WATA – WATERDANCE
The Poetry of WATA
WATA (or WaterDance) is essentially a technique to bring about a state of profound aquatic relaxation. It is a “therapy” that uses the healing properties of warm water along with the calming effects of suspended and fluid breathing. The individual who receives the session is first brought to the water’s surface and alternately moved, mobilized, stretched and massaged. Psychic tensions, blockages of emotional and psychological origins, may soften or even disappear entirely.
Using a plug, the nose is blocked and the person is progressively brought under water in a tridimensional gravity-less state. The touch of the water, the work on the breathing and the fluidity of the dancing movements have calming effects. The body relaxes. The mind relaxes. The emotions calm down. The energy field expands. As the treatment progresses, the breath is naturally held for longer and longer periods of time, depending on the particular capacity of the individual. A liberation of the movements in the water follows naturally, creating a form of sub aquatic dance. A time-space distortion may transpire from whence springs a modified state of consciousness, a feeling of profound relaxation. Sensations of pleasure and deep joy frequently result. Thus WATA brings together a natural playfulness along with fluidity and harmony.
WATA shares influences with the moves of Aikido – the Japanese martial art, the grace and agility of classical ballet, and the undulating liberty of dolphins. Sometimes, WATA provokes a regression to the fetal state, our link with the energy of the mother, the vastness of the sea with its expansive effects, to the very Source of Life that hides within.
The underwater and surface sequences depend greatly on the individual respiratory capacity and rhythm.
(WATA was created by Peter Schröter and Arjana C. Brunschwiler, both of Swiss origin in 1987).
Dedicated to the water of all water
WaterDance has been given to me as a mission to accomplish. It has never been a personal decision to create a new aquatic therapy technique. I was not even a therapist and I did not particularly like being in water. But when I was first moved and danced by Aman Peter Schröter in the warm water of a thermal bath WaterDance was conceived. It was 1987 and I was a young woman, interested in dance and meditation. The beauty and depth of both were merging naturally and gracefully in WaterDance. I just loved it so much!
As all pregnancies, this one took its time to mature. I was almost 28 years old and inexperienced when I left Switzerland in search of the meaning of life. I went to Thailand and India for 9 months. I had no money, no idea where to go or what to do, but I had a deep longing in my heart and I felt enwrapped in the great mystery that surrounded me in these deeply spiritual countries. I practiced mediation and yoga, pilgrimed from holy place to holy place, and when I took a bath in the source of the Ganges on the Gangotri Glacier, I promised God and myself to never ever pursue a profession anymore that would not vibrate with my heart’s desire.
Then I came back to my home country I felt lost in this society. The culture shock was tremendous. Much bigger than when I had left to go to Asia. Another 9 months passed before I heard about Harold Dull, the creator of WATSU. He used to teach in Germany in a Sannyasin community. Aman and I went there to see what that was, and this very different form of Aquatic Bodywork fascinated me. From then on things evolved very quickly.
I felt the call to go to Harbin Hot Springs (California), the cradle of WaterShiatsu. I studied massage, shiatsu, tantsu, rebalancing, deep tissue work, and of course WATSU. Minakshi, one of Harold’s very first assistant, became my soul sister and passionate teacher. One night, I secretly gave Minakshi a WaterDance session. Thrilled and excited by the depth of this experience, she begged me to teach her WaterDance. And so she was my first real student! Aman and I had been sharing WaterDance before in Switzerland. But this was different. Minakshi strongly believed in the great gift that WaterDance would bring to the world.
We spent weeks and weeks in the warm pools, under the dark blue night skies, covered with billions of stars. The fig trees full of fruits were spreading their branches over the pool and we never got tired of fine-tuning the positions, moves and subtleties of WATSU and WaterDance. It was a magical time! The baby WaterDance was growing and getting ready for new students.
Most exciting years followed, teaching WaterDance classes in Harbin Hot Springs year after year. At the same time, Aman Peter Schröter, Helen Schulz, Shanti Petschel and myself created two teaching institutes for WATSU and WaterDance in Switzerland and Germany. The IAKAs* were born! The trainings included bodywork in water and land classes in which the students explored deep breathwork, meditation, communications, and emotional process work. The classes were full with sometimes 20 students and a big team of assistants! WATSU and WaterDance were the two pioneer forms of Aquatic Bodywork!
THE UNFOLDING OF WATERDANCE
As a young woman I experienced Harbin Hot Springs as the most beautiful paradise on earth! What a wonderful, exciting, peaceful and interesting place to spend weeks and months, soaking in healing waters, gazing at beautiful rolling green hills, enjoying healthy organic food, dancing and going crazy on Friday nights in the big “Conference Hall”, having delicious bodywork in water and on land, and simply drifting with the soulful energy of the place. I was told that native populations have used the hot springs for centuries and I certainly felt that this resort was a truly soul-nourishing place.
Harbin Hot Springs used to host Harold’s school for Shiatsu and Bodywork in Water. WATSU began in 1980 when Harold Dull started floating people in the warm pool there while applying the stretches and principles of the Zen Shiatsu. I was fascinated by the fact that this bodywork in warm water was already at that time taught to hundreds of students coming from all over the world to become certified and professional bodyworkers.
I will never forget when I first gave a WaterDance session in one of the pools in the daylight. People gathered around, puzzled, fascinated, attracted and curious. Bringing somebody under water had not been seen before! It was a complete novelty and everybody wanted to try it. I was still a young woman, not too sure of myself and would have never thought that anyone would possibly be interested to study WaterDance with me. But this was exactly what Life expected from me.
Looking back, I can see that the world and the people were at this time ready to use warm water in a different way to heal their bodies, emotions, and souls. It felt like a big wave starting in Harbin Hot Springs and from there spreading all over the Blue Planet Earth. Life has brought me to this magical place in these early years, so that I could meet some of the most amazing people, all birth helpers for WaterDance.
I can only guess why these new bodywork forms in warm water became so successful in the early 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. It was a complete new approach to therapy, bodywork and healing work since the client was held in a more intimate and closer way to the practitioner’s body. Harold talks a lot about the bonding effect of WATSU. The client is held like he or she had not been held since childhood. A natural heart-to-heart connexion happens. Old wounds or traumas from early times can so be healed in a very simple and loving way. I would like to mention that this bonding and healing effect is not only happening for the receiver but also for the giver. How many times did I step out of a pool after having given a WATSU or WATA session, feeling myself healed, refreshed, and touched in the deepest corners of my heart.
WaterDance is a more “free form” of Aquatic Bodywork as the bonding effect is less strongly happening on a physical and heart level between the practitioner and the client. Receivers often talk about a merging with the water. They describe that they become one with everything that is surrounding them. The physical body seems to expand and to transform into pure energy. Some people witness that their energy field becomes endless and they experience themselves floating in the Universe or in the womb of their mother. The fact that we are holding our breath under water (kumbhaka or apnoea) brings the mind to stillness and peace. When the agitation of the mind is calming down, then we can get a glimpse of who we truly are: time- and limitless, vibrating energy systems, resonating with All That Is.
* IAKA stands for Institute für Aquatische Körperarbeit
An energy body technique
Applying different lever grips, the practitioner mobilises the major joints of the body, which releases physical and emotional tensions. WATA can cause a spatiotemporal discrepancy, from which altered states of consciousness and a sense of peace and silence can emerge. Impressions of pleasure and joy often appear.
Recipients demonstrate moments of deep relaxation and even meditation. They can also experiment regressive states. Thus old wounds can be taken care of in a protected setting. In that way, WATA is a kind of body-energy technique, which unites dance, fluidity, harmony and therapy.
WATA is for all those, who dare being accompanied underwater, surrendering to breathing games and to the joy of dancing weightless underwater.
Life brings continuously so many changes to our physical matters that we sometimes hardly follow. We feel shaken up and frightened, we try to cling to what we are used to. We have little faith in the ups and downs of Life. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb & flow. After a great blow or crisis, we settle down to the new condition of things and adjust ourselves. We are sure that the new situation will now be for eternity, until our personal world reinvents itself anew. This natural process is endless, relentless and fascinating. But it is also exhausting, as we deep inside fear that the unknown future will be less than the present. So we resist and insist on permanence and duration.
Some of us believe and experience the spiritual statement that the physical matter is the lowest, most unimportant and unreliable aspect of Life, as it is permanently changing and dying. But how flexible and adaptable will we be when destiny takes away what we once thought belonged to us? No wonder that we complain about pains in our muscles and joints. While we seem to tighten up with age, the body is simply reflecting our emotional and mental state of being.
Still, isn’t it amazing how fluid and shape-shifting the physical world is in reality? Nothing that seems solid is. Everything is hurrying into some other form, even concrete, even stone. Our human body is made up of 70% of water. The brain and heart are composed of 73% of water, the lungs of 83%. The skin contains 64% of water, muscles and kidneys 79%. Even the bones are made of 31% of water. Deep in our cells, we experience on a daily base the fluidity of Life. Therefore, if we start from the premise that the architecture of the human body is based on an evolutionary process of oceanic origins, then we understand why our tears and our sweat contain salty water. Even as embryos we evolve 9 months in the salty amniotic fluid, floating like little sea creatures in our private oceanic environment. Does this not mean that we all carry in our bodies an inner sea that we can activate and stimulate?
WaterDance is in that sense a moving and dancing art that proposes the exploration and stimulation of our natural fluidity and non-resistance in the physical body. WaterDance is an aquatic body- and dance-work, using breath, apnoea, movement, and the continuous and whole embrace of warm water. This reactivates the cells in our body, reminding them of their innate capacity for fluidity and flow.
The fact that we are virtually weightless in water provides an additional support to let go of physical and emotional tensions, as well as holding patterns. In WaterDance, many sequences are based on wave- and snakelike spiralling movements, which are stimulating the flexibility and energy flow in the spine, and thus in the chakras. WaterDance receivers describe sensations of expansion and presence beyond the limit of their skin. Some would call it a rising of the Kundalini energy or Prana, the fuel that keeps the subtle bodies activated. Others perceive vivid colours, like shades of blue, violet, green, red and yellow. Again others describe deep states of meditation in a silent breathless place, where there is no thoughts and only Light. In any case, receivers generally experience an increase of their energy, joy, and inner calm.
If the atmosphere of a session is carried by the flow of Consciousness, Sensitivity, and Mastery, the receiver and the giver can both travel on a journey beyond the usual time-space continuum, where such modified states of consciousness support a different approach to life that could be more fluid and more creative…
The Story of a Session
Standing, facing each other, in a pool full of warm water bathed in light, we close our eyes.
Suddenly, our attention is drawn inward and we are confronted with another set of senses: as we contact the skin, touch becomes all-important. With each breath and the slightest movement, the water circulates around our bodies in loving caress. It is as if this marvelous touch brings us to the very doors of “Being”.
Together, we breathe: slowly, deeply, and consciously as two musical instruments finely tuned. There is no precipitation. Breathing is restored to its fundamental place, the breath of the Divine, the Essence of the Great All. This solid link of profound confidence, that must be created, is now woven. I breath with the other; I welcome her rhythm; I understand her as our bodies intertwine, as our breath becomes One. She guides me and I allow myself to be guided as I take one step away from my ego. No one is observing, there is only the observed. There is no one who feels, only the felt. Here is emptiness and the plenitude of the empty.
Now the other may let go, held in my arms, supported by the water, floating in the Universe. When one recognizes this instinctively and one allows it, one becomes a microcosm of the Universe, the Universal that is always there, in ones inner being – A drop of Consciousness in the great ocean of the Supreme Consciousness. All is one! We breathe as one, synchronized, the coming and going, joined by the breath of the Universe, the coming and going.
I am simply there, fully attentive. Nothing goes unnoticed: each sensation of the body, each feeling, each movement, each sound; I welcome it all. I accompany myself; I accompany the other, in this instant, all of my senses: my hands, my body, my spirit lend service. Every moment reveals its energy and with it its light, love, and divine Consciousness… nothing to seek, nothing to wait for. All is in the here and now.
She permits me to take her under the water, there where it is no longer possible to breath normally. I help her to connect with her original confidence, in taking her delicately and intuitively under the water and then to the air in a natural rhythm according to her needs. She is shown that here the world, in this water, in my arms, is reassuring. This small universe in globed in the great is, in every moment supportive, confidence inspiring. A relation of sacred healing may be created.
She now begins to adapt to the creation of my movements; undulating movements, wandering, serpentine. The dance alternates between timeless slowness and acceleration, carried by the thread of fluidity. The seed of change, of letting go, of expansion begins to germinate. The spirit opens. Energy acts of it own accord. Cellular memory is activated. The soul returns to its original state of peacefulness, simplicity and being in the moment.
Like a piece of music composed of sounds that rise and descend, that vibrate and resonate, we as well compose our own music. Our two qualities of body, spirit and soul dance their unique dance that can only flower in the uniqueness of the moment.
In the cycle of movements born in the great profundity of two souls that dance in harmony, calm is progressively installed taking its place. We are completely open and naked in our being, touched both inside and out by the fine veils of water. We feel completely protected in the tender and reassuring arms of the aquatic womb. All hardness in our being is dissolved; the rigid and the fixed, the density and sharp corners are transformed into joy and softness.
The dance has found its end naturally. We look deeply into each other’s eyes. The feeling in our souls is altered as well as our own gaze. In healing ourselves we heal the world; you and I, a part of the great All on our sacred path in light and beauty.
Each WATA session follows its own rhythms, its own codes. What is above described is often recounted and expressed after a session. It goes without saying that there are sometimes tears, some painful sensations, fears and other emotions that come to the surface. All of this, is part of the path to healing and liberation of ancient wounds and pains that each one carries in ones inner being.
When WATA is practiced with consciousness and sensitivity, it offers a magnificent opportunity to live states of surrender without entering into passivity or controlled activity. The giver as the receiver may together celebrate a “letting go” in the present moment with what is.