Healing in water

Receiver and giver of Watsu… Liesl Haasbroek and Alan Hughes. PICTURE: CAROLYN MCGIBBON

When local Healer Alan Hughes first experienced a float tank in the 90s, he thought to himself, imagine if I could give treatments in warm water… what kinds of healing could be enabled?

Meanwhile, in the United States, a healer named Harold Dull was experimenting with floating his friends in the warm natural springs of California.

Having studied Zen Shiatsu in Japan, he started experimenting with doing Shiatsu in the water.

Using a combination of calm, slow breathing with gentle cradling, stretching and massaging of his patients, he created this new aquatic body therapy.

He combined the words Water and Shiatsu to call it Watsu.

Now Alan, 56, has brought Watsu to the Boland and Helderberg, and his one-on-one sessions are yielding a range of positive results.

Although his general work is in IT, his passion is healing. He is constantly studying new healing modalities, and in 2020 he qualified as a Watsu practitioner.

“When I first received a Watsu session, it blew me away. It had the same energy as a baby being held by its mother – the feeling of being safe and held and able to let go,” he said.

He added: “I love water. The weightlessness of being in water. When the body feels safe, it can relax and let go, that’s when healing can happen’’.

I decided to try Watsu and it was one of the most profound events of my life. I’ve always battled with backpain (too much computer hunching), and I often had to visit chiropracters to click my spine back into shape.

I was looking for something gentler.

For my session, I was wearing a rash vest and leggings. Alan fastened “floaties” to each leg, and gently helped me into the water.

He reassured me, telling me what to expect and the invitation to tap the water with my hand if I felt uncomfortable.

The pool was chest deep and heated just shy of body temperature, around 32 degrees C. The turquoise water glistened invitingly and the white rafters of the pool house lent a comforting air.

My hair and ears and body were floating under the water; my eyes, nose and mouth were not submerged. I felt the therapist’s hand under my head. I felt supported.

It took me back to being a tiny baby, cradled, rocked and supported.

Research has found that Watsu can reduce pain and also lower anxiety levels. It can relieve lower back pain, muscle tension, sleep disorders, and stress, as well as injury rehabilitation.

However, if you suffer from sea sickness, the rocking motion may be unpleasant to you.

My breathing became slower and deeper. I was fully awake, yet fully relaxed. I loved the stillness of the water, the quite swoosh as Alan gently moved my body through the pool.

I felt connected – to the turquoise water, to Alan, to the white rafters above, the trees and sky, to life itself.

Afterwards, I felt less pain in my back and a greater sense of vitality.

After the session Alan advised me: Listen to your body. If you are energised, go for a run. If tired, sleep.

I listened to my body. It said hungry. So I ate. It is not just relief from physical pain.

Another client, Liesl Haasbroek, wrote: ‘’I am in a process of working through shock and loss. Surrender is a suggestion that is often made. However, how do we actually do it?

‘’I had the wonderful opportunity of doing exactly that by being held by the element of water, as well as Alan.

“It is easy to feel safe in Alan’s hands and to sink into the experience of letting life hold you. Thank you for this subtle gift to my nervous system.”

Alan concluded: ‘’I love giving and receiving Watsu.’’ His sessions take place on Friday mornings in Strand, and cost R600 a session. He can be reached at 076 264 9127, or consult his website www.alanheals.com