It's So Nice To Be Kneaded
Esalen massage is a variation of a century-old Swedish Massage
Developed by Esalen Institute of Big Sur,California.
Esalen Massage vs. Swedish Massage
While the strokes are similar, the philosophy and intent are quite different.
Swedish massage was developed as part of gymnastics, Esalen as part of Gestalt
Swedish seeks to affect specific muscles, joints and organ and relieve pain
and increase mobility. Esalen does this but also seeks to help the person
live more comfortably in his or her own body and integrate body, mind and
spirit into a more harmonious whole person.
The strokes and manipulations of Swedish massage are for a specific therapeutic
benefit. Esalen massage is set apart us a unique style because it also reflects
an attitude about touching, caring, energy awareness and emotional, spiritual
healing besides just physical manipulation.
Part of the attitude of Esalen is that touching is a basic need, as essential
as air, food or water: that caring about others is natural; that getting in
touch with one's own body leads to a more effective way of loving and relating
to others, and that healing comes from within as well as from the outside.
In Esalen massage the social differences between the giver and receiver is
reduced. No white uniform as a symbol of authority. Esalen massage is often
practiced as an exchange - alternating between who gives and receives - and
is traditionally done in the nude. However when done by professional therapists,
this of course, is not done. At the hot spring baths in California where it
originated, getting dressed when it was your turn to give massage seemed not
only superfluous but downright silly.
In public practice Esalen practitioners usually dress very informally and
the client is usually covered with a towel or sheet, but since one of the
aims of Esalen style massage is to tie the parts of the body together, coverings
are moved aside to permit long flowing "connecting" strokes that are among
its hallmarks. In exchange groups and retreats for massagers, clothing is
usually optional for everyone. Having options places responsibility on each
individual rather than on some external authority, and that's what holistic
health care is all about.
A massager who has a nervous preoccupation with keeping certain parts of the
body covered conveys the nonverbal message that not all of the body is acceptable.
Conversely, a receiver who cannot confidently and with trust put his or her
body in the hands of a massager is unlikely to benefit from Esalen massage.
One who is afraid to be seen nude will communicate tension to the giver and
both will find relaxation difficult. People who are not comfortable around
the body should not be in bodywork, just as people who don't like children
should not teach kindergarten.
There is also a difference in conception of what therapy is. Sometimes it
is said that Esalen "only" makes one feel good, as if that were a frivolous
self-indulgence, whereas Swedish is more "therapeutic". But Esalen is intended
to feel good; its creators believed in the wisdom that feeling good is good
for you in body as well as emotions and spirit. Esalen massagers believe that
pleasure itself is therapeutic.
Few Esalen massagers practice 100% pure Esalen but use a blend of strokes
and techniques for maximum physical as well as relational touch and good feelings.
Within the profession there is great diversity which provides a choice for
clients. The largest massage organization, the AMTA, is very nurse and physical
manipulation oriented. Emphasis in workshops is often proper draping of the
body and the importance of the clean white uniform. More holistic therapists
believe this is very cold and impersonal.
"Holistic" comes from the Greek "holos", meaning "whole". When applied to
health it means "the belief that an organic or integrated whole has reality
independent of and greater than the sum of its parts. In bodywork that means
viewing health as a balance of physical, mental, and spiritual aspects. It
does not mean treating only muscles and ignoring feelings.
-An act of physical caring expressing trust, empathy and respect.
-Unique way of communicating inner love and God's Spirit even to a stranger,
without words, beyond touching and hugging.
-Nurturing touch makes people more whole, more fully ourselves and each person's
hands have the power to give this joy to another.
Our Sexual "Hang-ups" And Touch
Massage has an undeserved bad reputation since it has been improperly used
as a cover up for sex and prostitution. Therefore we are often hungup over
massage and touching.
Touch has been shown to be a very basic human need. Skin hunger is as real
as stomach hunger, yet it is so restricted by our society and equated with
sex, that Americans have lost the ability to nurture through touch.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could openly touch and show affection without
our hang-ups? Most of us were taught to express such intimacy only in sexual
relationships. But intimacy doesn't necessarily include sex, any more than
sex necessarily involves intimacy.
God designed our bodies for sensual enjoyment through touch but we often confuse
wonderful sensual feelings with sexual acts.
Esalen massage breaks the barriers to touch and allows us to grow in a new
awareness of the feeling, caring, and pleasure our bodies were meant to express
to one another.
Unfortunately I do not have any contacts with Esalen therapists to refer anyone
too (other than myself!). It is very popular in California and can be found
in other areas. You might also check in New Age or alternative newspapers
where therapists may advertise their Esalen specialty. The name Esalen
Massage has now been trademarked and only those certified as Esalen therapists
may use the title.
Not To Be Confused With Tantric or Sexual Massage
Some book writers have mixed Esalen style massage (often without proper credit)
with sexual massage. Sometimes the properly name Esalen techniques but then
don't make it clear when they shift to non-Esalen sexual techniques such as
Tantra etc. With it being trademarked, hopefully people will be
more careful with the use of the term Esalen.
Learning Esalen Massage
A Great New Teaching Video
People that have experienced Esalen Massage agree that it is extraordinary.
Its holistic approach is unique.
Now for the first time the members of the Esalen Massage Team demonstrate
and teach their world-renowned techniques on video. An original acoustic music
soundtrack was created especially for the Esalen Massage Video
Shot entirely on location at the acclaimed beautiful Esalen Institute's
massage patio with breath taking views of the Pacific Ocean in the background,
this hands-on instructional program presents a complete full-body session
(approx. 75 minutes) designed to guide you from head to toe. The step-by-step
format makes it easy to learn while doing: Just follow along with your own
partner as you are watching the video. With practice, you will find
yourself getting better and better at giving a wonderfully soothing Esalen
I have to chuckle a bit on how they did the film. I've talked to
the production company and because they hope to get on the shelves of major
book and video sellers, they had to break from the Esalen tradition of nude
massage (both therapist and client) so they only had to put a "partial nudity"
warning on the box. This seems so silly to me. What was
comical is how you try and do some of the full body flowing strokes while
draped. But the film did a good job. It's just so silly having to have
some draping for those "dirty" parts of the body. See
Nudity is Natural and Wholesome (Link is within Liberated Christians so
back out to get back here)
for my positive view on nudity and body acceptance.
The video also starts out adding some New Age and Tantra ideas related
to breathing and chackra points which are Hindu based. It your not interested
in these aspects, its only mentioned briefly in the beginning. Otherwise
its mostly about Esalen Massage.
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