Promoting Intimacy and Other-Centered Sexuality
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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 psychotherapy.
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 are 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
There is also a difference in the 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 the 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. The 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 a 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.
-A 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 hung up
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 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.
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 the 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 for my positive view on nudity and body acceptance.
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