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Yagoda demonstrated the waterbending art of healing on a life-sized mannequin.

Healing is a sub-skill of waterbending that allows the bender to heal wounds; by using water as a catalyst, they can redirect energy paths around the body, concentrating more energy into a wounded area and allowing that area to heal at an accelerated rate. While this technique is effective on external, physical wounds, its ability to repair internal injuries and cure illnesses is more limited. The skill level of the healer,[2] as well as the quality of the water used, also plays a role in its effectiveness. On rare occasions, waterbenders may instinctively be able to use this technique without any formal training.[1] Typically, healers use a small quantity of water and apply it to the area they wish to heal, though for more serious ailments, the patient may be submerged entirely in water.

Due to the traditionally patriarchal culture of the Northern Water Tribe, this ability was for a long time the only aspect of waterbending taught to female benders, and was prohibited from being taught to male benders.[3][4]


Avatar Yangchen was a very skilled healer, and was able to perform the lengthy, specific process of fixing damage from the cold in order to prevent frostbite.[5] She was known for healing the sick with her own two hands; it was arguably the image of her that the four nations liked best. She treated many kinds of gruesome illnesses and injuries, and saw the worst kind of physical damage.[6]

Sifu Atuat from the Northern Water Tribe was the greatest master healer and doctor of the world by 296 BG, and personally treated the firebending master Hei-Ran after she had been severely poisoned, managing to bring her back from near death.[4]

By 295 BG, Avatar Kyoshi had picked up the basics of healing without a teacher, using water to heal herself after her fight with the Triad of the Golden Wing and Captain Li's officers in Ba Sing Se. Unusually, her water did not glow as she was healing.[7]

Kyoshi later observed Atuat's advanced healing techniques when she treated Chancellor Dairin's guardsmen after Yun's attack on the Fire Nation Royal Palace, where the doctor managed to lower his body's temperature to slow down the process of death itself. Atuat explained this advanced technique is not well-known because most benders cannot do it since it requires too much raw power to do and it requires a lot of concentration in order for them not to kill their patients with the technique.[8] Atuat also accompanied Hei-Ran to North Chung-Ling, where she set up a field hospital to heal those injured in the feud between the Saowon and Keohso clans, and managed to heal Hei-Ran once more after she was stabbed through the throat by Yun.[9]

After the resolution of the Camellia-Peony War, Kyoshi spent a month learning healing from Atuat and eventually learns to make healing water glow, and quickly picking up her more advanced and powerful technique. During her final confrontation with Yun, she used the same body-lowering technique to kill the earthbender by freezing his heart and lungs, before using the Avatar State to raise water from the well beneath the Avatar mansion to heal Rangi's grievous stab wound. She brought Rangi and her other companions to the infirmary, where Atuat would shortly arrive to tend to their injuries.[10]

Yagoda was considered one of the greatest healers of the Northern Water Tribe during the late Hundred Year War, and was entrusted to heal the newborn Princess Yue, although nothing happened as the princess was gravely ill, forcing her parents to ask the Moon Spirit for help.[11][12] Yagoda had a way with very young children, so she usually taught beginner classes, but in general she was still considered a great healing master.[11][3]

Katara heals her hands

Katara inadvertently discovered her healing abilities after Aang accidentally burned her hands.

After Avatar Aang ignored Jeong Jeong's warnings about using firebending without proper training, he accidentally burned Katara due to a lack of control over his flames. Seeking to soothe the pain, Katara submerged her hands in a creek, only to see the water around her hands glow silvery-blue and heal her; Jeong Jeong subsequently explained to Katara the healing abilities sometimes possessed by waterbenders. Having accidentally discovered this new ability, Katara used it again later that day to heal a burn on Aang's forearm, after his fight with Admiral Zhao.[1] Upon reaching the Northern Water Tribe, Katara attended beginner healing classes with Yagoda, but primarily wanted to learn combative waterbending.[3]

Katara continued to use her abilities on a number of occasions during Team Avatar's travels: among other instances, she restored Jet's memories after he had been brainwashed by the Dai Li;[13] she treated Hakoda's wounds during the invasion of the Fire Nation;[14] and she healed Toph's feet after they were accidentally burned by Zuko.[15]

After the war, Katara continued to hone her skills and eventually became regarded as the best master healer in the world.[16] She passed on these skills to her daughter, Kya, who became a renowned healer of her own accord during her travels around the world.[17] By 170 AG, male healers had become more common as well.[18]

Korra healing Bolin

Korra healed Bolin after his shoulder had been injured during a pro-bending match.

As Korra's waterbending teacher, Katara also passed the art of healing onto Korra, and she used it to heal Bolin's shoulder after it was injured in the third round of the Fire Ferrets' semifinal match in the Pro-bending Tournament.[19] She used the technique once more when she healed General Iroh's injury he sustained during the Equalists' attack on Republic City.[20] When Korra had her bending severed by Amon, she sought out Katara in order to be healed by her, but she was unable to restore the Avatar's bending.[16]

Healers are quite prominent in Republic City, and the best of them were visited by Tahno after his bending was taken from him by Amon.[21] After Tarrlok fabricated evidence of a fight with the Equalists in City Hall, a healer was brought in to treat his arm, which he had used an electrified glove on to strengthen his alibi.[18]

Kya heals Jinora

Kya kept Jinora's energy flowing in her body after her soul became trapped in the Spirit World.

Following the Anti-bending Revolution, Kya used her ability to heal Bumi's head injury without the water making contact with him.[22] Later on, when Jinora's soul became trapped in the Spirit World, Kya tried to keep her physical body alive by maintaining its flow of energy. However, after a week of sessions, she felt Jinora slipping away and turned to Katara's greater expertise in the art to keep the young airbender alive,[23] until Jinora's spirit finally returned to her body. Meanwhile, Kya used the water found in the Spirit World to heal the unconscious Korra, Mako, and Bolin simultaneously.[24]

While Korra was still recuperating mentally and physically from her mercury poisoning during the final stage of the insurrection of the Red Lotus, she visited Katara, who used her superior healing prowess to sense the grave internal damage the Avatar had suffered. Despite being a healing master, Katara could not relieve the Avatar's suffering, only help guide Korra through the recovery process.[25]

In 174 AG, after sustaining injuries in an earthbending-cage fight, Korra healed her injured elbow herself by drawing normal water from the sink in a public bathroom.[25] Following Kuvira's invasion of the United Republic of Nations, a number of healers helped the numerous homeless evacuees by manning a medic tent.[26]


Katara revives Aang

Katara healed Aang with spirit water.

Physically, healing draws on the restorative properties of water when applied to organisms that are primarily composed of it, such as human beings. The technique is known to work on physical injuries, such as burns,[1][15] lacerations,[14] broken bones, blunt force impact,[25] diseases brought on by severe pollution,[27] and severe tissue damage caused by lightning bolts.[28][29] It is also able to cure mental distress and tampering,[13] but is ineffective at soothing strong mental anguish or mental illness, such as depression or PTSD.[25]

The effectiveness of healing is influenced by the water used by the bender: when using spirit water from the Spirit Oasis in the North Pole, Katara was able to revive Aang after he was fatally wounded from being struck by lightning,[28] though he remained in a coma for a few weeks and required follow-up healing sessions to cope with the pain and be restored to full health.[30] However, master healer and doctor Atuat from Avatar Kyoshi's era was capable of saving someone from near death by using regular water and possessed a unique and powerful healing technique as body-lowering to slow death itself that Katara and most benders lack.

Though effective in many cases, healing cannot cure every ailment, as it was unable to heal Jet's internal wounds inflicted by Long Feng,[13] or the complications associated with Princess Yue's birth.[12] It has also been demonstrated that healing is ineffective on a person who has had their chi flow blocked or otherwise disrupted; Katara was unable to help a Terra Team member who had been a victim of Ty Lee's chi-blocking skills,[31] and not even the best healers could restore bending lost through advanced bloodbending, as demonstrated by failed attempts by Republic City's best healers to restore Tahno's,[21] and Katara's to restore Korra's.[16]

Healing abilities[]

Body temperature control[]

Certain highly skilled healers are able to lower body temperature to such a level that all processes are slowed down, including death itself. This can be beneficial for healing by buying time, as demonstrated by Atuat, who used this technique to heal the wounded guards of Chancellor Dairin. However, this technique can also be employed in a more sinister way, as showcased by Kyoshi, who had learned this technique from Atuat and used it to kill by freezing her opponent's heart and lungs.[10]

Energy conservation[]

Healers are capable of maintaining the energy of a physical body when their soul is trapped outside of the body. With frequent healing sessions, Kya and Katara were able to keep the energy in Jinora's body flowing for an extended period of time, which kept her alive for the duration her soul was detached from her body. [23]


Purifying dark bat spirits

Korra used a variation of healing infused with spiritual knowledge to pacify a colony of dark bat spirits.

During the era of Roku, Makittuq, a powerful waterbender from the Northern Water Tribe, found solace in interacting with spirits, as they were the only ones who understood her true self. She developed a unique ability to calm spirits thrown out of balance, using knowledge of both healing and spirituality to alter and affect the energy within them. Utilizing this ability, she was able to stop dark spirits from attacking Agna Qel'a and other settlements.[32] Unalaq also later developed this skill during the era of Korra.[33]

In most cases, this technique involves using healing to change a spirit's negative energy into positive energy, restoring its internal balance in the process.[34] It is performed by encircling a spirit in water and is completed when the spirit begins to glow bright yellow, at which point the spirit dissipates or assumes a pacified form. Although the technique has been used extensively to calm single spirits,[35] it can also be used to calm several spirits simultaneously, as both Unalaq and Korra have demonstrated.[36][37] However, this technique is inefficient on spirit vines, and any attempts to remove the vines through such causes them to re-surge even stronger than before.[38]

Unalaq attempts to destroy Korra's spirit

Unalaq almost succeeded in destroying Korra's soul.

In another variation, the conversion process can be used to promote imbalance, by changing a spirit's positive energy into negative energy. The mechanics of the technique remain the same, although the spirit is covered by purple light instead of gold. Unalaq claimed that this variation has the potential to destroy a human's soul.[39]

Watery glove[]

Healers can create a water glove[40] capable of healing small injuries. Katara used this technique to heal her hands as well healing Aang's forearm.[1]

Known practitioners[]

H indicates known ability to use regular healing.
S indicates known ability to use spiritbending.


  • By 100 AG, all known healers were female due to the dissipation of the Southern Water Tribe waterbenders and the tradition of the Northern Water Tribe that restricted female benders to learning healing practices only. Males began to practice the art after the end of the Hundred Year War, however, as male healers were present in both Republic City and the Northern Water Tribe.
  • A technique similar to healing was used by an elderly shaman in 171 AG and involved the use of firebending to sense chi paths and detect spiritual energy within an individual. In contrast to the waterbending form of healing, this technique does not revitalize any cells to accelerate healing.[41]
    • Nyahitha was also familiar with this technique, and used it to partially repair the spiritual damage done to Avatar Kuruk.[42]
  • Healing was inspired by reiki,[43] a spiritual practice commonly known as palm- or hands-on-healing.
  • The use of healing to treat mental strain or psychological trauma is similar to a form of therapy known as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), in which electromagnetic pulses are used to stimulate the development of new neural pathways to alleviate the symptoms of mental illnesses such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Atuat's body cooling technique bears a resemblance to targeted temperature management, previously known as protective or therapeutic hypothermia, a treatment that aims to reduce tissue damage by slowing down a person's metabolism.
  • The movement developed for spiritbending by Sifu Kisu was nicknamed "Monkey Moves the Pizza Pie", or "Pizza Pie" for short, by the production crew.[44]


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  2. Throughout Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 DiMartino, Michael Dante (writer) & Volpe, Giancarlo (director). (November 18, 2005). "The Waterbending Master". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 1. Episode 18. Nickelodeon.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Yee, F. C. (author), DiMartino, Michael Dante (author). (July 21, 2020). Chapter Seven, "The Headmistress". The Shadow of Kyoshi. Amulet Books.
  5. Yee, F. C. (author). (July 19, 2022). Chapter Four, "Forgiveness". The Dawn of Yangchen. Amulet Books.
  6. Yee, F. C. (author). (July 19, 2022). Chapter Twenty-One, "Legitimate Business". The Dawn of Yangchen. Amulet Books.
  7. Yee, F. C. (author), DiMartino, Michael Dante (author). (July 21, 2020). Chapter Two, "The Invitation". The Shadow of Kyoshi. Amulet Books.
  8. Yee, F. C. (author), DiMartino, Michael Dante (author). (July 21, 2020). Chapter Ten, "Aftermath". The Shadow of Kyoshi. Amulet Books.
  9. Yee, F. C. (author), DiMartino, Michael Dante (author). (July 21, 2020). Chapter Sixteen, "Resignation". The Shadow of Kyoshi. Amulet Books.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Yee, F. C. (author), DiMartino, Michael Dante (author). (July 21, 2020). Chapter Twenty-Six, "Home Again". The Shadow of Kyoshi. Amulet Books.
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  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Hedrick, Tim (writer) & MacMullan, Lauren (director). (November 6, 2006). "Lake Laogai". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 2. Episode 17. Nickelodeon.
  14. 14.0 14.1 DiMartino, Michael Dante (writer) & Volpe, Giancarlo (director). (November 30, 2007). "The Day of Black Sun, Part 1: The Invasion". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 3. Episode 10. Nickelodeon.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Ehasz, Elizabeth Welch, Hedrick, Tim (writers) & Spaulding, Ethan (director). (July 14, 2008). "The Western Air Temple". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 3. Episode 12. Nickelodeon.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 DiMartino, Michael Dante, Konietzko, Bryan (writers) & Dos Santos, Joaquim, Ryu, Ki Hyun (directors). (June 23, 2012). "Endgame". The Legend of Korra. Book One: Air. Episode 12. Nickelodeon.
  17. Legend of Korra - mobile trivia game (September 10, 2013). Retrieved on September 10, 2013.
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  19. DiMartino, Michael Dante, Konietzko, Bryan (writers) & Dos Santos, Joaquim, Ryu, Ki Hyun (directors). (May 5, 2012). "The Spirit of Competition". The Legend of Korra. Book One: Air. Episode 5. Nickelodeon.
  20. DiMartino, Michael Dante, Konietzko, Bryan (writers) & Dos Santos, Joaquim, Ryu, Ki Hyun (directors). (June 23, 2012). "Skeletons in the Closet". The Legend of Korra. Book One: Air. Episode 11. Nickelodeon.
  21. 21.0 21.1 DiMartino, Michael Dante, Konietzko, Bryan (writers) & Dos Santos, Joaquim, Ryu, Ki Hyun (directors). (May 19, 2012). "The Aftermath". The Legend of Korra. Book One: Air. Episode 7. Nickelodeon.
  22. DiMartino, Michael Dante (writer) & Heck, Colin (director). (September 20, 2013). "Civil Wars, Part 1". The Legend of Korra. Book Two: Spirits. Episode 3. Nickelodeon.
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  44. DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Dos Santos, Joaquim & Hedrick, Tim (July 1, 2014). "Rebel Spirit" commentary. Book Two: Spirits Blu-ray.

See also[]