"To be a cloud in the sky, to be the sky itself, to be space, to be
A river with quiet waters that supports, guides, meanders, flows.
Absent of gravity, we dance a dance that frees, connects, heals, and integrates..."
The Jahara aquatic therapy is based on very simple key concepts, which lay the foundations for its technical excellence, and promotes astonishing results. It was created by Mario Jahara, a well known Zen Shiatsu teacher of Brazilian origin nowadays living in the US. The practitioner, standing, supports the receiver's body in water at body temperature. Taking simple steps, he guides movements that expand, relax and balance the client's body. The receiver's legs rest on a cylindrical floater (noodle), which allows the pelvis to drop, thus relaxing the lumbar area. The support and traction on the cervical vertebrae are constant, aligning the whole spine. With her ears below the water, her eyes closed, the receiver enters a different world, free of gravity, with no borders between her body and the water that supports it, where her fragmented perceptions are dissolved, she reaches an awareness of her body as a whole - an amplified self-awareness.
The concepts of the Jahara Technique offer us a clarifying perspective of the spirit of this therapy:
As opposed to stretching, which is always directed to a particular group of muscles, expansion embraces the whole body. Mainly directed to the skeleton, expansion takes place between the vertebrae, and in all joints of the body. To reach expansion in the client's body, the practitioner works with awareness of his own expansion, aligning his spine, taking care of his own stance at all times. This attitude of extreme care prevents the mind from getting distracted, and focuses the emotions, creating a space where physical expansion opens the door to a different kind of expansion, inside the being who transcends her own borders and becomes one with the surroundings; in this case, with the water.
Support is the balance between presence and sensitivity that enables the practitioner to amplify the range of movements in order for the body to enjoy the freedom to float in water. She feels so cared for that this freedom never turns into a feeling of lack of protection that could generate fear. In actuality, what the practitioner supports is the receiver's head and some key parts of her body. Because the medium we are moving through is liquid, it's at the same time that the water itself that provides constant support. One acquires the art of supporting with practice as well as an attitude of listening and respect. In some cases the receiver needs constant support, closer to the practitioner's body in order for them to be able to relax. In other cases wide movements are needed, which gives her a feeling of “flying”, and she can explore a new relationship between the body and three dimensional space.
For a number of people, feeling supported is such a forgotten and unconsciously longed for sensation that their deepest resistances, and their most secret fears give up and melt away. When the treatment ends and they stand up, the look in their eyes express infinite gratitude, for having retrieved that part of them that simply trusts.
In Jahara technique we talk about the power of gentleness. The inner attitude of the practitioner is receptive, and water helps him to feel that there is no demand, or no pressure of any type. A slow and deep breath, a balance that comes from the awareness of the water density and how to cooperate with it, are the elements which allow the practitioner to work with any body type, big or small; or psychological type, one who trusts the water or fears it. Seeking perfect balance, with slow movements, the practitioner answers the client’s possible stiffness or restriction of movement with gentleness, guiding her towards a feeling where any effort disappears.
The experience of Jahara is the contact with water, through the practitioner’s support. The latter turns into part of the water, and both his body and the floater which can be placed or removed from under one or both legs becomes “invisible”. The art of Jahara is to find a center, from which movements flow so naturally that the receiver can't know for sure where the giver's body is in space. Perceiving only the giver's support, expansion and presence radiates without demanding attention. The practitioner works over his own ego through invisibility, transforming his need to be important into his availability to be present.
Every body, every session is a new experience, as much in the receiver's intimate experience, as in the combination of movements which unfold. With the sustenance of technical capacity and presence, creativity appears and explores. It is a dialogue between the person floating and the one supporting and guiding her, and like in any genuine dialogue, possibilities are infinite.
Published in the Argentinean magazine “Medicinas Alternativas”; July 2003.
Valerie Gaillard directs the Shiatsunuad School in Argentina, and is a Zen Shiatsu and Thai Massage Teacher.