Esalen massage is quite a new massage technique to me.
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I had heard of the US Esalen Institute, which, since the 1970s when it was founded, has developed a reputation as one the world’s foremost centres for human development, where various therapies and bodyworks have evolved over the years.
Recently, while in Bali, I had an Esalen massage from a man at a massage house trained by Esalen trainers and was quite impressed.
It is quite a deep bodywork, with the practitioner often staying quite still in an area while exerting strong pressure. They there some quite unusual strokes, both hands, with lots of oil, and the Rolfing influence is obvious with deep and slow strokes along the fascia around the hips and buttocks particularly.
My masseur worked strongly on my back, neck, backs of my legs and pelvis, and while once I rolled over he did some more work on my front, and arms, and more on my neck, it was clear that the emphasis of this massage is on the posterior part of the body.
When I came out of the session after an hour and a half, I was deeply relaxed and some tightness I had felt in my neck for some months (which none of the cheaper masseurs I had work on me had managed to to alleviate) was gone.
I have had lots of Rebalancing (the method that came from the Osho Commune in Pune, India) and deep tissue massage, and the other deep bodyworks – Thai, Ayurvedic, Swedish, Rolfing – but this was different, though maybe as a result of it being given by a Balinese man, though usually Asian men are quite rough to get a massage from.
He went in deep, especially after I told him to go as deep as he liked and that I would let him know if it was too much. He was very in tune with my body, stopping every now and then just to tune in, feel my breath, my energy.
This was great, and I recommend the experience. It is a bit hard in Bali, when riding a motorbike in traffic, and, as it has been since the massage, the rain, to maintain a soft neck as often you find yourself craning to see what is coming, or how to avoid that truck, the potholes, the puddles, the bike who wants to pass you, and still get to your destination.
So some shoulder tension has crept back in but my neck still has complete pain-free mobility and for that I am grateful.
At 385,000 rupiahs, almost AU$50, it is quite expensive for Bali, but it felt worthwhile, even necessary for someone like me who likes to see what developments are being made in the massage area.
Written by Mark O’Brien 2010
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