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Massage Therapy | Wellness Management | Bodywork Education
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THE WATER

The hardest thing to convey to you in imagery is the feeling of the warmth of the pool and how special of an environment it creates. The water is heated to a brisk 96 degrees, and often reminds people of being in the bathtub. The warmth is there to evoke a sense of comfort, facilitate muscle relaxation, calm the nervous system, decrease the pain response, and increase blood circulation. That temperature is also the same as amniotic fluid, so there is thought that people have a sense-memory from the womb for this environment. Also, if the temperature of the water is the same as skin temperature, then the recipient can begin to lose track of their body in space. This feeling, coupled with the movement in the pool, can help to give people a feeling of flying in endless space.

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GROUNDING

A typical water session will begin and end with a ritual for grounding the client. Initially, the intention is to introduce them to the water: inviting them to feel the warmth of the pool, to begin to connect with their breath, and work to loosen the body--allowing it to be held the weight of the water with the air in their lungs as support. The session also comes to a close with a docking ceremony on the wall of the pool. This helps to settle the body as gravity is slowly reintroduced, helping the receiver to find their new equilibrium, and for the therapist to find a gentle balance in their body so they can support themselves once more. The gift you give yourself at this moment is to take a few final deep breaths with your eyes closed to capture the feeling of calm and peace, and soak in whatever you may have experienced in the water. A water session can potentially be an intense journey, so it is imperative to make sure the beginning and final moments are as graceful as possible.

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STILLNESS

Calm and meditative stillness are an important functional part of introducing the receiver to the environment and helping their subconcious settle into a trusting space during the work. This is the root from which the rest of the session stems from, and a refuge from the turbulence of movement or whatever energy may have arisen in you during your massage. Reflecting upon these moments, clients have reported feeling a deep peace of mind, and a mental clarity that is difficult to achieve in daily life. These moments of stillness are also great opportunity for the therapist to introduce gentle face, head, and neck massage to help expel any lingering thoughts and allow the neck to rest easy in the water. Careful attention will be paid to ensure that the clients eyes, nose, and mouth remain away from the edge of the water in a surface session to avoid feelings of vigilance or anxiety. One of the greatest benefits of these moments is how they can alter your perception of time; slowing things down and deepening the receivers connection with themselves and their breath.

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CRADLING

 

The arm cradle is a position that is often seen as a safe harbor and sacred space for seasoned recipients of aquatic bodywork, but does have a potential for seeming quite intimate to the casual observer. These cradles can be combined with lower body movement and even using the recipients arms as a buffer to dissipate the physical intimacy, and provide a bridge into the closeness of being cradled in stillness. People often report feelings of nurturing safety, like that of a child in the arms of their parents. For that reason, these postures can be quite evocative for those seeking to reestablish their relationship with trust and the feeling of unconditional acceptance. Cradles can also be a fantastic counterbalance to the flow of movement, as well as giving people the chance to feel themselves safely sink fully into the warm depths of the pool while they connect deeply with their breathing. 

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STRETCHING

One of the aspects of this work that new receivers report is the feeling of being stretched, and how you often can feel taller and more limber after just an hour in the water. The warmth of the pool significantly facilitates ease of movement, and a further range of motion than most people expect of themselves. While the more ephemeral aspects of this work are very important, most find it rewarding and satisfying to exit the water feeling as though something concrete happened to their body. This work allows for some beautiful movements that can feel like passive yoga poses in the water. For those less inclined to movement, it can be a great way to find the healthy limits of their range of motion, while the practitioner is always being cautious of any areas of injury and preventing potential discomfort.  

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SWINGING

Flowing the body from side to side, and swaying back and forth is such a lovely and playfully simple way to show people the potential of the water. Your body feels light and easy to move, like a leaf bobbing on the surface of the sea, or grass blowing in the dance of the breeze. Moves that wave the body through space activate the entire spine and significantly impact the body’s natural relaxation response. Care is always taken by the practitioner to keep the pace slow and measured, especially in the beginning of a session, and keeping an even balance of the arcs the body makes, like a gentle metronome.  Often to create this effect, the client’s head will be lightly resting on the shoulder of the therapist, and cheek to cheek contact is possible, but most report not even being aware of the intimacy. That level of connection is something that is built into after trust is established, so it rarely raises concern for even first time receivers; most of the time they are too relaxed to even notice.

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DRIFTING

Feeling your body drift through the water is something that most can relate to from some point in their life, and this sensation helps to provide a familiarity and comfort in a situation that might present a lot of new experiences to the receiver. Drifting movements can also be a way to settle down after swinging or moving quickly through the water as a transition into stillness. It also can be a way for the therapist to transfer from a place of calm into a series of waves or flowing movements with the body. Most recipients get lost in the feeling of the water calmly flowing over their skin, and the drifting movements help to create a sense of grace and flow in a session. So, rather than feeling the start and stop of certain movements, the postures flow easily from one to another. These seamless transitions can allow the receiver to truly lose themselves in time and space while sinking further into the depths of their subconscious.

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EXPANSION

A myriad of the postures that are created during the flow of a session evoke a sense of openness and extension. This is fantastic for the shoulders, rib cage, and hips, and from an emotional and psychological perspective, some have reported feelings of freedom, power, flowering, and abundance. These moves can also be a fantastic counter balance to the nurturing closeness of certain holds and cradles. It is important to find a balance and give the receiver their space and feel the endless expanse of the water.

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CONTAINMENT

Containment is a concept that is at play in a myriad of ways during a water session, and used in contrast to moments of expansion and freedom to provide the receiver with a calm moment and a safe space to integrate anything the movement may have stimulated. It, like many other aspects of water work, is also a fantastic opportunity to invite the receiver into themselves, and connect with their breath while feeling the weight of the water evenly supporting the body. Containment can also simply be created by interacting with the wall of the pool, or the therapist’s hands embracing a section of the body, for example: the shoulder girdle, the abdomen and the lower back, or the even the temples to name a few. These embraces can seem quite intimate, but people often report how the water provides a fantastic barrier between the therapist’s body and theirs, even while being cradled in the practitioner’s arms. From an energetic perspective, containment can be fantastic for fostering a since of safety, wholeness, and a sense that what once was fragmented, can know perhaps feel more unified.

 

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TURBULENT DRAG

The term turbulent drag refers to the method of impacting force on the body in a way that does not come through the practitioner working with the flow of the water, but rather through working strategically against the current of the water.  This creates an opportunity for even, stable stretches with an equal distribution of force through the joints. Playing with the turbulence in the water can also accentuate the feeling of the movement through space, help to open the joints, and provide opportunities for play and improvisation. The warm water whipping around the body creates gleeful feelings in many receivers, while the nervous system benefits from waves of activation throughout the entire spinal column.

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LIFTING

Playing with gravity is one of the most special aspects of working in water. Since the body is bouyant and assisted by floats, even the smallest of lifts can bring forth a sense of growth and supportive care. The largest of bodies can feel weightless when brought above the surface, while the temperature contrast can be refreshing and bring a sense of meditative awareness to each area of the body one section at a time. Feeling the water curl around your limbs and envelop your body again after rising out of the water helps the you sink deeper into relaxation. Gravity and lifting can also be used to mobilize the joints, strengthen stretches, and stabilize the receivers eqilibrium after moments of turbulence, or when nearing the end of a session to assist in the process of grounding.

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MUSCLE MASSAGE

Some of the most common questions people ask when being introduced to aquatic bodywork relate to how much muscle massage happens during a water treatment. The answer is: quite more than you would expect. The challenge for the therapist becomes adapting traditional massage techniques into a buoyant environment, but there are ways to impact every muscle group in the body while working in water. The warm water softens the fibers of the muscle, and any adhesions (or “knots”) often release with less force than on a table during a traditional Western massage. The environment is perfectly suited for combining the lasting effects of muscle massage and trigger point therapy while also bending, dancing, and stretching the body through the water. The two elements work in conjunction with one another; the massage facilitates the movement, and the movement primes the muscles for massage.

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BELOW THE SURFACE

For those willing to dive beneath the surface, another world of possibilities opens up for both the receiver and the practitioner. Being taken underwater in an extremely relaxed state, while nurturing a sense of safety, trust, and mutual communication can potentially create one of the most transcendent experiences someone could ever have in or out of water. The receiver is given a primer on the nose clips, a deep-breathing demo, and shown how they will be signaled before going under the surface all before the session even starts. Diligent care is taken to ensure the receiver is comfortable and prepared for diving under. This work can actually be performed with first time clients, but can also be a goal to work toward over a series of sessions. This advanced work fosters an even greater sense of freedom and an increased opportunity for three dimensional movement. Even the most seasoned receivers can have a hard time describing what it is like under the surface, but some report feelings of flight, an even greater drifting away from the confines of time and space, while sometimes people just relish the silence and peace that the depth provides.

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