members. We then immediately practiced what we learned on each other during class and in the evenings after dinner. There are also classes out of the water on anatomy and ethics that we attended. The total of learning this process while experiencing it was exhilarating and joyful. The relaxation achieved in the magical medium of water went deeper as we continued the training. I feel very fortunate in having Harold Dull as one of my instructors. My other instructors, Minakshi and Alexander Georgeakopoulos (co-creators of Watsu with Harold) are both engaging and inspiring. In the autumn of 1994, I purchased a specially designed Watsu pool and the necessary equipment for heating, filtering and pumping the water. I found a healthier sanitizing product than chlorine which utilizes hydrogen peroxide instead. I then began educating Austinites who were mostly and understandably ignorant about Watsu ( whatsu?). An article about my practice was published in the, “Alternative Health Newsletter” and I put up flyers around town and waited for clients to pour into the pool. They trickled in instead and they were daring souls to try this practically unheard of therapy. As time goes by, I find myself continually exploring the moves and positions as taught to me and finding new ways to use them with my clients.

Watsu is becoming more available in the Austin area as more practitioners are now here. Cindi Anderson, an instructor at the Lauterstein – Conway Massage School is a licensed Watsu practitioner and Kandis Hill is also licensed and practices in Round Rock at a physical therapy center. Susan Christian lives in the Austin area and is a licensed Watsu therapist. Judy Kegg, a massage therapist, has one more class to complete before being licensed. The Crossings, a learning retreat center being developed here by the Omega Institute, will have a specially designed warm water pool and will be offering Watsu, among many other wholistic practices, to their clients starting sometime in 2003. I have volunteered to help (and been accepted) with the design of the pool. The Crossings will have the opportunity to help finally show Austin the value of Watsu as the healing and relaxing modality that it is.

Copyright, Thomas Thacker


Author's Bio: 

About the Author

Tom Thacker has had a Watsu warm water therapy practice since 1994 here in Austin,Texas. He calls his business Watsunami. Tom has a Watsu studio at his home in south central Austin. He combines the ancient flow of Reiki energy with the flow of Watsu for a unique way to relax. He is committed to enabling his clients to reach deep states of relaxation so the client's inner self is free to find his/her solutions for freeing their body, mind and spirit to promote both inner and outer growth. Tom also plants trees and has a beautiful son who can be seen at www.watsunami.com (elliotsmile) in the Watsu pool. email Watsunami@hotmail.com