In 1980, at Harbin Hot Springs in Northern California, I floated someone in a warm pool and applied the stretches and principles of the land-based Zen shiatsu I had learned years earlier with its creator, Shizuto Masunaga, in Japan. I had no idea that what was coming into being that night would help millions of people of all ages in spas, clinics, and backyard pools around the world, and would become a new way to bring people together to come to know and celebrate their connection.
In utero, the unborn child lives in a floating state, breathing the nurturing fluid that surrounds him. He tumbles and rolls, all the while being suspended weightlessly and without strain. It’s this “small” biological miracle that protects human life during its most fragile of times.
Cradled in his arms, children who rarely find a moment’s peace find a sea of calm, Jeff Bisdee has offered the aquatic body therapy known as Watsu at The Children’s Institute in Pittsburgh since 1997. As the manager of recreational therapy there for the past 17 years, Bisdee was impressed the first time he saw Watsu. “It was an epiphany,” said Bisdee. “I was always interested in doing aquatic therapy with patients and when I saw this being done, I knew right then and there it was something I should be doing.”
There is a quality of peace and calm when you duck your head under the still, early-morning waters of an empty swimming pool. A cocoon develops naturally around you, with the light and sound of the outside world finding only distorted reality in this quiet place. The sound of your heartbeat, the introspection that occurs and the warmth and safety of the water all lend themselves to a surreal sense of being.