The Magic of Esalen Massage

“Wow, that’s the best massage I’ve ever had!” exclaimed Katie, strolling out of the treatment room after her first massage with me.

 I thanked her for the compliment, then noticed how her face had completely transformed in the 90 minutes since she first walked through the door. Katie had been under more stress than usual for the past few months, ever since her mother got sick. This had caused her neck and upper back muscles to start spasming, leading to frequent headaches. She was also having a hard time sleeping, since she couldn’t stop worrying about her mother.

She was pleasantly surprised that after getting up off the massage table her neck and shoulders didn’t hurt, and she felt more relaxed than she had in quite some time. Katie reached out the next day excited that she had actually slept through the night! And it’s worth noting that she fell asleep several times during our session which is something she said she’d never done during a massage before.

What’s So Special About Esalen?

Esalen is one of the most calming forms of massage therapy around, integrating the whole body with long, slow strokes, pauses and subtle energy work. Not only does Esalen Massage feel amazing to receive, it’s also a very Zen practice for me, the practitioner. This style of bodywork sparks an energetic exchange between practitioner and client that is deeply nurturing.

 The most important aspect of Esalen Massage is not necessarily a technique at all, but rather an awareness of the quality of the touch which I have always sensed. This refers to the presence of the practitioner and their ability to tune into the client, to be sensitive, and to pick up on subtle messages through breath, body language and a fair amount of intuition.

How Does It Work?

Mindfulness has been my lifelong mantra, instilled in me by my proper British grandmother who raised me. But I never really understood just how powerful a practice it was until experiencing Esalen. Growing up, being mindful was more about considering others’ feelings, which can be pretty exhausting for an empath like me. And I’ve found that it can be a double-edged sword if I’m only considering the feelings of everyone else. As I continue to practice, I’m realizing that my emotional state and what I feel is seriously important, and that I should be as considerate of my own well-being and happiness as I am with everyone else’s. Esalen massage continues to reveal this to me.

Esalen teaches people how to touch. It teaches people to enter the energy field of another person with sensitivity and respect. This is especially effective in dealing with PTSD. The first touch is held for a moment before the movement starts. The client begins to relax and trust in the practitioner’s hands. At this crucial moment, a client will often take a deep breath and begin to relax as their internal voice says, “I feel trusting and comfortable”. An intuitive connection between the massage therapist and the client is then established. The massage continues with long, slow strokes over the entire body, light at first and then increasingly deep as your muscles begin to let go, eventually delving into deep pressure where applicable.

It’s so fulfilling as a nurturer to offer this very special practice of massage to South Carolina. We’re all reaching for healthier minds and bodies and this is a somatic step in the right direction.


Kie Williams, LBMT is the first massage therapist in the state of South Carolina to be certified in Esalen massage therapy. He loves taking care of people, and treating pain, anxiety, insomnia and trauma are his specialties. You can find him at Dragonfly Acupuncture & Massage in Greenville. Appointments can be made by calling 864-451-4313 or scheduled online here.