watsu

Heal Thyself

There’s a whole other world past the massage table.

Maggie Downs Health & Wellness

watsu
Watsu practitioner Kim Hartz stretches a client in the pool at Venus de Fido in Palm Desert.
PHOTOGRAPH BY GERRY GRANT

WATSU

The first thing you’ll notice about Watsu is how comfortable the water feels — it’s warmed to skin temperature, so slipping into the pool feels as natural as breathing. It’s just as effortless when the actual bodywork begins; simply hold your face skyward and allow the practitioner to do the rest.

The session consists of floating while the therapist moves your body through the water while performing shiatsu massage. The water allows the body to be manipulated in ways that aren’t possible on land, while the sensation of being cradled in water is deeply relaxing.

“Massage is wonderful, but Watsu is something completely different. We’re working on a deeper level here,” says 20-year Watsu practitioner Kim Hartz, the spa director at Venus De Fido in Palm Desert. “It’s transformational.”

As your hips loosen, the spine unbuckles, and the breath calms. Then, as the body finds relief, emotions can surface in powerful ways.

“When we’re in the water, we are often heart to heart,” Hartz says. “That’s the beauty of Watsu. It’s a bit like dancing and trusting your partner.”

Cultivating that profound sense of trust is one reason Watsu has become a useful therapeutic tool for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Hartz is such a believer in the healing power of aquatic bodywork, she volunteers with Wave Academy, which offers Watsu for military veterans and their caregivers.

“This allows us to reconnect with ourselves in a place that is safe, not scary,” she says. “It can feel like being reborn.”
Venus De Fido, 73600 Alessandro Drive, Palm Desert. 760-834-7070; venusdefido.com

SENSORY DEPRIVATION

Why in the world would anyone isolate themselves in a sensory deprivation tank for an hour? Because the experience offers myriad benefits that linger long after the treatment ends. The warm water, buoyant with more than 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt, efficiently reduces inflammation, while silently floating in a dark, egg-shaped pod effectively removes the stress of everyday life. Proponents say regular float sessions lower blood pressure, ease chronic pain, and promote their overall well-being.

Desert Serenity Float & Spa, 73712 Alessandro Drive, Palm Desert. 
760-404-0419, desertserenityfloat.com

See our profile of Desert Serenity: Defying Gravity

SOUND BATH

Keep your clothes on — this bath is all about taking a sonic dip. Practitioner Wyatt Smith leads some of the most popular sound baths in the region, which involve resting on a mat for about an hour while Smith submerges the room in sound by playing a series of crystal bowls and gongs. The resonant frequencies are designed to focus the mind, relax the body, and help you discover your inner sense of harmony. Sound Meditation Palm Springs, hosted by Wyatt Smith at locations throughout the Coachella Valley. soundbath.ps@gmail.com; facebook.com/gongexperience

aerial meditation

If you’ve ever wanted to fly like a butterfly, this is as close as you’ll get without actually having wings. Aerial meditation at Yoga Bliss begins with 30 minutes of light stretching before taking flight — okay, you’re actually just wrapped inside a silk hammock that is bolted to the ceiling, but it feels like the potential for flight is there. Meditation takes place inside the hammock, which cradles the body and is far more comfortable than meditating on the floor or perched on a cushion. Another round of gentle stretching completes the rejuvenating experience.
Yoga Bliss, 4741 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Suite E, Palm Springs. 
818-679-4384; yogablissps.com

aerialmeditation

Meditation at Yoga Bliss in Palm Springs commences when devotees are suspended midair from the ceiling in silk hammocks.

LOMI LOMI

Polynesian settlers brought this flowing style of massage to Hawaii, where the technique was perfected — but now that lomi lomi is growing in popularity everywhere, you don’t even have to leave the mainland for a sample. Rather than the fingertips, the massage therapist primarily uses forearms and elbows to work the muscles. The rolling movements are designed to mimic the ebb and flow of ocean waves, releasing tension and reinvigorating the entire body.
Sunstone Spa at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage. 888-999-1995; hotwatercasino.com