Blinking in the early morning sunlight, I followed my Watsu (short for Water Shiatsu) massage therapist as he descended the steps of a four-foot-deep mineral pool at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens.
The water, thankfully, was warm (about 95 degrees – a perfect temperature for the therapy). The pool, part of the resort’s Waters of the World collection, contains salts from the Dead Sea in Israel. Soaking in the velvety water is said to calm irritated skin, as well as ease tension from hectic lifestyles and environmental stresses.
I’ve had lots of massages, and I like to think of myself as always up for trying something new. But I actually felt a little nervous, standing there in the chest-deep water. I had no idea what to expect, other than that we would both be in the pool, and that I would supposedly emerge 50 minutes later totally relaxed.
He explained a little bit about the treatment. But he said it’s difficult to describe Watsu. “It’s best to just experience it and find out for yourself,” he said. He did give me one piece of advice: relax your legs, and the rest of your body will follow suit.
As we were talking, he supported my lower back, shoulders and head as I eased into a back float. I pictured what my legs must have looked like from above – trailing after my body in a gentle bend at my waist. My arms floated lazily.
I lost myself in the feel of the water swishing around me, the sunlight on my upturned face and the quiet you can only experience when your ears are under water. He had described Watsu as “highly intimate,” so I had some reservations. But I resolved to relax. I closed my eyes, deepened my breathing and made my body go limp, like a rag doll.
In the course of the treatment, he stretched and massaged my neck, shoulders, back, arms, legs, hands and even fingers, moving my body through the water to deepen the stretches and align my head, neck and spine. From one position, we would flow seamlessly into the next. Through it all, my face never came close to going under water.
When it was all over, we sat on the pool steps. “I don’t think I can walk yet,” I told him, feeling as if I had come crashing back, unwillingly, to the real world. He laughed and said we could just sit for a minute or two.
Later, as I sampled the resort’s other mineral pool – this one intended to moderate fluid retention, body temperature and mood swings with waters from Sallies de Bearn, high in the Pyrenees Mountains – I wondered how I’d describe the Watsu experience. I realized Watsu is hard to put into words. It’s definitely best to experience it, and find out for yourself.
Plunge into serenity with other water-themed treatments around the state:
Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, Golf Club and Spa: Reap the healing benefits that come here in the form of massage in a hydrotherapy tub filled with sea products. Or try a signature soak – they incorporate sea salts, coconut milk and other skin-pampering ingredients.
The Grove Isle Hotel & Spa, Coconut Grove: Indulge in a Watsu massage in the Waterfall Watsu Pool.
Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa, Bonita Springs: offers Water Shiatsu. This treatment emphasizes stretching and works to release energy through Chi pathways in your body while suspended in warm, peaceful waters.
The Setai, Miami Beach: Try a Bath Soak Ritual here. The mixture of water and essential oil, bath salt, fresh flowers and candlelight relaxes and rejuvenates both the body and the mind.