Travel Log: A Watsu® Experience


Conceptually, I’m totally on board.

Viscerally, it requires a level of profound trust – of others, of our environment, and of ourselves.

And it’s a key ingredient to being “in the flow”—something I grasped only fleetingly for many years, particularly when it comes to water. I’ve had a couple of traumatic moments with water in my life so even turning my face into the hot stream from my shower head could incite anxiety!

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These days, however, I welcome opportunities to truly surrender. I find the felt experience is most easily accessed through, (you guessed it) water.

That’s why I recently found myself in a 4’ deep saltwater therapy pool just north of Longmont run by Essential Element Wellness (EEW) with owner and Watsu® practitioner, Deb Evangelista. As a Certified Rolfer™ myself, I tend to be pretty picky about bodywork and to trust my gut instinct. If it’s FOR my body, then I figure I should listen TO my body!

Clearly my system was craving a new level of surrender in the physical sense, and I was not disappointed. As Deb guided my body through the 7,300 gallon saltwater pool, time and space got a little funky. Harder to grasp. Traversing the 18’ diameter pool felt like a journey across oceans. And in just over an hour, I was transported through entire planetary eras.

By the end of that first session, I was blown away by the downshifted state of my nervous system, joining the ranks who’ve benefited from this therapeutic modality over the past 38 years.


Watsu® was born at Harbin Hot Springs circa 1980, when Harold Dull started applying the principles and practices of the Zen Shiatsu he had studied in Japan on clients while they floated in a warm pool of water. According to the official Watsu website, this water-based approach “promotes a deep state of relaxation with dramatic changes in the autonomic nervous system.” I can verify that. The in-out breath of the planet consists of seasons, and I feel well-served to remember this slow rhythm in my physical body.

This is the nature of immersion in body-temperature salt water while being 100% held; it’s back to the womb, essentially, and the speed of life—which, delightfully, is not determined by my calendar or my task list.

That said, I blocked off two hours in my calendar for this initial session per Deb’s instructions, and arrived as requested: freshly showered without any deodorants, lotions, oils or hair/face product. This helps preserve the water quality, and there is always the option for a quick shower upon arrival as well. The guidance of two hours was spot-on, allowing ample time for completing an intake form, having some discussion, roughly 60 minutes  in the saltwater pool, and a bit of time afterward for integration and departure. The space was well-kept and relatively functional, with a three-season outdoor shower and an indoor composting toilet adjacent to the changing area.

Deb built this space a handful of years ago on her private property, and uses it for seeing private clients as well as teaching small classes; she also has a few other practitioners/instructors that rent it out for use. Knowing I’m helping create Soak Boulder, we initially geeked out for a bit as Deb shared her set-up for water filtration and purification, all of which is visible in the space as well.

After that, I changed into my swimsuit and we entered the pool together. We spoke about my relationship to water, what to expect in the session, how bouyant my body tends to be (to assist in selecting the right flotation devices for my legs), and her advice on wearing earplugs (that would be a big YES). Once I was geared up, she guided me to float on my back, cradled my head in the crook of her elbow, and we began.

I can’t really explain the rest of the session in writing; the visceral experience was….well, quite beyond words. I can say my mind soon quieted, and the movement felt continuous and effortless. Upon completion of the session, Deb had me bring my feet to the pool floor and lean against the sidewall for a while until I regained a sense of being upright.

As I stood there, I was very aware of all my senses and surroundings; I felt re-centered in my body, in myself.

The best word I can give to describe the state of being is coherence. It was as if I re-inhabited myself and so, I could be more present with everything else! In short, I definitely recommend Watsu® for a profound level of nourishment and a true space to surrender. It is one sure way to remember how to move at the speed of life.


To learn more or book a Watsu session with Deb, please visit the her Facebook page.

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