Massage Therapy: Esalen-Style Massage

Developed in the 1960s, this style of massage originated at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, and is based on a combination of Oriental and Swedish massage techniques, echoing the rhythmic ebb and flow of waves and breath. Esalen massage is gentle in nature, emphasizing nurturing and empathy. The massage strokes are soft, easy and slow, prompting deep relaxation, and often flow from head to toe in one unbroken sweep.

Esalen-Style Massage

Gentle rocking, stretching, and passive movement of limbs are also used to prompt release of unconscious muscular tension and holding. Additionally, there may be times during the massage when the therapist simply pauses for a few moments, gently holding a limb or lightly resting his or her hands on the head, neck, or back of the recipient to further foster awareness of a sense of being at home in the body. Attention is also given to the recipient’s breath, and the subtle changes that occur with deep relaxation.

While deeper strokes and attention to areas of muscular spasm are also used, Esalen massage is primarily focused on relaxation, integration, and compassionate presence. It is used to reduce stress, relieve pain, improve sleep, aid digestion and promote healing. This technique is especially suited for those recovering from trauma, who wish to experience nurturing, safe touch, which fosters emotional healing and re-integration of body/mind/spirit.