Friday, May 16, 2008

Watsu, The Higher Plain

Arriving at the studio, they meet for the first time at the front door and know nearly nothing about each other except that both are massage therapists. She specializes in Watsu, an aquatic form of Shiatsu. He’s there to receive his first professional Watsu treatment.1

Facing each other in four feet of 98 degree water, hands outstretch and touch. They are alone; the two of them connected both physically and energetically. She guides him through a short series of deep breathing exercises. He leans back entrusting himself to her supporting arms. And likewise, she trusts him to receive her gift without his reaching out and exceeding the boundaries of the session. They remain in constant physical contact for an hour or so as she cradles, stretches and serpentines his body through the water. Deft fingers probe and urge rigid muscles to give up their tension.

The two, therapist and client, separate and return to their personal worlds having shared a transformational non-sexual session of healing touch: he with a profoundly improved physical and emotional state; and she with the satisfaction of a professional job well done.

Sensual or sexual? It’s a state of mind. We humans are both sensual and sexual beings in one, and it is impossible to draw a distinct line separating the physiological blending of both. However, it is definitely possible to separate the two cognitively.

Massage is very personal touching in a fragile environment fraught with danger. If either party acts inappropriately, a trust is destroyed and laws may be broken.

Many years ago during a massage ethics course, the instructor succinctly addressed the issue of sexual feelings during a massage session. He counseled that since humans are sexual beings, the problem is not that a sexual feeling may occur. Rather, they will happen occasionally and are normal. It is what you do with the feeling that is important. He stated that there are three choices: enter a state of denial and suppress the feeling, which will eventually lead to psychological problems; act inappropriately; or accept the feeling for what it is and move on with the massage session. The latter choice does work, and the feeling vanishes quickly. The same technique works for the massage recipient.

Our over-sexualized and yet prudish Western society has difficulty, for the most part, separating intended non-sexual contact from sexual contact. And, Westerners tend to view nudity and touch as mostly sexual. What an absurdity. The human body craves healthy physical touch, both non-sexual and sexual. Read Ashley Montague’s famed work “Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin” Harper & Row, for an in-depth understanding of the importance of touching the human skin.2

For those who can accept massage as non-sexual touch, it is a gift as old as the ages. Book a session of Watsu and experience the massage modality that takes you to a higher plain. It’s as if you returned to the womb.

Links in this Blog:
1. Watsu
2. Ashley Montague Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin

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