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June-July 2009


Wellness through water

- Priya Sundaravalli

“Watsu, or ‘Water Shiatsu' is the mother of all aquatic bodywork; it is Shiatsu in water,” says Dariya, a certified Watsu and Waterdance practitioner in Auroville. “There is stretching, mobilization and working on points, all done to the rhythm of one's breath.” Watsu, unlike other aquatic bodywork techniques such as Aquawellness, Waterdance, and Healing Dance, is done only on the surface of the water. The other are done both on the surface and underwater.


Dariya, whose name in Sanskrit and Persian means ‘ocean' or ‘big river', is from Slovenia . In Auroville, she worked as a greenbelter planting trees and as a dance teacher at the Kindergarten and was a member of the Auroville Dance Lab. Her involvement with water came after receiving aquatic bodywork sessions from the late Gioia Erni. “I remember the first time. It was like ‘Wow! This is it!” Two years later she signed up for her first course. “The learning went very fast for me. It was something I had been looking for something to which I could give myself fully.” ‘Waterwork' became a full-time work.

Aquatic bodywork was introduced in Auroville in the 1990s after the construction of a warm water pool at the Quiet Healing Centre. In the beginning there were few therapists and clients. Gradually more Aurovilians and guests became interested, both to receive treatments as well as to learn the techniques. Until now, over 300 people have participated in more than 30 courses at the Quiet Healing Centre. “The pool usage is stretched to its limits. There are eight certified Watsu practitioners in Auroville,” says Dariya, “and all depend on this one warm water pool to offer sessions or courses!”

Dariya and Daniel offering a Watsu and Healing Dance session to a guest. Photo courtesy of Dariya and Daniel.
Dariya and Daniel offering a Watsu and Healing Dance session to a guest.

Aquatic bodywork differs from regular bodywork due to the unique qualities of the medium. Dariya explains: “Here, the water is almost at body temperature (34 – 35 Celsius), so the sense of ‘out and in' is taken away and all kinds of phenomena begin to occur.

She explains how the client or the ‘receiver' is passive and relaxed, and is moved according to his or her capabilities. “Being held in a kind of embrace in warm water, where one experiences a state of weightlessness, works not just on the physical body but also on the emotional, psychological and spiritual levels, and people have all kinds of experiences. And sometimes it gets very interesting. I will not forget someone from the Ashram who said – ‘Ah, now I know what the Mother meant about transformation of the body and the cells and about the psychic!'

“Sometimes you are holding a complete stranger in your arms but it feels so natural because the water takes all conditioning away – connotations of sexuality, touch, all get erased. And it just feels very natural to nurture. I remember having an intense session with a Healing Dance therapist – it felt like a big mother was holding me, and he is a man!”

In the summer of 2004, Dariya met her partner and fellow practitioner, Daniel, at an aquatic course in Europe . By the end of the year, Daniel had moved to Auroville and the couple were offering their first Liquid Flow course in Auroville.

“At that time there were not many people holding courses here. The Swiss Watsu teacher Gianni de Stefani would visit once a year to teach on behalf of the Worldwide Watsu organisation. But too many people wanted to learn. So we came up with a sequence which we call Liquid Flow, and share that now mainly within Auroville. It uses techniques from Aquawellness and Watsu.”

The couple look like water creatures themselves; sleek and streamlined, with an air of wholesome vitality about them. Both have international licenses to practice, but not to teach. “The reason is financial,” explains Daniel, who has been practising Watsu and Water Dance for 14 years. “It is expensive to get certified as a teacher and the courses are offered only in the West,” says Dariya. “The plan is that one of us will get the international teacher certification so that we can improvise more and teach different courses.”

Last year, Dariya explored a different water modality called Prenatal Journey. “Water brings many issues to the surface. Even when it is done for relaxation and pleasure, or for healing as in physiotherapy, inner issues come up. Prenatal Journey is to accompany the receiver through issues that come from the time of being in the womb. Using basic movements, the receiver is put into a deep state of relaxation and then, from a sitting position, the verbal part of the session begins. It is process work in warm water.” However, Dariya has not been able to offer Prenatal Journey in Auroville. “It is difficult here because the pool is not set up for privacy.”

This is one of the limitations that has spurred Dariya along with Daniel and two other Aurovilian Watsu practitioners to come up with a proposal for Aquatica, a dedicated aquatic bodywork and therapy centre. “We have got site permission close to the proposed Health Park near the Arka community, and are now looking for funds, we welcome support from all those called by this idea.

“Amongst us Watsu practitioners, we joke that if the members of Auroville working groups, would come and receive a Watsu session before each meeting, we would have more open, loving and trusting people. Then there might be less mental arguments, and possibly more flow with solutions to our problems.

“In fact, we dream that everyone should have this experience!”




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