"Oh great, you work in the water - so you do Watsu?" "I've done AquaRelax before too, is that anything like it?" "What exactly is the difference between Aquatic Bodywork, Aguahara, Somaquatics and Healing Dance anyway?" These are the kinds of questions I often get, which is why I like to go into them a bit in this article here.
Why are there different methods?
Even if many people have never heard of it at all, the field of holistic waterwork is large and there are different streams or techniques. Already in the eighties there were people on different continents who started to float, move and treat other people in water. There was experimentation in very different directions. And then there were people who learned from others and later refined the techniques and created something new. What all of these methods have in common is that they work with a person in water. You could compare it to massages: they all have touch in common - but each massage technique has its own way of doing it, with or without oil, with or without clothes, deep into the tissue or stroking, etc. What makes a good masseur, in my opinion, is the ability to use the various techniques learned and apply them intuitively and individually, depending on the very client. Each massage is unique, just as the person being massaged needs it. It is similar with bodywork in water. I think that many very good aquatic practitioners and therapists have at some point learned one or two methods as a basis, but in the further course of their work they learn more and more, let go of rigid techniques and give more intuitive sessions. Having learned precise techniques is essential for safe, good work, but once the technique is embodied, it is sensitivity, flow and creativity that make a session so wonderful and unique.
What methods are there?
There are smaller and bigger differences between the various methods, and in some cases many similarities. For example, many have heard the term "Watsu" and think that it is a generic term for all floating methods. Watsu is a play on words, a combination of water/water and shiatsu. It was developed in the USA and has made a name for itself worldwide. The idea was to apply Shiatsu, a Japanese healing art which treats meridians, not only on land but also in water. Important components in Watsu are therefore acupressure, as well as stretching and mobilization of the meridians. The face always remains on the surface of the water and is never submerged, in some positions the recipient even sits in the water. Also in the eighties 2 people in Switzerland developed WATA (water dancing). Here, prepared with a nose clip, one gets moved under water, which feels very much like a dance.
Watsu and WATA combined their curicula as one training and thus defined the term "Aquatic Bodywork". Although aquatic bodywork is actually a descriptive term, it has been trademarked and is limited to aquatic practitioners who have done this Watsu-WATA training. But then, how to call other bodywork that takes place in water? I found the term Somaquatics, a combination of somatics and aquatic. Somatic aquatic science and work. In my understanding, all these techniques are somaquatic methods and all of them are valuable. Here are a few more:
Aguahara was developed primarily in Latin America and has influences from Janzu, Healing Dance, Wata and Contact Improvisation, among others. It is taught mainly in South and North America, Europe and Israel.
Janzu was developed in India and is taught mainly in Mexico.
Healing Dance was developed from Watsu and WATA and is taught mainly in Europe and the USA.
Aqua Relax was further developed from Watsu and is mainly used in Germany.
Aguahara wurde vor allem in Lateinamerika entwickelt und hat u.a. Einflüsse aus Janzu, Healing Dance, Wata und Contact-Improvisation. Es wird v.a. In Süd- und Nordamerika, Europa und Israel unterrichtet
Janzu wurde in Indien entwickelt und wird vor allem in Mexiko unterrichtet.
Healing Dance wurde von Watsu und WATA weiterentwickelt und wird vor allem in Europa und in den USA unterrichtet.
Aqua Relax wurde aus dem Watsu heraus weiterentwickelt und findet hauptsächlich in Deutschland Anwendung.
Which method is the best?
I can't say which is the best method, especially since I haven't tried them all myself. Certainly, there are some aspects of working in the water that seem to me personally very important and meaningful and that should be taught in the training. If you are looking for a training, you could, for example, take a look at the training plan, have preliminary talks with the teachers or read experience reports from others. If you are looking for a water therapist, you can look at what kind of training he/she has done, but also what kind of approach and view of humanity he/she has. It is always very important to me that someone is not only technically skilled, but also sensitive, attentive, respectful and warm-hearted. In order to be able to let go and open up completely, I need the practitioner to be stable and also able to hold the space well. Ultimately, it is always a trial and error to see if you fit together - so much the better when it does.