The Way to BE

A Natural Remedy for Depression and Trauma: Watsu Body Therapy

When it comes to emotions, the brain is often held responsible for all things psychological.

The brain is where neurotransmitters are made, used, and stored. And, as we all know, neurotransmitters play a very important role in determining our thought patterns, moods, and emotions. Right?

Surprisingly, neurotransmitter receptor sites are not only found in the brain but in every cell of the body!

Every tissue in the body is packed full of neurotransmitter receptor sites. What this means is that other areas of the body besides the brain, say the lining of the intestinal wall or cardiac tissue, have a place for neurotransmitters to lock in and deliver information.

If neurotransmitter receptor sites are found on every tissue of the human body, then this may mean that the whole body, not just the brain, generates emotion.

Candace Pert, research professor in physiology and biophysics at Georgetown University, is responsible for discovering the opiate receptor site.

Throughout the history of her work, Dr. Pert explains that all cells have neurotransmitter receptor sites. This even applies to white blood cells, which are responsible for the body’s immune response. Neurotransmitter receptor sites are literally found on every tissue of the human body.

The mechanisms that are responsible for thought patterns, moods, and emotions are not limited to the mass of neurons that we call the brain. In fact, the entire body is capable of storing memories, receiving psychological input, and sending out emotional signals, from one cell to the next.

The cells in our body are capable of storing memories.

As Professor Pert explains, each receptor site for each neurotransmitter is equipped with the memory of how many times it has been occupied. This cellular memory is why trauma can be held in the body and released through the body, without anyone being cognitively aware of the trauma itself.

One form of therapeutic bodywork, known as Watsu, is getting a lot of attention for releasing cellular memory.

Watsu is a water therapy that can release cellular memory in the body to improve mobility, enhance flexibility, reduce anxiety, and decrease pain.

Watsu is a full body therapy, similar to massage. What makes Watsu different is that it is performed in warm water pools that are set to a consistent temperature of 95° Fahrenheit, which is slightly below normal body temperature.

Water therapy is incredibly supportive: the body feels weightless, and this allows the Watsu practitioner to explore a whole new range of movement and sensation.

  • During a therapy session, the body is suspended by floatation devices and supported by the Watsu practitioner.
  • The client typically floats on his or her back, with the ears submerged underwater while the mouth and nose remain above water.
  • Over the course of a Watsu session, a practitioner will gently move and manipulate the client’s body as it floats in the warm water pool.
  • This form of gentle and supported movement generates the capacity for a great deal of mental, emotional, and physical release.

Watsu therapy has been used to improve recovery time after a surgery or injury. It has also been effective for cases of chronic physical pain. The benefits of Watsu are:

  • Enhanced flexibility
  • Increased mobility and strength
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Deeper, fuller breathing
  • Anxiety and stress reduction
  • Decreased pain
  • Improved sleep and digestion

Body Therapy Gaining Attention for Improving Depression Symptoms

It’s no secret that anti-depressant medications are overprescribed in the United States. Anti-depressants are useful in serious, life-threatening cases of depression.

Candace Pert and the history of bodywork, including therapies like Watsu, tell us that:

  • Emotions are stored throughout the body.
  • You can access emotions through body movement.
  • If you take a drug to affect neurotransmitters in the brain, you are taking a drug that affects the entire body.

Watsu allows deep, gentle movements that are capable of releasing muscle tightness and even joint restrictions. The state of deep relaxation that Watsu clients experience also encourages the release of stress, tension, and trauma.

As Professor Pert will tell you, bodywork has the ability to release trauma in one or two hours, whereas it may take talk therapy five years to release this same trauma.


What to Remember Most About This Article:

Every tissue of the human body contains neurotransmitter receptor sites that can generate emotion. This means that cells in our body have the capability to store memory and hold past trauma, even without our knowledge.

A new form of therapeutic bodywork called Watsu is increasing in popularity due to its ability to release cellular memory. This full body therapy, similar to massage, is performed in water and uses gentle movement to stimulate mental, emotional, and physical release. Watsu is highly beneficial for recovery after an injury or surgery and can improve flexibility, relax muscles, reduce anxiety, and decrease pain.

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  • Melissa Smith

    Background: I had a severe accident from a fall from my horse at the end of June. I now have 18 screws and 2 rods from T10-S1. I have worn a TLSO for 4 and hands on therapy for 3.5 months.
    Currently: I started water therapy on October 22 and had to use my rolling walker to get to pool. Since being introduced to Watsu, all my back spasms have subsided, 80% of my major pain is gone and I have to take less pain medication. I have noticed that my bowl movements are remarkable. One week ago, I started leaving the walking roller at home. This great feeling and ability I owe to my wonderful therapist who uses Watsu as a part of my therapy.

  • Tom Thompson

    As a Watsu practitioner in Baltimore, I believe
    that I am the lone provider in the Baltimore/ DC
    Area. My contact info is:
    or 443 676 5460.

    Watsu is a profound bodywork that needs to
    be experienced to be appreciated. Any word
    or picture can not provide justice.

    Like trying to describe inner peace or love.

  • Anya Lynn

    I am a follower of the body ecology lifestyle and very pleased to see Donna endorsing Watsu as a deeply transformative healing modality! I also feel that the photo doesn't accurately represent Watsu.

  • Inika Spence

    It's nice to see this article but I would have liked to see the claims substantiated. I am a Watsu Practitioner and Instructor and Rhonda, you can find practitioners on the WABA web page: I hope you can find one.

  • Sara Firman

    PS To my earlier comment. The photograph looks more like aquatic physical therapy than Watsu.

  • Nicola Kapala

    Thank you for posting this article. As a Watsu Therapist and Instructor its wonderfully gratifying to see increasing awareness around this transformational form of therapy.

  • Rissa

    This is just what I experienced with my local Watsu provider. The Watsu practioners are scarce. I am so fortunate to have an expert near my home.

  • rhonda

    Where would one find someone who performs this type of treatment?

  • Jacquie Lynn Holland

    I enjoy the simplicity of the layout of your articles & appreciate the good information you provide.
    Thank you,

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