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How the Other Half Live: Watsu

July 2nd 2013 / Christa D'Souza

How the Other Half Live: Watsu


Will massage-phobe Christa D'Souza be converted by Watsu, the aqua version of Thai yoga massage? Just for you, she finds out...

One of the reasons I love a good Thai yoga massage is that you do not have to take your clothes off. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a prude or anything, but sometimes it’s such a palava with them waiting outside, worrying about whether or not to keep your knickers on, remembering to retrieve one’s necklace from the pocket of the provided bathrobe and so on. ‘Wear loose clothing’. Music to my ears.

This is why I have thus far resisted Watsu. Watsu, meaning water shiatsu, and otherwise known as Tansuyoga takes place in a swimming pool which means that to experience it you have to be in your bathing suit. Ugh, the idea of putting on one’s bathing suit and getting into an indoor body of water... that’s almost worse than taking one’s clothes off, though I don’t know why…

But for you, dear reader, anything: and so I find myself at the Six Senses Spa at The Kempinski Hotel in Barbaros Bay, Bodrum, booked in for a session of this thing they call Watsu. Honestly, what I have to endure in the name of work….

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Watsu was first practised in the West in 1980 by one Harold Dull and involves being stretched, gently kneaded and floated in waist-high water, an aqua version of Thai yoga massage, but less hardcore, if you like. Supposed to mimic the way you felt while in your mother’s womb, it has been credited with easing the symptoms of a number of conditions including back pain, arthritis, stress and depression. If you have issues with intimacy or a phobia about drowning, though, it could be a problem as the point is to let yourself go while being held in a complete stranger’s arms. (It can be done dry, too, in which case it’s called Tantsuyoga).

Armed with a thousand reservations and longing to be outside in the hot midday sun (mad dogs and English women etc), I meet my therapist, a nice girl called Deniz (which means water in Turkish, amazingly). We both change into our black one pieces and make our way to the spa’s mosaiced incense-lit Watsu Pool. I’m glad Deniz is a girl. I’m glad I’m not in a bikini. And I’m glad we are the only ones allowed in here.

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After Deniz attaches weights to my legs, so I’m in the water as opposed to floating on top of it, and invites me to shut my eyes, we begin. Oh Lord this is touchy feely, and I’m stiff as board, when we start. I’ve also got half an eye open to make sure, as she sweeps me like a rag doll around the pool she doesn’t clunk my head against the sides. Good God I’m glad Deniz is a girl. And good God I’m glad we are the only ones allowed in here. (I have a friend who once had Watsu from a male therapist and got complaints afterwards from the spa’s management because guests said it looked like they were having it off).

There is a point though, I don’t know when, where it is impossible not to surrender to the weightlessness of it all. It really is the most extraordinary feeling, being twisted and turned and floated in body temperature water. So safe, so tender, so loving, one could almost have a little weep. No wonder they use this as therapy for kids suffering from autism. No wonder it’s so traumatic being born.

All too soon, it comes to an end (apparently it’s not good for you to stay in this ecstatic state for more than 50mins). I resist the urge to give Deniz a big sloppy grateful hug. Might this work every week in lieu of seeing one’s shrink? I can’t see why not.

Christa saw Deniz Susever at Six Senses Spa at The Kempinski at Barbaros Bay, Bodrum.

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