Just Ask Joy:
Shakti: I like your site, not sure how I found it, but enjoyed the information you have to share. I am very interested in tantric massage…I have never had one myself, but would like to. I live in Toronto, do you know of anyone here you would recommend?
Joy: Dear Shakti, although I grew up in a small town only an hour and a half from Toronto, I do not know of any practitioners in Toronto. I rarely recommend another practitioner that I have not met, worked with, or know on a professional level. I am sure there are a number of wonderful practitioners in your area; unfortunately I don’t know any of them personally or professionally.
Shakti: Also- I am currently studying massage in a holistic health program I am in…I find personally as I practice on people I know that my healing instinct is to channel love, tenderness and sensual pleasure… Is this normal and appropriate in non-tantric massage? (Letting the energy come from a loving, sensual, and somewhat sexual place without touching in the deemed ‘inappropriate’ places?)
Joy: This is a tricky question. First, because a lot of my readers reside in the US, I will make one important clarification. In the United States, a masseuse MUST be licensed to practice. In Canada, on the other hand, people from all walks of life and from a variety of healing backgrounds can practice massage without going through a registration/licensing process as long as they clarify that they are not an LMT (Licensed Massage Therapist – US) or an RMT (Registered Massage Therapist – CANADA).
The lack of regulation on all forms of bodywork/massage is often the topic of heated debates between the traditional medicine and alternative health communities. I personally think that deep tissue massage and massage for bodily injuries should be practiced only by highly trained professionals. As for relaxation massage and other forms of non-invasive therapeutic massage or bodywork, I believe that those who are self-taught, have alternative training, or have apprenticed under another practitioner have a lot to offer.
With this in mind, if you were practicing as a RMT (Registered Massage Therapist) I would recommend disconnecting your sensuality from your massage work. This recommendation is based on the need for a non-sensual and completely professional environment. Energy shapes our experiences, so if you are drawing on your own sexual/sensual energy, people who are intuitive and more open to energy may sense your energy, which does not fit with conventional massage therapy.
Outside of a massage clinic, if you are practicing as an alternative health practitioner who views healing as a more holistic process, whether or not you draw on your sensual energy is more of a personal preference. During my sessions, I draw on my life force energy, but draw a powerful boundary between my sexual energy and my client. What I mean is that, as the giver, it is my preference to keep my sensuality and sexuality separate from the energy that I draw on during sessions. I tend to enter a deep, contemplative space…. Once again, this is a personal choice.
Shakti: I may want to explore some tantric massage training in the future, where would you recommend?
Joy: This is also a challenging question to answer. I began exploring massage and sacred sexuality in my personal life as a teen. Even during the first few years of practicing Hypnotherapy and other healing modalities, I had no intention of incorporating it into my professional practice. Over time, I continued to develop my skills. I am also a near obsessive researcher. I read every book i could get my hands on, watched videos, attended a variety of workshops, created a professional network of healers in related practices and continued exploring and honing my skills. Over time, I slowly began incorporating these more intimate aspects of healing into my professional practice. It was an organic process that unfolded over a few years.
As for more professional training, once again, I don’t have any personal experience with the schools that are currently available. My best recommendation is to trust yourself and your intuition. Continue researching the process and philosophy and choose a path (become a self trained Tantric masseuse, attend an apprenticeship with a trusted practitioner, or attend a professional school).
Shakti: Next question- May be a bit personal- so only if you want to answer… Have you had any issues with your husband not feeling comfortable with the work you do and the level of intimacy you share with clients? How do you navigate that?
Joy: I always appreciate questions that stretch my comfort level…they provide me with an opportunity to be transparent….which is what I strive for. Yes, I have absolutely had issues with my husband, Mountain, not feeling comfortable with the work I do. For the first year or so that I was seriously considering incorporating intimacy coaching into my practice, Mountain and I had numerous conversations about what that would look like. He asked me what my own personal boundaries would be. I explained that it was very important to me that my sessions maintained a high level of integrity, authenticity and that they did not cross over into the realm of what would be considered “sexual”.
Luckily for us, my boundaries were similar to what he felt comfortable with. In all honesty, even to this day, he is definitely more comfortable when I work with women and couples. I have had a number of male clients express a desire to have more than a professional connection with me. That is one of the challenges of working in such an intimate area of healing. In fact, when I first started offering Hypnotic Hands bodywork, I was bombarded with male clients. Up until that point, I had focused on working with women.
Because of my own history of sexual abuse, the idea of working on such an intimate level with men honestly terrified me. It was the intensity of my fear that made me realize this was something I had to do. At first, I had a lot of male clients who thought I was going to provide some sort of “happy ending”. The first few weeks of my expanded practice provided me with a crash course in the underworld of “massage”. I chose to continue working with males, but it was not always easy. As I continued working and learning, I began establishing myself and had a lot less of a challenge in this area.
I think, in this type of intimate healing work, it is very important that the practitioner fully understands his or her own boundaries. Because my boundaries are unwavering, I rapidly learned how to respectfully assert my boundaries with both verbal and non-verbal communication. This helped Mountain to feel more comfortable with my practice. Also, although I have continued to work with individual male clients, I am very selective about who I will and will not work with. This may sound odd, but I found that higher pricing per session eliminated a lot of the more challenging clients who were seeking sexual services. Also, being incredibly professional (having a comprehensive site with information and testimonials) really helps.
Mountain fully understands that, regardless of the focus of my practice, I not only honor our relationship boundaries, but also my own personal boundaries. Recently, however, when he saw the La Figa photos of me, he said “I can’t believe I let some man decorate your naked body with food!” LOL! I anticipated that he might feel that way. To ease his fear and also because I knew my daughter would love the creativity aspect of the La Figa photo shoot, I brought her with me. I navigate Mountain’s moments of fear or insecurity by communicating openly, continuing to honor our relationship boundaries and by reassuring him. Even when Mountain has moments of insecurity, he is incredibly respectful of me and my right as a woman to choose my career path. He knows how passionate I am about my path as a healer, so he continues to support me, even if he may sometimes find it challenging. The high level of intimacy and the health of our relationship definitely helps as well.
Joy’s Additional Thoughts: I had one client who decided to stick with me even though he desperately wanted a “rub and tug” with a “happy ending”. At first, I think he was hoping that he would be able to push my boundaries….but there was a point where he told me that I had opened his eyes to the power of the mind/body connection. He also shared that, for the first time in his life, he did not want to push the boundaries, which was a new experience for him.
He continued to see me once or twice each week for over two years. In fact, eventually, he brought his wife to see me for a few sessions. I taught his wife the art of blissful bodywork. Because of our work together, he stopped going to sensual massage sessions and began working on his marriage. When the healing happened between him and his wife, he was honest with her about what he had been doing behind her back. She managed to find forgiveness in her heart and was also able to acknowledge that the break-down of their sex life and the lack of intimacy was a huge contributing factor in his dishonesty and infidelity.
I am sharing this particular story for a reason. Let’s imagine that, during my sessions with this male client….I drew on my own sexual or sensual energy during our sessions together. I would, in essence, be opening up my energy to him. In his state of touch deprivation, he would likely feel my sensual energy, creating an energy connection between us….He may have become focused on me rather than on working on his marriage. He had been going to other sensual massage practitioners for years…all the while neglecting to work on the communication, trust and intimacy issues with his wife. I am a lover of love and an advocate for healthy relationships, which is why I personally choose not to draw on my own sensual energy. However, like I said earlier, it is a personal choice. I do not believe there is a right or wrong approach…just different approaches depending on the needs of both the practitioner (giver) and the client (receiver).
Shakti: Thank you so much for spreading the joy 🙂
Joy: Thank you so much for your kind comments and for your contribution to the Tantrachick online community!