An interview with Ngurah Sudana,
Esalen® Massage Therapist at The Yoga Barn
Esalen® Massage, unlike other massages, has no fixed arrangement or sequence of strokes. The therapist listens to the message from the body and adjusts the strokes accordingly, leading guests into deep relaxation and a feeling of integration.
Native Balinese Ngurah earned his Esalen® Bodyworker certification over 15 years ago. In subsequent years, he has assisted in teaching annual Esalen training certifications in Bali, earning numerous advanced and specialized certifications, and has trained therapists at several spas throughout Bali. Now at The Yoga Barn, he receives guests from different corners of the world every day. “Aside from the intensive training requirements to become an Esalen practitioner, I think the therapist needs to have a genuine desire and willingness to help others, along with a gentle and nurturing presence.” SpaChina interviewed Ngurah.
Please tell us more about Esalen Massage. What is it? Where does it originate from? What are the benefits? What are the unique features of Esalen Massage compared with other massages?
Esalen is a freestyle massage, incorporating long, flowing strokes that connect and unify the entire body, putting it into a state of deep relaxation. Many therapists trained in other modalities of massage are taught a sequence or series of strokes, and do not deviate from the learned sequence. The beauty of Esalen is that each session is intuitive and unique, just as each client is unique. Rather than working on a client, I work with a client, by listening to the messages from the body and adapting the session accordingly. Benefits include improved circulation and lymph flow, released tension and reduction of pain and stress, increased flexibility and range of motion. The Esalen style was developed in the 1960’s at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, USA.
Could you share your story of learning, practicing and teaching Esalen Massage? What are the most attractive aspects of Esalen massage in your eyes? What are the requirements for therapists who practice this massage?
Before learning Esalen Massage, I was studying traditional Balinese healing techniques with several local healers and teachers, and our focus was on local people in need of physical or social/emotional support. Then around 15 years ago, I earned my certification as an Esalen therapist, when I had the fortunate opportunity to earn a scholarship on an Esalen Bodyworker certification offered in Bali through Moving Ventures. I worked on the training as a translator for other Indonesian students. I was fortunate to be offered a position as an assistant trainer on subsequent Bali trainings over the years, earning more advanced certifications. Then I joined the Healing & Wellness Faculty at The Yoga Barn in 2013. The most attractive aspects of Esalen is that each massage is unique. Aside from the intensive training requirements to become an Esalen practitioner, I think the therapist needs to have a genuine desire and willingness to help others, along with a gentle and nurturing presence.
Who are the main guests of Esalen massage at The Yoga Barn. What is their feedback during and after the massage?
The majority of my clients are women, and they come from all over the world. During the massage there is not much feedback, because they are in such a relaxed state! After the massage, the feedback is very positive. At The Yoga Barn, we have a highly transient clientele, yet so many have become repeat clients over the years, and also refer others to me. Every opportunity I have to help or transform someone on some level is a gift for which I am deeply grateful.
Could Esalen massage be combined with other healing modalities or elements? If yes, please tell more about it?
It absolutely can be combined with other healing modalities, and the session can be even more effective. Every therapist brings their own unique style or additional healing modality to the session. In my sessions, I incorporate craniosacral therapy and Reiki.
Do you also practice, or are you interested in, other healing modalities apart from Esalen?
Currently I only practice Esalen Massage, but am interested in breathwork, and will be going for a Yoga Teacher Certification in January 2020. I am also scheduled to join as Esalen Teacher Training on a scholarship which will take course over 3 trainings. I’m really excited at the upcoming opportunities.
What’s your advice to those (especially travelers) who seek authentic Balinese healing experiences? What healing modalities do you most recommend?
There are many gifted Balinese healers, but they are not always easy to find, so word-of-mouth referrals are my best recommendations to those looking for a healer. I think some are more authentic than others. I don’t have any particular recommendations for modalities, other than for a client to seek out the modality that most resonates with them.
What changes have you seen in the healing world of Bali over the last decade? What new trends do you see?
To be honest, I am not much of a trend-spotter and am not very attuned to the changes that have happened. Despite the nature of my work, I very much keep to myself when I’m not working with clients. I would say that in terms of visitors to Bali, they seem more stressed out, depressed, anxious or unhappy than they did a decade ago. This is where Esalen massage can be beneficial, because the nature of the long, flowing strokes give the client the opportunity to connect with themselves more deeply with themselves, and experience a sense of wholeness. Also, what I have observed amongst the local people is that so many Balinese now turn to medical doctors and think they can be cured by taking prescription medication. There seems to be a turning away from traditional healers and techniques, which is sad, because there are so many gifted local people who can do some pretty miraculous things.
Apart from giving and teaching Esalen massage, what do you most like to do in your spare time?
Spending time with my family, working out at the gym, bicycle riding and yoga.