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Watsu® and Ai Chi: The Heart of Working in Warm Water  
Watsu® and Ai Chi: The Heart of Working in Warm Water The Heart of Working in Warm Water by Ann Cole, Kathryn Knowles and Harriette Bashi

Water is a place where one can surrender and be supported. We are 10% of our weight when immersed to neck level, a virtually gravity free experience. With gravity decreased, the spine and joints are decompressed. In space, astronauts' suits allow for three inches of lengthening in the spine. Then add warmth.

Immersion in warm water facilitates the shift from the sympathetic " fight or flight" nervous system to the parasympathetic system providing the " relaxation response". This is why we need Tamarack pool. Without this specific temperature range, 92 – 96 degrees F, (considered thermo-neutral) we can’t provide passive or minimally active therapy. The person would readily become chilled and muscles contracted. How incredibly fortunate we are to have this warm pool, the only public pool of it’s kind in our area.

The basic healing principle is: The more one feels physical and emotional support and the comfort of the pool’s warmth, the more one can let go and relax. This is the beginning of trust, the antidote for pain and fear which constrict the lives of people with chronic pain.

By trusting the support of the water and the practitioner and letting go - more movement in the body is possible. The body begins to ebb and flow with the breath-- rising on the inhalation, sinking on the exhalation. Water is biofeedback for the breath. This rising and falling breath rhythm is the basic refrain of Watsu® and Ai Chi- it is what we refer to as the “Water Breath Dance.”

In water it is very easy to feel one’s breath and to tune into another's breathing pattern. The matching of the practitioner’s touch and movement in synch with the breathing pattern of their client creates a powerful healing connection. It leads to the client’s self- awareness and self-correction of breath and muscular holding patterns. Afterwards, through imagery and words, we encourage people to integrate and make conscious their experiences from Watsu® and Ai Chi - so they can remember the pleasurable, flowing, and supportive sensation on land.

The client and practitioner become partners in releasing tension and pain. Experiencing the body as a source of pleasurable sensation and movement is relearned.

Watsu® and Ai Chi bring trust, movement, and awareness through flowing warm water experiences. Pleasure replaces pain. Trust replaces fear. Awareness, pleasure and movement heal.