Mumbai two new water therapy centres open in city, here’s what to expect – lifestyle

A swim in the sea has cured far too many issues for this writer that popping pills couldn’t. The late paraplegic Superman actor Christopher Reeve could move his limbs under observation in water, musician John Lennon was said to use a sensory deprivation tank to float away from his heroin use, while footballer Wayne Rooney used flotation to overcome his injuries and make a comeback.

Several research papers have revealed the positive effects on a range of health issues, ranging from multiple sclerosis, cardio vascular health, chronic pain, PTSD or insomnia. Mumbai seems to be warming up to the concept of water therapy in the past few years, with aqua aerobics and Zumba being the most popular and accessible fitness routines in the category.

It has been designed as a holistic physiotherapy centre to cater to orthopaedic care, neurology, women’s healthcare and paediatric care.

So they also have a medical gymnasium, and an outdoor sensory pathway designed to help improve balance and focus on muscle strengthening. What we like the most about the centre is that it’s uplifting with loads of natural light, which according to us is crucial for any patient.

We enter the pool after a quick change. The lockers and shower room are sparkling clean. The water in the pool has ozone and UV filters and does not smell of any chemicals, which is a good sign. Once inside the pool, our therapist takes us through a basic set of exercises using sponge dumbbells and pool noodle, which function on the principle of buoyancy. Don’t let the lightweight equipment fool you, as it is designed to function underwater and works great for weight-training exercises. We love running on the treadmill, so we also give resistance running a try on an underwater treadmill.

We are told that the centre caters to cricketers and other sportsmen, who come for private sessions. For someone with low physical strength like us, running underwater against the wave is a challenge but the good part is that we don’t feel our muscles strain in the wrong way and are able to push ourselves to meet our goal. One of the biggest benefits of training under water is that it increases the pain threshold and makes it easier for the expert to pinpoint the problem areas.

After we go through the basic exercises that a healthy person can try in water, we get in the zone for a session of Watsu therapy. This is a relaxation aquatic therapy where the treatment involves being cradled by a therapist, who works on muscle movement while we close our eyes and surrender to the water and the expert. In the half-hour session, we sense that the expert deftly stretches our back muscles, a problem area, and the waist; we enter a near-slumber state while being gently rotated in the warm pool.

AN image of Eleven floating in a tub in Stranger Things comes to our mind when we sign up for a sensory deprivation floating session at Liquid Sanctuary. It was started by Chirag Lilaramani in Delhi and has been brought to Mumbai by his friend Digant Joshi and wife Puja Amin. Amin, a yoga expert, also runs The Movement Sanctuary in the premises. "One day, I was badly hungover and wondered why don’t we have these tanks in Mumbai? Coincidently, I found out that my friend Chirag had started this in Delhi, and we decided to bring it to Mumbai," says Joshi. The company can also custom-design a tank.

The benefits of floating, range from skin rejuvenation to alleviating issues related to arthritis, blood pressure, or asthma. The Bandra centre has two tanks, one is designed to resemble a log cabin, and the second a beach house. They use Epsom salt and add Dead Sea mud to treat the skin. Once Joshi takes us through the process, we get ready to start our session, butt naked. We switch off all the lights, except for that of the tank, which goes off 20 minutes into the session. This is also when the music is switched off, and you are left to yourself in pitch dark, deprived of most of your senses. As much as we thought this would be uncomfortable, it isn’t. In fact, we like it better when the music is off as we enter a complete Zen state; we even doze off for a few minutes.

There’s an unconscious urge to itch our face, which Joshi had warned us about, and that’s the only thing that distracts us. Once the music comes on, it’s our cue to step out. Our body feels heavier; frames of Sandra Bullock walking out of water in the film Gravity hit us in a flash. This also makes us realise how we take our muscles for granted and ignore them. It’s best to check this out when you are tired, which we were at the end of the working day.

We realise that the therapy helped us when the partner mentions that our skin looks brighter, unaware of what we had signed up for. The salts made our skin softer and our nagging neck and shoulder pain doesn’t hurt much. Would we try it again? Absolutely, as we are keen to know what two sessions of floating would do to our stressed out body.

"Water’s natural properties such as buoyancy and hydrostatic pressure help in making muscle movements smooth. And since there are no jerky movements, the chances of injury are less. Those with a balance problem, don’t have a risk of falling and getting hurt in water. If you pinch yourself outside water and then underwater, the pain is lesser as the pain threshold increases in water. So you can do several exercises in water without pain, especially ones that you can’t on ground. This helps with spastic muscles, in cases of neurological or muscular skeletal issues. The mood of the patient is better in water, and because of this, they participate more. One of our patients, who is in fact a doctor, had suffered a stroke and had severe balance issues. After six sessions of balance training inside water, we recorded his improvement by using a functional outcome measure, which improved from 32 to 48," says Dr Amit Dhumale, consultant and director, neurological rehabilitation; programme director, Aqua Rehab, Jupiter Hospital