Water often provides a healing environment for many of us. In particular, mothers-to-be may find aquatic therapies, such as Watsu and Aqua Cranial, particularly beneficial for relaxation and relief from the burden of gravity-induced discomfort as well as the mental or emotional strains associated with pregnancy.


Watsu is a gentle and supportive form of bodywork combining elements of joint mobilization, shiatsu, stretching, and dance.  During the aquatic session, the body, spine, joints, and muscles can be manipulated and freed in a way that is unique to the water.


Aqua Cranial is a gentle, nurturing, non-invasive therapy that supports the body’s nervous system and alignment, by enhancing the flow of cerebrospinal fluid. This treatment restores the natural balance of the body and is particularly powerful after accidents or trauma.


“We are all formed in an environment surrounded and supported by warm water. When we are softly held in that environment again, such as in the SunWater Spa pool, in an Aqua Cranial or Watsu treatment, we go back to that initial womb experience – mentally, emotionally, physically – which likely was deeply relaxing for most of us,” says Kathleen Morrow, SunWater Aqua Cranial therapist.


“As relaxation occurs, both mother and baby release the pleasure hormones called ‘endorphins.’” she adds.  “This is the reason births in the water, such as are being encouraged by our hospitals, are very successful.”


Mitzi Pasternak, Watsu practitioner at SunWater says, “When the mother feels safe in a practitioner’s arms, she can relax her body, and let it be moved, and stretched, allowing for physical and emotional releases. The baby also benefits by the increased blood flow and may become more active.”


Releasing Our Birth Traumas

While most Watsu or Aqua Cranial practitioners are not counselors, they are trained to be very present. “By holding the mother in the water or simply listening,” says Pasternak. “Sometimes greater awareness or a fresh perspective can arise when we’re relaxed and receptive.”


Additionally, Morrow, acknowledges some of us have had our own trauma in birth, such as the cord tangled, parental tension, mom in fear, or some diagnosed physical barrier to baby’s passage.  “This is a primary reason to start regular treatments in the water early in the pregnancy, with a therapist experienced in holding ‘presence’ with trauma,” she says. “Then the nervous systems of baby and mom will have an opportunity to process and release any patterns being held in the body.”


Timing is Everything

Watsu or Aqua Cranial treatments are good just about any time. Most experience stress release and sleep better after a treatment.


“These treatments are primary stress release tools. They help to rebalance us mentally, emotionally, and physically from the daily stresses of life,” says Morrow.


Aquatherapy treatments are not advised if the client has open sores or an infectious disease.  “Then I suggest they wait until they heal,” explains Pasternak. “Chronic ear infections and vertigo are also reasons to reschedule.”


Pasternak adds, “During the second and third trimesters, the mom has more weight to carry around, and because of this, they will experience even greater benefits from these water therapies.”


When Two or More are Gathered

“We always encourage birth partners and close family members to join the client in the water––with her permission.  Together, we support the mom, and the treatment is even more deeply healing and bonding for all,” says Morrow.


To book your Watsu or Aqua Cranial treatment, contact SunWater Spa 719-695-7007 or online at https://www.sunwellness.net/sunwater/spa/book/

Have you ever experienced an aqua cranial therapy with us? Kathleen Morrow, one of our talented practitioners, began studying the art of aqua cranial after learning of its curative properties when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Learn more about Kathleen’s journey and philosophy as a therapist in our newest blog!


1. How long have you been a craniosacral/aqua cranial practitioner, and what was the path that led you into bodywork?

Around forty years ago, my mom was diagnosed with cancer, and I started researching what could help her. A local acupuncturist told me about a school in Washington State, The Polarity Institute, where I could study under Dr. Randolf Stone, DO, ND, DC, and doctor of Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. I began my studies there and was certified as a Registered Polarity Therapist one year later.


In 1995, I met Franklyn Sills, Director of the Karuna Institute located in the United Kingdom, at a polarity therapy conference in California. After hearing his presentation on Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy.  I was convinced this was my next line of study, and began Franklyn’s intensive two-year certification program, graduating as a Registered Craniosacral Therapist (RCST) in 1997.


I continued my studies for another four years, mentoring with notables in the field, including Franklyn Sills, Dr. Michael Shea, and John and Anna Chitty, co-directors of the Boulder School of Energy Studies. I was awarded my National Teacher Certification in May of 2001, and then opened the state certified School of Inner Health (SIH) in 2002 in Manitou Springs, which specialized in teaching craniosacral, lymphatic massage, and aromatherapy. Directing and teaching at SIH became my passion for the next fifteen years. In 2016, I sold the school to a colleague in order to enjoy my semi-retirement, and I then began offering Aqua Cranial Therapy at SunWater Spa.


2. What gift does your work offer your guests? What do you want your guests to walk away feeling/thinking?


There are two schools of thought about craniosacral therapy. One is the “mechanical” model, where the practitioner’s “attention” is focused on the movement of bones in the body. These motions have a five- to six-second cycle, rocking in and out. A student can become certified in this work in five days. Practitioners are basically moving and adjusting bones, much like chiropractic.


The second school of thought began when Franklyn Sills started teaching craniosacral therapy in the U.S. in 1995. He brought to it a deeper intention of following a slower twelve-second cycle of cerebrospinal fluid as it moves along the bones. This work is about following the rhythm of the body versus making adjustments. This practice is known as Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy. A student of this work also learns to feel and hold a very slow fifty-second expansion and contraction cycle; Dr. Sutherland, one of the founders of craniosacral therapy, called this the “breath of life” (this is your life force itself). Dr. Sutherland discovered in his later years that holding and following these deeper rhythms allows the client’s fluid systems to synchronize with the practitioner’s fluid rhythms in the same way we did with our mother while in utero. This is how our bodies formed and there are no client adjustments needed.


From this place of strength and support, the client’s body will realign and heal itself from whatever bumps, blows, and imbalances there have been in this lifetime, especially concussions. The client usually drops into a deep relaxation, and when treatment is over they experience a new sense of balance with less pain. When this work is done in the beautiful, warm, natural waters at SunWater Spa, the client experiences a deep, womblike sensation while their body heals itself.


3. How would you sum up your personal philosophy or mantra?


My personal mantra is presence.


In a rapid-paced world of potential confusion and emotional upset, I hold “ground” with daily meditation and frequent walks in the woods. I also have some “grounding” tools that Franklyn Sills taught me. From this place, I’m mentally clear, able to do my work and make life decisions.


4. What is one self-care suggestion you offer to your Aqua Cranial recipients?


On a very physical balancing note, I always recommend that my clients breathe deeply, especially in times of stress, shock, or overwhelm. I suggest they stop, put their hands on their ribs, and expand the ribs into the hands with each breath. This exercise opens the diaphragm, which in turn moves fascial tissue up the body around the heart, lungs, and ultimately the brain. At the same time, the fascia below is responding and massaging around the digestive organs. In about ten breaths, a sense of mental clarity and physical relaxation occurs.


5. Based on your experience, what makes SunWater Spa stand out from other wellness centers/spas?


Of course, the beautiful, warm, health-filled mineral water is my first “go-to” for this question. And then there is a deep sense of caring for the community, starting with the owners, Kat Tudor and Don Goede, and extending throughout the staff. This sense of caring and support of community filters into the surrounding communities of Manitou and Colorado Springs. Because they feel this, our local customers return over, and over, and over again.


Kathleen Morrow