Esalen massage practitioners contribute greatly to the renaissance
in the art of touch. Within this delicate means of interfacing
between humans, we offer our clients what we have refined in
concentrated hands-on work over the past thirty-five years.
Our styles have many levels of conceptual understanding interwoven
with tactile sensitivity, elegant awareness and heartfelt communication.
At times we spontaneously touch levels of the emotional body
and even spirit.
Massage is touching with purpose. This may involve relieving
muscle pain, increasing body awareness, or bringing equilibrium
to a life in crisis. Tangible outcomes are experienced in the
stimulation of skin, lymph and blood, relaxation of muscles
and nervous system, release of metabolic waste, stretching of
connective tissues and a tranquilizing effect through the parasympathetic
nervous system. It is a healthy way of handling stress.
We have melded long, lengthening strokes with gentle rocking
and stretching, passive joint movement, sculpting of deep musculature,
delicate cranial balancing, subtle neural re-education and the
precision of Chinese point work into our somatic offerings;
thus each massage is unique in itself.
To allow being touched in a meditative way is a way to become
firmly in touch with yourself.
Since K.Mello, a long time Esalen®
practitioner has given such a perfect description of the Esalen®
Massage i am grateful that with her kind permission and the
approval of the Editors of Friends of Esalen® Newsletter
(published Fall 2001, Volume 13, Number 2) i may use her words
to explain my work as well.
Esalen® Massage The touch That Lingers
by K Mello
For many of us, one of the highlights of our Esalen® experience
is receiving an Esalen® massage. To watch the Esalen®
massage-practitioners at work is to see living art. The respect
with which they approach both this sacred craft and their clients
is evident. The magnificent setting of Esalen® with the hot baths
perched on the cliff above the ocean and the rhythmic sound
of the surf creates a very special ambiance that enhances this
process. For those of us who have experienced this soothing
and healing touch, just the very mention of Esalen® massage may
return us to the experience and bring a deep, pleasing body
memory, which can slow the breath and relax the body.
Esalen® massage began to ripen in the early 1960's and has its
origins in Swedish massage combined with the !influence of early
Esalen® leaders and practitioners, such as Charlotte SeIver and
her student, Bernie Gunther, Fritz Perls, and Ida Rolf, among
many others. Mollie Day Schakman's Massage and Meditation
workshop in September 1968 was the first to offer "Esalen®-style
massage" to the public. However, the three dozen or so
massage practitioners currently at Esalen® have studied and incorporate
into their work an amazing variety of influences, including
Polarity, Traeger, Reflexology, Accupressure, and Shiatsu. Each
massage practitioner puts their personal imprint into their
work to create their own individual style.
It is not so much common techniques or styles that delineates
Esalen® massage practitioners, but more a common philosophical
approach. The most important aspect of this approach is the
presence of the practitioner and the complete focus on the session.
Esalen® practitioners learn to clear themselves beforehand, so
that when they touch another person, they're bringing a quality
of touch that is present and respectful. Esalen® practitioners
develop the ability to tune into the client, be sensitive, and
pick up cues that come through the body.
If there are common aspects of style or technique among the
practitioners of Esalen® massage, one is the quality of touch
created by the grounded presence of the practitioner. This tactile
sensitivity involves contacting or entering the physical and
energy fields of another person with curious compassion and
respect in a nonintrusive and nurturing way. Students of Esalen®
massage are taught that it is important to move through that
energy field gently and with awareness before making physical
contact. The first touch is held for a moment. The client begins
to relax and trust in the practitioner's hands. At this crucial
moment, clients will often take a deep breath and begin to relax
as their internal voices say, I . feel trusting and comfortable."
Thus an intuitive connection between the massage therapist and
the client is established. Another similarity among the Esalen®
massage practitioners is to include pauses throughout the session
as well as the incorporation of slow, flowing integrative strokes,
which serve to remind the body that its parts are connected
to remind the body of its wholeness.
Intention is kept in the foreground of the practitioner's mind.
This is not an intention that is trying to fix anything per
say; rather, the practitioner's intention is to allow a client's
innate capacity for self-healing and balance. It is a mutual
journey wherein clients are encouraged to empower themselves
rather than to "be fixed." The open-air quality of
Esalen® massage and the interpersonal contact banish the authoritative
stance of the more traditional health practitioner, allowing
the client an active role in
For more information on the 28- day Massage Certification Program
or other massage workshops please refer to the session. A practitioner
may encourage breath, use colorful images to suggest a relaxed
state, and bring the clients attention to holding patterns,
rather than simply relying on deep muscle work. Again and again
within the session comes the reminder that the whole body
the whole person is involved.
Some 33 years after the first massage workshop, Esalen®
massage is still being taught. From such humble beginnings
on the cliffs of Big Sur, Esalen® massage is now world renown
and is being practiced in such far off places as Chile, Bali,
Saudi Arabia, Italy, Brazil, Germany, Japan, and in small and
large towns across the USA, Canada, Mexico not to forget