Esalen massage, with roots similar to the more familiar Swedish massage, is a trademark of the Esalen Institute of California and focuses intently on the exchange of energy, achieving spiritual and emotional results along with the physical. This form of massage therapy is different in that it carries a unique style that not only varies by the individual, but also increase spiritual awareness and promotes emotional healing. Acknowledging that the need for touch is as natural and essential to humans as the need for oxygen or food, the Esalen attitude promotes serenity through getting in touch with both one’s mind and body.
The renowned Esalen Institute, known for its hot springs that pepper the grounds providing a natural alternative to healing, is impressively situated on the rocky cliffs of Big Sur, overlooking the cerulean waters of the Pacific Ocean. After five decades, the non-profit organisation is recognised as a pioneer in the world of experiential and alternative education, including a variety of specific programs covering everything from art and music, to massage and yoga, as well as meditation, spirituality, and more.
Once a gathering place for creative thinkers like Jack Kerouac and Joan Baez, the Esalen Institute is part think-tank, part ethereal retreat, and part venue for exploring alternative practices and healing.
Although these two types of massage do in fact use similar strokes, the general philosophy behind the practices are rather different from one another. Developed primarily in the world of gymnastics, Swedish massage addresses specific groups of muscles and joints in order to relieve pain, increase one’s mobility, and promote a therapeutic sense of healing.
Esalen massage, however, was first conceived as a part of Gestalt psychotherapy, which was developed in the 1940s and 1950s and emphasises existentialism and experiential psychotherapeutic exploration. While Esalen massage also caters to the same issues as Swedish massage does, Esalen aims to exist on a deeper level, integrating the mind, body, and the spirit to achieve an overwhelming sense of harmony and peace.
Aficionados of the practice traditionally receive Esalen massage therapy completely in the nude, although the option to be draped with a towel or sheet is available. Esalen massage utilises long, smooth strokes, sometimes full-body length, that are likened to coaxing the tension right out of the muscles, with the therapist varying their techniques based on the person’s individual needs and response, both verbal and physical.
Unless the practitioner is utilising holistic therapy, they will more than likely be dressed in a clinical uniform and will always maintain an air of professionalism. The ultimate goal of Esalen massage is to provide the maximum amount of comfort, relaxation, and healing as possible, allowing us to shatter the barriers between the mind and the power of touch.
While the distinct benefits one receives from Esalen massage therapy aren’t viewed the same in terms of therapeutic outcome the way other types of massage are, including the Swedish version, there are still notable rewards to consider.
The Healing Power of Touch – The healing power of touch occurs in several ways with Esalen massage therapy, the most notable of which is a marked increase in the body’s circulation. A healthy circulatory system allows for the immune system to function properly, thus warding off illness and disease. Esalen massage also bridges the gap between mind and body by promoting a sense of mental and emotional well-being that comes from the power of touch.
Deep Relaxation – This type of intense massage therapy is said to cause one to feel a rather deep sense of relaxation of the mind as well as the body. Because this state of relaxation is so profound, it also has added benefits such as reduced stress and tension that result from this intense mind and body connection.
If you aren’t concerned with the nudity aspect of the Esalen massage and are open to exploring an intense combination of esoteric-like physical and mental relaxation, consider enjoying the experience for yourself.