Conscious Living

The Embrace of Water: Aquatic Bodywork

Approach each session as an occasion to practice being with another without expectation.

Harold Dull, creator of Watsu®

A major development in the field of personal healing, the last 40 years have seen the creation of many new water-based therapies, combining massage and floating in a pool – collectively known as Aquatic Bodywork (ABW). The best-known of these is Watsu® (or Water Shiatsu), but there are others too. Their home in Auroville is Quiet Healing Center, a resort as tranquil as its name suggests, tucked away on the beachfront beyond the East Coast Road. We met with Dariya, a teacher of many ABW modalities, for a brief chat.

Healing Body and Mind

Dariya was first introduced to water therapy at Quiet in 1999. Instantly feeling a connection to this practice, she kept doing on and off sessions before completing her first training 3 years later. From 2004, she and her partner Daniel created a modality called Liquid Flow Essence, and began teaching it at Quiet, where it was much appreciated by students. As demand for water therapies in Auroville kept growing, they also studied and became certified in other forms, such as Watsu, WaterDance and Oceanic Bodywork Aqua.

With both surface and underwater exercises, these forms of therapy are not only deeply relaxing, but can help treat a wide variety of issues such as stress, chronic back pain, orthopedic problems, arthritis, sleep disorders, and many others. They release tension and traumas, and can deepen your relationship with yourself, improving overall quality of life.

Formed in 1997, Quiet has become one of the world’s busiest training centers for water therapy, hosting many courses every year. Healing modalities developed in the USA, Germany and Australia are available here for guests and Aurovilians alike, with around 12 fully trained practitioners in the Auroville area.

During a Session

It is not necessary to know how to swim before doing an aquatic therapy, or before becoming an aquatic bodyworker. To become friends with the water, it is advised to come in with a curious attitude, one of opening and surrendering as much as possible. Letting go of doing can be hard, because we so rarely trust that action can come from a state of being. We forget to just relax and be. And yet, much wisdom and creativity can come from letting go.

A session lasts about 90 minutes, including a pre-talk with the therapist to explore the client’s physical condition, inner state and what they came for. Once in the water, a pair of floats are placed on the legs, and the client is held and moved gently. There is also the option of using a nose clip to go underwater, if the client is willing. With the complete embrace of water, underwater work gives more freedom of movement, but also requires greater trust.

Crying, yawning and laughing all happen very commonly to individuals in the pool – these are the healthy body responses of releasing and letting go. Other clients just remain completely still. The therapist’s role is allowing their client to unconditionally be, says Dariya. “One of the biggest compliments I can get in the water is when people tell me: It was almost like you were not there”.

The Deepest Relaxation

Aquatic Bodywork is potent in working on many levels, because touch is the primal sense we all develop while immersed in the watery environment of the womb. A newborn baby’s body weight is 75% water, which declines to 60% and less over the years: “As we age, the body is literally drying up”.

While a single session can be helpful and transformative, Dariya really recommends taking a sequence of 5-6 of them in a row. This way, one can track their personal process and the changes they undergo on their journey. The embracing, weightless envelope of warm water from which we come, and the invisible touch of the practitioner, allow for the deepest relaxation possible while one is still awake rather than asleep.

Dariya considers that no therapy can be effective if it does not involve the body: “It needs to be somehow somatic: either through touch, or through movement of the client. In verbal therapy, you have to be mentally engaged. But here, it happens through physical relaxation. Through the temperature of the water, the muscles and nervous system open. Stuff comes up without having to pull it out.”

“Why did we come in and with the body, if we are supposed to only function from up here?”, Dariya indicates her upper body, from the heart to the head.

Embodied Spirituality

Suspended in water with eyes closed, many people feel a sense of boundlessness and limitlessness. What they experience from there depends on their conditioning. Speaking generally, it is possible to have a direct experience of oneness with “That”, which is bigger than the small ego and one’s conditioning.

And at the end, we still need to climb up the ladder and out of the pool. Dariya recommends a minimum of 30 minutes relaxation before and after a session. Drinking water, walking and resting in a hammock allows you to get back into the body, and to find ways to ground the session into daily life and reality.

Interest is growing in aquatic therapies in Auroville and in India. In the last few years, many physiotherapists have been adding water-based work to their practice, taking courses at Quiet. With such a high demand, Dariya hopes to see another therapy pool open in central Auroville some day.

She concludes: “We are not there to be fixed; You are as perfect as you can be. There are some layers on top of that, which maybe one day you’re going to be free and let go of. And yes, there is change, there is growth. But can you hold that unconditionally?”

“How often in life do we experience allowing ourselves just to be? That level of trust, comfort, nurturing and acceptance? So much of life is spent resisting, pushing and pulling, rather than allowing. We are in such a shortage of unconditional holding and love. Water is an incredible teacher. Make yourself empty, just open and see what comes, and trust. It’s a mystery what the water does.”

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