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.