Water may be necessary for all living beings but if you really want to live, try a little water therapy. You might be reborn.
Janzu for jangled nerves
I am in my swimsuit, I've been writing all morning, I'm boiling hot and a little uptight. This is the first janzu I've ever had. The therapist, Manuel, has kind eyes and greets me in a wetsuit. He gives me a clip to put on my nose, and I step into a large pool filled with clean salt water. I have no idea what to expect. I'm a little fearful and check the nose clip more than I need to. Manuel then puts one arm under my legs, and the other under my head, and I lie back. He begins slowly swirling me in the water, getting my body to gently twist, slowly to the left, then to the right. I close my eyes. I enjoy the flow of my limbs through the water, but am holding up my head, trying not to allow the salt water into my eyes, and am still tense.
Manuel proceeds with his moves, and I slowly begin to relax. My legs, arms and back are gently manipulated, as the weight of the salt water holds me up. Manuel is at my feet, waving my body like a sheet. He is at my head, zigzagging me from side to side. Gradually, I stop trying to hold my head up and just let go. My forehead and eyes submerge underwater but I have my eyes closed, and they don't sting. Rather, I begin to enjoy the play of light over my eyelids, and the feel of the warm salt water on my face. I listen - the whirl of the water under the surface sounds muffled and comforting.
When Manuel completely submerges me under the water I am taken by surprise. I close my mouth, and wait. But with each new movement, I gain confidence, and am enthralled by the feel of the surrounding warm water and the infused light from the sun above the surface. I now completely trust Manuel, and that the pressure of the water will always pop me up to the surface. My back arches and I feel free, like a dancer. I am curled up, and I feel trusting, like a baby. I am stretched out, feet crossed, and twirled around, and I feel like a sea snake, rolling and playing.
I am unaware of how much time has passed. My eyes have been closed for the whole time and I am floating in my head. I am taken to areas of the pool where there are jets of water and held there in a foetal position. I hear increasingly loud underwater sounds, which play over my ears and face, waking up my senses. Gradually the sounds fade, my head is lifted and I am put on a stone seat in the shallows. "Thank you," says Manuel. Shouldn't that be my line? I feel as if I have let go of something I didn't need and want to have a janzu every day for at least a week. For the rest of the day I feel calm, light and intensely happy.
Being in water makes all movement naturally slower, so it's an exceptionally good place to have a body therapy. Janzu is often seen as a rebirthing therapy, with the water representing the amniotic fluid of the womb and this was very much my experience, though I was sceptical when I first heard about it. I had mine in a very large hydrotherapy pool, but it can be done in smaller pools. More and more spas around the globe are putting it on their treatment menu.
The better known Watsu is another wonderful water therapy, a kind of floating massage developed in California in the early 1980s. It combines the stretching and gentle acupressure of a shiatsu with the relaxing effects of being weightless in warm water to rebalance body and mind, and is especially helpful for those who suffer from stress, disrupted sleep patterns or low immunity. If you just want to be left alone to chill, try flotation therapy, which was first discovered by Nasa scientists to simulate a zero-gravity environment. You float in an enclosed tank full of salt and mineral water heated to body temperature. Being isolated from external stimuli in a weightless environment totally relaxes the muscles and joints, improves sensory awareness and brings about a deep feeling of well-being.
Caroline Sylger Jones is the author of Body & Soul Escapes and Body & Soul Escapes: Britain and Ireland, compendiums of places to retreat and replenish around the world. See www.carolinesylgerjones.co.uk