Keeping calm just got a little easier, and closer, too

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Keep Calm and Carry On. The phrase on that British World War II poster is enjoying a comeback of late, and if you’re on Facebook, you’ve seen about a thousand variations: “Keep Calm and Go Shopping,” Keep Calm and Love Dogs,” “Keep Calm and Put Bacon On It,” and my personal favorite, “I can’t Keep Calm, I’m Italian.”

Keep calm. Keep calm. I can chant it like a mantra, but it’s still an elusive concept. “Calm” is not my natural skill.

Given that I’m the Winters Express editor, a freelance columnist, the CEO and co-editor of our iPinion Syndicate, the Winters Chamber of Commerce president and running my own massage therapy business, there’s just not a lot of time left to keep calm.

Yes, it requires time to keep calm. You have to carve out time in your daily routine to purge the stress from your system, whether it’s working out, doing yoga, meditating, taking nature walks, or getting professional help. Me, I require professional help.

And this totally surprised you, right?

Besides valiantly trying to stick to an exercise schedule at least five mornings per week, I also have a team of calming professionals: two regular massage therapists (one works out the knots, the other works out the tension), an acupuncturist who keeps my chi circulating, and a chiropractor to get all the kinks out.

No, it’s not excessive. I’m like a Ferrari. I require special maintenance.

Most recently, my calming team of professionals has increased by one, and what she does is not only quite unique but also a rare thing in these parts. It’s called Watsu, and one of my classmates from massage school, Laurie Loving, is offering it right there in Davis, following a hiatus of several years.

What is Watsu? It’s heaven. It’s a blissful return to the womb. It is equal parts massage, physical therapy and pure maternal love. If you have “Keep Calm” issues like me, and taking walks and drinking a glass of wine, or two or five, after work aren’t cutting it anymore, you might think about giving it a try.

Beyond simply being the most calming, soothing experience you’ll ever have, there are particular conditions that Watsu can alleviate: stiffness and joint pain, tight, sore muscles, anxiety, and all sorts of stress-related conditions. Those suffering with fibromyalgia or even paralytic conditions could benefit from Watsu, because it’s very gentle, and doesn’t require you to do anything other than relax into someone else’s arms. You just turn yourself over and drift away.

Watsu differs from traditional massage in that the entire treatment takes place in a warm pool of water. You don’t need to worry about swimming skills, because the water is shallow enough to stand up in at any time. Plus, your body is suspended at all times by the therapist, along with some small flotation pillows around the knees.

Besides the warmth of the water, which in itself is therapeutic and soothing, the therapist smoothly, gradually stretches your limbs and sides, back and neck, using the resistance of the water to let your torso and limbs slowly, gently stretch. You can actually feel tension, aches and pains just melting away.

Best of all, after all the kinks have been smoothed out of your system, the session ends with a close, loving embrace, much like a mother would hold a small child falling asleep. And that’s just how it feels by that point: As if you’re cuddled safe and warm in your mother’s arms, slowly drifting into serenity. I don’t know about you, but it’s been a long, long time since I experienced that feeling, and it’s quite lovely to have an opportunity to experience it again.

Total trust, total peace. That’ll keep you calm.

So, Watsu is a great way to relieve stress and pain, both physical and emotional, but beyond that, what’s the significance? That it’s being offered locally. I used to have to travel to Harbin Hot Springs, the birthplace of Watsu, if I wanted a session. The Watsu therapists there (actually, all the massage therapists there) are world class, and the setting is surely the template from which Eden was created. After all, Watsu was developed by Harold Dull right there at Harbin, and lovely Laurie learned her techniques there, from the original masters. You can’t set the bar any higher than that.

Now, given, Davis isn’t exactly the same idyllic, blissful setting as Harbin, but I have to give Laurie credit — she has created a charming, peaceful little Watsu pool in her East Davis yard, underneath a white dome-shamed yurt and adorned it with peaceful decorations, with some of the flaps pulled up so just the right amount of sunlight trickles in. It was hard for me to imagine a setting in which Watsu could take place in East Davis, but I’m impressed with what Laurie has done with a little creativity and determination. Aside from the occasional low train whistle in the distance, if you close your eyes, you’ll drift far, far away.

So. Having trouble with that “Keep Calm” concept? Give Watsu a try. The drive for a session just got a lot shorter.

(For more information about Watsu in Davis, visit http://daviswiki.org/Aquatic_Bodywork)

— Email Debra DeAngelo, winner of the 2012 Best Serious Column award in the National Newspaper Association’s Better Newspaper Contest, at debra@wintersexpress.com; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.edebra.com

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