Back in September, I had the wonderful privilege of attending a weekend intensive and introduction to the famed Esalen Massage (EM) modality at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA. Nestled and suspended on the seaside of the pacific coast, Esalen’s beautiful views are second to none. The fairly common whale sightings add even more magnificence to this already magical, enchanting and other-worldly place. I thought I was going to Esalen’s class to learn several new techniques to add to my already expanding repertoire of massage tools, but it turned out to be much more than that. At Esalen I learn that EM was more than a massage modality, it’s a way of life—it’s a way of being. I was able to return to my practice here in Safety Harbor, FL and bring that Esalen presence back into my practice and present its essence to my clients.
What is Esalen Massage like?
Esalen Massage (EM) is known for its healing and nurturing touch; it combines long strokes, gentle rocking and stretching, sculpting of deep musculature and the precision of acupressure. However, EM goes beyond the physical result of bodywork by focusing on energy exchange and psychological well-being. Taught and trademarked by the Esalen Institute, EM aims to tune the mind and body together to create a sense of serenity and peace.
Ten key aspects of the Esalen technique for practitioners include:
- Grounding yourself before giving a massage.
- Waiting and listening to the client’s breath before making initial contact.
- Gentle rocking to help the body let go of rigidity.
- Creating a unified and whole massage defined by long, lengthening strokes.
- Making small circular movements around joints to encourage release.
- Bringing the whole body weight into the movement.
- A little unpredictability to ease away holding patterns.
- Allowing time to pause.
- Understanding that massage goes beyond the physical self.
- Remembering that everybody loves and wants to be touched