Not that I’m against it, I’ve just never thought of it before – the idea of some sort of physical therapy was recently suggested to me. Quite simply I, like all of us from time to time, needed a little respite from the pressures of modern life… some tranquility. A bit of serenity and something restorative after a busy summer – the drain of Brexit and a challenging but inspiring few days sleeping in a field at the Curious Arts festival in Hampshire. I was introduced to Steve Karle, a therapist from the Akasha Spa at the Cafe Royal. It would’ve been just what the doctor ordered, if the doctor had the imagination to think outside the box. Karle, a charming and sympathetic fellow, is a practitioner of something called Watsu.
Watsu is a form of aquatic bodywork and takes place in a dedicated pool, four meters by four metres and maintained at a constant 35°c. It is used for deep relaxation and passive aquatic therapy. It is a one-on-one session in which a practitioner gently cradles, moves, stretches and massages the receiver in chest-deep warm water.
Let me tell you about my experience in his hands. Having orientated me in the pool and getting me to close my eyes, I am gently pulled into the center and floats are calmly attached to my ankles and one around the back of my head like a travel cushion. In no time at all, the pool feels like the most comfortable bed.
I am beginning to relax and to happily float. Water is something that resonates with us from floating in the womb to the christening of a child and as Da Vinci exclaimed, “water is the driving force of all nature.” You have to have faith and to have faith is to trust yourself in the water when you are not in control. I suppose it can come down to your relationship with water. The confidence to simply let go and trust someone who is guiding you with the only contact at this stage being through finger tips. I imagine such an ordeal might be a non-starter for a non-swimmer, “not a bit” Karle assures me, “they sometimes get the most out of it.”
Gently, but with power, I am pushed and pulled through the water like free-flowing and twisting seaweed behind a launch. I am pushed up through the spine as though there is a cord fixed to the roof and attached to my sternum, pulling at me. You feel the same force of nature as you get at the exact moment you catch the wave out surfing, the exhilarating feeling that you are actually being propelled by the entire universe (Ok, I stood up only once, but I felt it and you never forget that feeling!)
At the end, as I was gently placed to rest against the side of the pool, I felt a profound sense of peace, relaxation and happiness. I couldn’t believe my gentle excursion had been a full hour and a half. It has been transformative, nurturing and sensuous.
By the second session, just as I had got familiar with my new nautical environment, there is the introduction of underwater chimes and gongs. They sounded like the language of whales talking to me, a pleasantly mesmerizing call that enhances the other-worldly hypnotic trance. This session is not so much thrust, as being propelled beneath the surface. Like an inexperienced passenger on an aerodynamic trip who momentarily loses the horizon and doesn’t know if they are upside down or not. Then you are up again and breathing freely, lying face-up on the surface of the water, which has reset itself in your wake and regained its memory. All is calm.
The efficacy of this treatment is appreciated in those suffering from physical, mental or emotional trauma. It is also wonderful for well people, as it reboots and somehow grants you, whatever it is that causes the feeling of wellbeing and peace with the world and above all yourself.
I couldn’t recommend it more highly for us land-lubbers. Emerging into the street, not 50 meters from the statue of Eros on Piccadilly Circus, merely enhances the magic.