Relax Off The Grid: Watsu Aquatic Massage Davis

By Kellie Conway Edson

Kellie Edson
Kellie Edson

I had the immense pleasure of trying out one of the Greater Sacramento Area’s hidden gems. Tucked away in East Davis, Jillian Van Ness is one of just a few practitioners in our area that is certified to administer Watsu® Aquatic Massage. This East Davis pool is the only one of it’s kind in the area, though Jillian has dreams of building an aquatic center in downtown Sacramento someday.  How cool would that be?!

What is Watsu® Aquatic Massage?

Watsu® aquatic massage is a unique form of bodywork that combines aquatic therapy with traditional shiatsu massage. It began in 1980 when Zen Shiatsu practitioner, Harold Dull began floating people in the pool, applying the stretches and principles he had studied in Japan.  Watsu® sessions are performed in a shallow, body-temperature pool. During each session, you are floating weightless in the pool supported by both the practitioner as well as neutral buoyancy floats, while the water allows your spine, joints and muscles to be gently manipulated in a way that only water can. It’s not the kind of ‘bouncy’ floating that happens in regular pools either. It’s very neutral, balanced and calming.

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Jillian practicing Watsu on a pregnant client (Photo Credit: Little Wonders Photography)

My Experience:

Many of the gals in the Sacramento birth community had been singing the praises of Watsu® massage lately. I’d never even heard of it before, but it sounded intriguing. I knew that baths and hot tubs tend to be a go to relaxation spot for me, and when I was pregnant I was so thankful to be able to labor in a birthing tub – so I thought it’d be really cool to give this a try. And I have to say, it was an experience unlike any other. So relaxing and wonderful. I was nervous that the water and movement would make me feel seasick or extra anxious (I’m deathly afraid of snorkeling, and occasionally in the past acupuncture heightened my anxiety) But, absolutely none of those fears were realized.

It felt like taking aspects of Acupuncture/Acupressure and combining them with Tai Chi movement, massage, and the overall relaxing feeling of floating in warm water all rolled into one. I’m not even sure I can do it justice in describing it because it was such a unique experience. And Jillian makes you feel so at ease about the whole process, explaining everything in depth and making sure to include how you can raise your hand at any time during the session to take a break or end it if you need to. Other clients of hers have described it as womb-like and touted its benefits in helping with everything from depression to sleep.

Before our session, Jillian explained how the water helps calm and settle our often times overactive nervous system, which totally makes sense, and explains why I felt such a sense of calm after the session. As someone who struggles with anxiety, this was so encouraging. It’s completely different than coming out of a regular table massage – which I also love – but when I leave one of those, I get more of a feeling of ‘hurts so good’ with all my muscle kinks worked out; whereas, this was more of a soothing and balanced feeling. I would highly recommend this to anyone who wants a little more relaxation in their life – which let’s be real, who doesn’t? And it is particularly beneficial for pregnant & postpartum women as well as those affected by chronic disease, stress, anxiety and depression.


The Loving Aquatic Watsu® pool in East Davis.

Not only can you go to the pool in Davis to book a session with Jillian, but if you have a shallow area of a pool that can be heated to 96 degrees, Jillian can come to you! Check her website for more information about specifications and rates.

About Jillian:

Jillian is a Certified Massage Therapist (CMT) and holds the highest accreditation offered by the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC). In 2011, she discovered her true passion in the water and trained to become a Watsu® Aquatic Massage Practitioner in Washington State through the Worldwide Aquatic Bodywork Association (WABA). New moms on the grid, take note, she is also an internationally Certified Infant Massage Teacher (CIMT) and Certified Pediatric Massage Therapist (CPMT), and teaches group classes to parents and caregivers every week.


Photo Credit: Little Wonders Photography

You can find out more about Watsu® and Jillian at her website

Jillian is also generously offering Girls on the Grid readers $10 off their first one-hour Watsu® Massage session (or gift certificate for a loved one)! Just mention Girls on the Grid when you contact her to schedule.

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1 Comment

  1. Jillian Van Ness says

    Thanks for the fabulous article and review Kellie! It was a pleasure having you at the pool, and I hope to meet more GOTG readers soon. I’m incredibly passionate about this modality and thrilled to provide both aquatic and infant massage to Sacramento-area families. Come try it for yourself and see!

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