Esalen massage with John Orum – Let go and relax, damnit!

So I was lying on a massage table at the Emelisse Art Hotel in Greece, giving a little sigh of pleasure because truly there is little in life I like more than a damn fine massage.

John Orum is one of the personal trainers at Hellenic Healthy Holidays.  He does far more than just make you sweat – he integrates bodywork, psychology, nutrition, strength and conditioning.  I tell you, if I lived in London (and, okay, if I had the dosh) I’d sign up for regular sessions with him like a shot.  He can tailor an exercise regime for anyone – regardless of age, gender, body type or time constraints.  And, no matter what your goals – weight loss, improved health and fitness, rehabilitation, or breaking behavioural patterns, he can help. In fact, forget a fancy gym membership – you’d get way more out of some private sessions with him, Jacqui, Henlu or James (the other trainers at HHH).

 John is one of those lovely guys who are tough, strong yet also immeasurably kind.  And he does mighty fine bodywork – quite possibly the best I’ve had.

Anyhow, back to the couch.  ‘Think back to a memory of a time when you were totally relaxed,’ he said.  Meanwhile he started gently shaking and shimmering my body (he incorporates elements of Trager in his work).

‘Umm,’ I said.

‘It doesn’t matter what it is,’ he said. ‘It could be really simple.’


I tried, I really did.  Cos, if nothing else, I really am a trier.  But nope.  Couldn’t find anything.  Now it’s taken me years to come up with a ‘safe beautiful place’ (you know how nearly every visualization asks you to find ‘your’ spot?) but I’ve got that cracked now.  I have my spot.  But a real time?  A real place? Really relaxed?  Tough call.

He carried on shaking and shimmering, and then started moving deeper into the muscles and the fascia, stretching, releasing.   I carried on thinking.

His bodywork just got better and better.  He’s trained at Esalen and at Harbin Springs (home of Watsu) in California, amongst other places, and says he never stops learning.  He uses remedial and sports massage techniques and segues in Thai massage stretching, myo-fascial release and who knows what else.  Like all really good bodyworkers, he doesn’t follow a set routine, he listens to your body, he really feels what it’s saying,what it’s whimpering and wailing.  Or maybe
what it’s not saying.

‘Your legs are really toned but also really tight,’ he said, shaking out my thigh.
Then paused.

‘Jane, you can let go now.’


‘Let go.’

‘I have.’

‘Look at your leg…’

I raised my head and looked down my body and there was my leg, stuck up where he’d been holding it – except now he was standing back and my leg was still there, rigid as a board.


‘Hypertonic,’ he said.  In other words, the poor muscles never relax.  They just clench and hold, on and on.

‘Don’t forget your relaxed place,’ he said, gently.

‘I’m still hunting,’ I said.  ‘I’m back to childhood now and I still can’t find a memory.’


And he carried on working on my hypertonic legs and my hypertonic…well, everything probably and I found myself thinking that, next time someone asks me that question, about a memory of a
time and place when I felt relaxed, this might just be it.

If you live in London, do check out his website.

check out the Hellenic Healthy Holidays website too.

Oh, and if anyone fancies a break at the Emelisse Art Hotel (with or without the mad crazy fitness), do get in touch – I can put you in touch with its lovely owner, who will offer you a special


Photo by Jairo Alzate on Unsplash

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