Tecate, Baja California, Mexico, April 2011–Developed at the Northern California School of Shiatsu and Massage, Aquatic Shiatsu (WATSU) incorporates principles of Zen Shiatsu. WATSU focuses on stretching to strengthen muscles, increase flexibility, range of motion and release blockages along meridians–the channels through which “chi,” or life force, flows.

Steadily gaining popularity in the U.S., this highly-specialized treatment is still only performed by a few experienced practitioners. David Towe, one of 10 WATSU practitioners in San Diego, California, is available each week to work with guests at Rancho La Puerta.

Towe’s initial path to WATSU brought him into contact with tribal leaders, medicine men and Buddhist masters. Highlights of his many experiences include floating atop the Dead Sea, learning meditation techniques from Buddhist elders on the Tibetan plateau and having playful interactions with rare mountain gorillas in the Congo. With with a more evolved wisdom and sense of his life’s purpose, Towe began working for Pacific Crest Outward Bound School, where he led groups of teenagers on 28-day-long mountaineering courses. At the same time, he began what would become a 14-year career with Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI).

“Today my life is to be of service to people making a difference in our world,” says Dave, who after one WATSU session knew it was what he wanted to do. “Each week I am grateful for the opportunity to meet wonderful Ranch guests who have made a choice to receive a WATSU session. To be able to deliver, as guests say, ‘multi-dimensional and impactful’ treatment is priceless.”

Rancho La Puerta has designated one of its four pools strictly for WATSU treatments. The warm 96-degree water, and the continuous support it provides, is ideal for freeing the spine by taking weight off vertebrae and relaxing muscles. Support also allows the spine to be moved in ways impossible on land. Gentle, gradual movements initiated by the practitioner relieve the pressure a rigid spine places on nerves; in turn helping alleviate any dysfunction this pressure can place on the organs serviced by those nerves. One 60-minute session is priced at $140.

About Rancho La Puerta

The original fitness resort and spa, Rancho La Puerta welcomes 100 to 125 guests each week to its 3,000 private acres of gardens, mountains and meadows. All facilities and the huge park-like setting of mountains and meadows are for the exclusive use of its guests, who come for the weeklong program. Most guests arrive and depart on Saturdays only, much like a cruise, fostering a sense of community and camaraderie. The climate is near-perfect; warm and dry, with some rain showers in winter, and warm with very low humidity in summer–cleansed by an occasional mountain thunderstorm that lasts but an hour or two. Rancho La Puerta is located at the juncture of the Laguna and Sierra Juarez mountain ranges only about 25 miles from the Pacific Ocean at an elevation of 1,700 feet.