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Health & Balance

Healing Waters

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WebMD Feature from "Country Living" Magazine

By Maggy Howe

Country Living Magazine

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 life.

"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 relaxed state."

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."

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