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Residential Study Past Program Highlights

The monthlong Residential Study program at Esalen is currently paused. While we hope to welcome residential students back in 2021, untl new programs are scheduled, we hope these past course descriptions provide you with a sense of our offerings.

Yoga Immersion: A Journey into Self with Jovinna Chan

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.


Songsmithing: Opening the Creative Channel with Johnsmith

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.


Deep Bodywork® with Rob Wilks and Lori Lewis

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 long-term health problems like joint and soft tissue pain, movement restriction and circulatory problems.

During this month, Rob Wilks and Lori Lewis will focus on exploring the modality of deep bodywork as a healing art. The time 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.


Leadership and Presence with Suzanne Scurlock

Presence is the hidden key to successful leadership. The more present we are in ourselves, the more present we can be with someone else. This month-long program offers experiential work designed to help you pay attention to the subtle cues you receive from your body and the surrounding environment all the time. This will give you access to your own, highly valuable inner landscape — the wisdom of your body/mind/spirit, which significantly enhances your ability to be more fully present as a leader.

We will share how to:

  • Assess your energy reservoir and refill when you are depleted
  • Increase your capacity to be present versus doing all the time
  • Grow awareness of, but not absorb, the emotions of others
  • Make healthy connections (empathy versus sympathy)
  • Stay openhearted and clearheaded
  • Have more powerful leadership conversations

The deeper layer of this program will help you more fully utilize the navigational system of your body, including wisdom of the heart, gut, bones, pelvis, feet and legs.

If you feel overwhelmed at times by your feelings or those around you, this course will help you develop your body and energy field into a container that can hold and modulate the whole range of human emotions. Learning to build this capacity within your navigational field enables you to have feelings and learn from them. Please bring a journal for reflection time and notes, as well as a binder for handouts.

Required reading and listening: Scurlock-Durana, Full Body Presence: Learning to Listen. Scurlock-Durana, Reclaiming Your Body: Healing from Trauma and Awakening to Your Body’s Wisdom.


The Ground of Belonging: An Embodied Inquiry into Courage, Connection and Community with Steven Harper

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.


Upledger Institute International’s CranioSacral Therapy Level One Intensive:
Presence, Palpation and Protocol with Karen Axelrod

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, as a hands-on modality, is a powerful tool that addresses numerous sensory, motor and intellectual challenges; central nervous system disorders; and chronic pain. You will be taught 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 month-long 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 perform an effective 10-step craniosacral protocol. By the end of this program, you will have the tools to assess the central nervous system and entire body from a craniosacral perspective, apply structural and energetic CST techniques to restore balance and gain measurable results from a craniosacral treatment session.

This program is offered in collaboration with the Upledger Institute International (UII). Completion of this workshop will result in full credit for Upledger’s CranioSacral Therapy entry-level course (CS1) and eligibility to take CS2 through the Upledger curriculum.

Note: There is an additional $250 fee for this program, giving you the full status as a CranioSacral Therapy practitioner with Upledger Institute International (UII), the necessary prerequisites and eligibility for additional levels of CranioSacral Therapy study with UII and a listing in the International Association of Healthcare Practitioners (IAHP) directory.

Pre-requisites: Professional healthcare practitioner, student in healthcare program or graduate awaiting licensure/accreditation with experience in sensitive, light-touch palpation.

For those who wish to take CS1 and live in a state or province that does not require a healthcare hands-on license to practice CST, the following minimum study is required:

  • Eighty hours of Anatomy and Physiology and 15 hours of Pathology. One way to satisfy this requirement is through the home study coursework, Upledger Health Science Essentials,, available through the London (Ontario) College of Osteopathy.
  • Four hours of ethics, from an accredited professional organization or school

For continuing education syllabus, see

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

CE credit for massage.


Embodied Relational Gestalt with Michael Clemmens

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.

CE credit for MFT/LCSW.

For continuing education syllabus, see


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