This past week, doing Watsu on a regular basis has brought up a lot of thoughts on relaxation and water.
In table massage, touch is coming to you from the practitioner's hands, arms, the table itself, the sheets. Most of that sensation is static, though, helping you to focus on the area that the practitioner is working on. Each new area that is being massaged is put into the limelight and your awareness enables you to let go of tension. As the therapist moves from area to area, your awareness shifts.
In water massage, touch comes from the practitioner's hands, arms, legs, belly, sometimes even feet, the sides of the tub, and the water surrounding you. The water enveloping you is never static, even when you are held still in the practitioner's arms, you can feel the smooth swirling of the water going past you. Your awareness is scattered. For the first few moments, it decreases your ability to relax. You have more and much subtler cues to relax than you normally receive during a land massage. Once you process the information, you notice you are supported just as much as if you were on a table. The support moves and undulates, but is constant, none the less.
Most people need a little coaching to let their limbs be heavy and float like kelp. Our instincts tell us that we have to use our muscles to support ourselves. Stiff legs and tilting the chin to the chest are natural inclinations when laying on our back in the water, however, these actions cause our hips to sink. Letting you head fall back, resting in your practitioner's hands or arms, allows your torso and hips to be more buoyant. Letting your hips and knees be soft and bendable makes moving and stretching you easier and makes less work for your practitioner.
Watsu is unique in that it affords us to float in a gentle medium that fosters relaxation. This should be taken advantage of in every way. And it's such a lovely image to pretend you are kelp, swaying gently in the warm water.