I made this blog to clarify the draping massage clients should expect when they book a massage with me. I graduated from Georgia Massage School in Suwanee, Georgia, and there I was trained in professional standards for draping in the massage industry. Those are the standards I use for draping in Esalen massage in Atlanta: The genitals and private areas are always covered with a drape. For women, the chest is always draped.
Esalen massage was created at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, in the 1960s.
The Esalen Institute has a reputation shaped in part by the clothing-optional culture at the Esalen Institute in the 1960s. The reason I am making a special effort to clarify how I drape is because if you spend a few minutes on YouTube and the internet, you can find examples of Esalen massage where massage clients are exposed more than is usually the case in Georgia. Regardless of what is practiced in California, in the draping I practice, the genitals and private areas are always covered and, for women, the chest is always draped.
That said, I happen to be sympathetic to a lot of things they teach at the Esalen Institute. The natural hot springs on the grounds of the Esalen Institute are still clothing-optional. The location of the hot springs on the cliffs of Big Sur overlooking the Pacific ocean is one of the most beautiful places I have seen on the planet anywhere. If you go to the Esalen Institute for a retreat on meditation, yoga, psychotherapy, or any of their many other program offerings, you’ll have the opportunity to soak in the hot springs as you look out at the otters and whales in the Pacific ocean. I for one can never quite manage to pass that up.
But there is a distance of 2500 miles from Big Sur, California, to Atlanta, and there is a distance in culture as well. What is considered “normal” massage draping in California can be a lot different from “normal” massage draping in Georgia.
One of the draping strategies in massage is called “medical draping.”
In medical draping, only the part of the body being worked on is uncovered. If you’re going to work on the left arm, the left arm is uncovered. Then if you move to a leg, only that leg is uncovered, and so on. In contrast, one of the hallmarks of Esalen massage is long, flowing strokes that pass several major joints in the body. Let’s say you are lying on your stomach: An Esalen long stroke might run from your foot all the way up to your shoulder. In order to make this long stroke possible, half of your body would need to be uncovered (though genitals, private areas and women’s chests are always covered no matter what). The reason I drape this way is to allow for Esalen long strokes which are one of the ways we bring deep relaxation to the client. It can be argued that this style of draping is consistent with medical draping because the only parts of the body uncovered are the parts being worked on.
Contact me if you have questions!
Andy Ritan, with Atlanta Esalen Massage.