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Upcoming Residential Study Programs

Upledger Institute International’s CranioSacral Therapy Level One Intensive: Presence, Palpation and Protocol with Karen Axelrod
September 29 - October 27, 2019

CranioSacral Therapy (CST) utilizes very gentle touch to assess and correct imbalances in the craniosacral system — the membranes and fluids protecting the brain and spinal cord. CST is a powerful hands-on modality that addresses numerous sensory, motor and intellectual challenges; central nervous system disorders; and chronic pain. You will be taught detailed anatomy and physiology of the craniosacral system, its functions in health and its relationship to disease. Emphasis will be on developing effective palpation skills to detect subtle movement, energy, fluid and structures within the body. The group will explore palpation as both an evaluative and therapeutic tool to facilitate fascial and soft-tissue releases.

As part of this monthlong program you will also explore how to use your presence to augment the healing process through mindfulness/sensory-awareness exercises. The practitioner’s sense of presence during a treatment session enables a strong therapeutic alliance, which in turn creates a safe environment for the client’s innate healing process to unfold. Anatomical knowledge, palpation and presence provide the foundation needed for participants to learn an effective 10-step CranioSacral protocol. By the end of this program, you will have the tools to evaluate the entire body from a CranioSacral perspective, identify significant restrictions affecting the craniosacral system, apply structural and energetic CST techniques to restore balance to the client’s body, and gain measurable results from a CranioSacral treatment session. Completion of this workshop will result in full credit for Upledger’s CS1 course, and eligibility to take CS2 through the Upledger curriculum.

Required reading and advance preparation: Upledger, CranioSacral Therapy chapters 1-6 and Your Inner Physician and You. Also please familiarize yourself with the definitions and/or locations of the anatomical terms here:

For continuing education syllabus, see

CE credit for massage;

Apply now.


An Embodied Response to the Challenges and Opportunities of Our Lives through Sensory Awareness with Lee Lesser
October 27 - November 24, 2019

There is so much in our world that we cannot change or control. Yet how we respond to the immediate possibilities and challenges of each moment is completely within our domain of influence, and can change the way we live, allowing more room for joy and wholehearted responsiveness.

This monthlong journey of practicing Sensory Awareness is focused on cultivating trust in our natural capacity through landing in our bodies and in our direct and concrete sensory experience. Our terrain of exploration is the simple activities of daily life. As we become more in tune with how we sit, walk, stand, lie down, eat, work and connect with another person, we also become more aware of the habits and patterns that hinder us.

All of our sessions are based on experiential learning. We cultivate quiet and stillness that allows focused attention on what is happening in each moment. We also explore movement and playfulness, as well as our relationship to breath, to the influence of gravity and energy. We learn how to discern between the energy that is needed to fulfill a task, and the extra effort that creates strain and constriction. We will have group classes, and the daily tasks at Esalen will expand the terrain of discovery as we apply what we learn in the class. There also will be individual sessions to provide more individualized attention to personal insights and growth.

The ability to be present and responsive belongs to all of us. Our sensations are ever-present allies, enduring and solid. They can help us be true to our most authentic selves and respond effectively to the challenges and opportunities of our lives.

Apply now.


Embodied Relational Gestalt with Michael Clemmens
November 24 - December 22, 2019

This monthlong program is focused on Gestalt as a group process. Gestalt offers the opportunity to experience and explore our own process in relation to others and the context of the present moment. We will create a group that can contain the varieties of each person’s unique way of being and allow us to experience the power of the greater whole, the group. Because of the importance of creating an ongoing collective, it is crucial that all students attend each session. No prior experience with Gestalt or group process is necessary. The structure of the program will be experiential exercises, practice sessions and group discussion to develop our awareness of self and the group. We will begin with our earliest movements (prior to birth) and then explore how we co-create our bodily membership in the more complex gestalts of family, groups and cultures. Our goals will be to experience how we create relationships through embodiment, and to develop skills in attending to ourselves and others.

For continuing education syllabus, see

Apply now.


Deep Bodywork® with Rob Wilks
December 22, 2019 - January 19, 2020

Deep Bodywork, as created by Perry Holloman over the last 25 years at Esalen Institute, is a method that integrates the qualities of a flowing Esalen Massage® with the therapeutic effectiveness of deep tissue work. Using deep tissue methods, massage practitioners can enter the body’s deeper soft tissue layers, freeing previously dense, hardened areas, which may have become chronically painful due to a lack of fluid exchange and energy flow. As these areas soften and “re-organize,” their chronic tension patterns release, revitalizing living tissues with blood, lymph and chi (life) energy. Because living systems like the human body require a constant flow of chi energy to self-organize and heal, blockages to that flow within our tissues can create longer-term health problems like joint and soft tissue pain, movement restriction and circulatory problems.

This month with Rob Wilks will focus on exploring the modality of deep bodywork as a healing art, and is designed for massage and bodywork practitioners seeking to incorporate effective deep tissue techniques into their work. We will explore the common areas (back, neck, shoulders, hips, etc.) where these chronic tension patterns tend to stagnate. You will be taught how to effectively address these areas using gravitational energy, proper use of body mechanics, the importance of working slowly and self-care practices.

Professional massage experience is highly recommended for this advanced-level class. Please visit for more information.

Recommended viewing: Deep Bodywork I: Healing the Back, Shoulders and Hips (DVD), available at

CE credit for massage;

Apply now.


The Ground of Belonging: An Embodied Inquiry into Courage, Connection and Community with Steven Harper
January 26 - February 23, 2020

The hunger to belong is at the heart of our nature. —John O’Donohue

Many of us have the experience of not belonging — to ourselves, family, community, workplace, this earth. This disconnect expresses itself in a divided self, dysfunctional relationships and communities, and destruction of the very planet that birthed and sustains us. However, a sense of belonging is the natural state of our being. To know and feel our belonging asks us to have courage, vulnerability, and a willingness to feel how life conspires to let us know our interbeing. When we bodily know our belonging, we engage in the world feeling supported and with greater ease and grounding as we face life’s challenges and joys.

This will be a whole-organism, experiential inquiry into what belonging might be for each of us. Although not a linear path, we’ll explore:

  • The intrapersonal — our belonging to self
  • The interpersonal — our belonging to others: individual relationships and in community
  • The transpersonal — our belonging to the “other than” — perhaps greater than — human world to which we are connected in webs of communities

The group will be introduced to contemporary and time-honored wisdom traditions that cultivate belongingness, including contemporary psychology and neuroscience; Gestalt Practice in the Esalen tradition; meditation and mindfulness practices; aikido and awareness movement practices; and direct experience of the natural world. Special attention will be given to “what walks with us” into our daily lives as we weave together an eclectic and holistic experience. When we embody the birthright of our interbeing and the ground of belonging, life lives through us.

Apply now.


Songsmithing: Opening the Creative Channel with Johnsmith
February 23 - March 22, 2020

If your life was a song, what would that song be? If you told the story of your heart, what story would you tell? Discover your authentic singing and songwriting voice through creative exercises, prompts and assignments. We will focus on opening the creative heart and bringing forth the music and stories that dwell there. All are welcome; no prior songwriting experience is needed.

With a mindful and playful attitude, we will invite the stunning natural beauty of the Big Sur coast, its healing waters and the spirit of Esalen to work its magic on us as we immerse ourselves into creative flow. Within the safe container of the group, everyone will be invited to delve into the deep work that only creative play allows.

Johnsmith has led residential study programs and workshops at Esalen since 2006. His transformational offerings help students reach deeply inward to bring forth their truth and story in well-crafted songs. He always brings along his infectious, curious, fun-loving otter spirit to his work...or play, one might say. We will use journaling, movement, meditation, co-writing, solo and group singing, impromptu jams and performance — for ourselves and the Esalen community. Playing a musical instrument is not necessary, but you are welcome to bring one if you play. We will cultivate a fun, dynamic and safe place to experience our creative selves.

Apply now.


Relational Gestalt Practice with Dorothy Charles
March 22 - April 19, 2020

All people have the innate ability to move towards healthy satisfying relationships with others and their environment. Old patterns of behavior and fixed ideas formed in early relationship may block health, communication and contact. When we come to the present moment, we have greater self-awareness and more choice in how we respond. Our relationships improve and deepen as a result of our ability to feel at ease with our own feelings and to be present with the feelings of others. The Gestalt approach aims to increase awareness of our emotional patterns by providing new healthy relational experiences; to support, energy, aliveness and contact.

In this workshop led by Dorothy Charles, we will create a safe and supportive environment in which our emotions can be met with curiosity, interest, and acceptance. The format will combine group process, small group work, dyadic awareness exercises, discussion, and opportunities for individual work with the leader.

Apply now.


Cruising Emptiness: 5Rhythms® and Insight Meditation with Lucia Horan
May 17 - June 14, 2020

“When emptiness is still, that is eternity. When it moves, that is love.” — Adyashanti

This month-long workshop will take us into a journey of self-exploration through seated and moving meditation. These dynamic practices bring us to the edge where we meet what is, in both movement and stillness. Using Gabrielle Roth’s 5Rhythms dance practice and Buddhist Insight Meditation, we will embark upon a personal investigation into how our physical bodies inform us, hold us and release us over the edge into the marvelous and creative nature of our own being. We will use these methods as a practical way to develop and track the patterns and cycles of our physical and emotional reality. These skills help us to better understand and navigate our inner and outer territories. This is an opportunity to embody practical tools of awareness that will assist you in your everyday life.

“The Rhythms are a map to everywhere we want to go, on all planes, inner and outer, forward and back, physical, emotional and intellectual. They are markers on the way back to a real self, a vulnerable, wild, passionate, instinctive self,” said Gabrielle Roth. "Flowing holds the feminine mysteries. Staccato explores the masculine mysteries. In Chaos, we are challenged to integrate these principles into the stream of personal energy. Lyrical is the rhythm of trance and self-realization. In Stillness we seek the emptiness within us and take refuge in it.”

Show up as you are and practice with what you have. This is about presence, not performance. All shapes and ages are welcome.

Apply now.


Yoga Immersion: A Journey into Self with Jovinna Chan
June 14 - July 12, 2020

Are you ready to change? If not now, when? This is a self-awakening program designed for sincere seekers who are ready to live an awakened life. Immerse yourself in the fundamentals of yoga philosophy, asanas, pranayama and meditation to build a spacious and fertile spiritual foundation where the seeds of awareness can grow and flourish.

During the month, we will:

  • Explore classic yoga postures with basic alignment principles, benefits and contraindications
  • Experience yoga as a path of self-discovery and transformation
  • Integrate holistic lifestyle tools
  • Learn and practice conscious communication skills
  • Explore scripture through experiential lectures on the Bhagavad Gita and Pantanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga (emphasizing the yamas and niyamas)

At the end of the program, you will learn to bring awareness to movement and breath in a way that is right for your body, your limitations, your strengths and your age – in other words, you’ll discover the yoga that is right for you and create a unique home practice. Join us to bring the experience, depth and benefits of yoga into your lifestyle and make bold changes to live fully. Please bring a yoga mat.

Note: For those who wish to obtain a 50-hour certification, a daily Hatha yoga practice and additional homework will be required. You are requested to write a paper on either Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra translated by Mukunda Stiles or the Bhagavad Gita translated by Eknath Easwaran. Please choose either one and bring the copy with you.

For more information about the Residential Study program, visit To apply, click Register.

Apply now.


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