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I In 1980, at Harbin Hot Springs in Northern California, I floated someone in a warm pool and applied the stretches and principles of the land-based Zen shiatsu I had learned years earlier with its creator, Shizuto Masunaga, in Japan. I had no idea that what was coming into being that night would help millions of people of all ages in spas, clinics, and backyard pools around the world, and would become a new way to bring people together to come to know and celebrate their connection. The Stretch In Zen shiatsu, Masunaga teaches that stretches are an older way to access and balance the flow of energy through our bodies than shiatsu's traditional work with acupuncture points. Stretching increases flexibility, and warm water—which many associate with the body's deepest states of waking relaxation—is the ideal medium for it. The support of water takes weight off the vertebrae and allows the spine to be moved in ways impossible on land. Gentle, gradual twists and pulls relieve the pressure a rigid spine places on nerves and helps undo any dysfunction this pressure can cause to the organs served by those nerves. In Watsu, the receiver experiences greater flexibility and freedom, while a range of emotions can come forward and be released into the process of continuous flow. For both giver and receiver, this work in the water helps us face life out of the water with greater equanimity and flexibility. The Breath In the beginning, Watsu was all about stretching—using our physical closeness to brace powerful stretches and be moved around the pool by the energy those stretches released. Stretches, and the closeness that facilitates them, will always be important in Watsu, but in its first years of development, another element moved to the forefront—the unique connection to the breath that our closeness in water also facilitates. 52 m a s s a g e & b o d y w o r k j u l y / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8

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