By Maggy Howe
What gives us life also nurtures body and soul. Maggy Howe
explains how we can tap into the restorative qualities of H2O.
Visualize yourself in water. Imagine floating in the sea, tubing down a
river, or simply luxuriating in the warmth of your own tub. Listen to the
sounds of water, and think about how it feels. Water is the most nurturing of
all the elements, yet we frequently take its restorative properties for
granted. We turn to water when we need comfort. We take a bath to heal our
aching bones, mend our weary spirits, or rid ourselves of emotional trauma. In
summer, we retreat to seashores and lakesides to escape the stresses of daily
"Our first relationship was with water," says Sandra Ingerman, a
marriage and family counselor, teacher, and author of Medicine for the
Earth: How to Transform Personal and Environmental Toxins (Three Rivers
Press; 2001). There is no life without water, she notes, and typically water
feels safe to most of us — for it was water that first held us in the womb.
Ingerman uses water images and sounds in her practice and has found that her
students are able to experience water's tranquil effects regardless of whether
they are conscious of its nurturing qualities. "Most of us receive comfort
from water," Ingerman says. "Water stimulates the body's natural
ability to relax, and the only way a body can begin to heal is when it is in a
It is easy to surrender to the subtle healing powers of water, she explains,
especially if you consider how many of us are lulled to sleep by the rhythmic
sounds of the ocean or take solace in simply watching a river flow. Ms.
Ingerman encourages her students to appreciate water. She suggests that when
encountering water — whether it is while doing the dishes or drinking a glass
of water — we stop to admire and appreciate its life-giving qualities.
The benefits of water for wellness and relaxation are no secret to the spa
industry, and one of the more interesting water treatments on the spa circuit
is Watsu (watsu.com). Created by Harold Dull, director of the Worldwide Aquatic
Bodywork Assn., Watsu was developed from a Japanese Shiatsu massage technique
that employs stretching and pressure points to release stress and balance
energy. Clients are strategically cradled in one arm of a Watsu therapist while
they float in a pool of 96 degree F to 99 degree F water. The therapist
synchronizes his or her breath with the client's breath and slowly begins to
move the client around the pool. While moving through water, the body is gently
stretched and lightly massaged. "Stretching the body in the water is much
easier than on a massage table," says Dull. "The body is more
cooperative, and this is a powerful way to release stress."