Nudity in Tantra Massage
One element of tantra massage that is particularly attractive to some is nudity.
This can and often does include the nudity of both the client and the practitioner.
Recently I have had several requests for me to be naked when giving a massage, for which I am very grateful, as it has created an opportunity for me to consider this more deeply and gain clarity on my boundaries.
I have personally noticed that many people who are drawn to tantra and tantra massage have already been on a journey (either consciously or unconsciously) towards a greater acceptance of their own body. I have several colleagues and clients who are naturists and as such actively seek out spaces where they can be naked. They have attained a degree of comfort with transgressing societal norms and managed to overcome feelings of shame created by our conditioning. There is undoubtedly a lot of overlap with the aims of tantra and I could write another blog post on this subject alone, but perhaps what some of these clients are seeking is simply naturist massage.
Whilst being naked is a beautiful and natural thing I would like to dive a bit deeper into the role of nudity in tantra massage and particularly highlight how Transformational Tantra Massage (TTM) is different in its approach.
Why are clients encouraged to be naked when receiving tantra massage?
One reason is that it encourages a loving relationship with and acceptance of their body as it is right now. Being fully seen and accepted exactly as they are, warts and all, can be incredibly healing for a client.
Secondly, it is aligned with the tantric principle that all areas of the body are equal. The shame we have about certain areas is a purely social construct. An aim of tantra is to help us to overcome this shame. My desire when giving a tantra massage is to give my client an experience of being in a space where these conditions of worth do not exist. It is like an alternative reality, a return to an earlier, simpler, tribal way of relating with each other. A space of childlike innocence and joy.
Another reason why nudity is supportive to the client experience is the holistic nature of the massage. Many structures use long flowing strokes over the whole body and clothing is a barrier to feeling the fullness of the touch and dropping deeply into the experience.
For some people, the discomfort with being naked can be a barrier which prevents them from dropping into the massage fully. This discomfort can, in itself, provide rich material for self-inquiry. If these feelings, thoughts and sensations are a distraction from the experience, then working on these associations first will be helpful.
As ever, in tantra massage, the client is in control and can wear as much or as little clothing as they feel comfortable with.
A key aspect of TTM, as opposed to tantra massage is the range of massage structures that offer clients the ability to connect with their past experiences and re-process trauma. It could take many sessions before a client is comfortable to receive a massage naked, and that’s ok.
Many tantra massage practitioners choose to be naked when giving a massage. In doing so they are holding the intention of removing barriers between themself and their client and to reduce the perception of themselves holding a position of power over the client. Clothing is often discarded very intentionally to promote feelings of equality.
This approach has its benefits;
Firstly, it is common for clients to feel more comfortable being naked if the practitioner is also naked. This is just human nature and it more closely replicates our intimate encounters.
Secondly, It can feel less medicalized. I certainly resonate with this as in the past my body has gone into a trauma response when receiving a massage from a fully clothed person. My body remembers that in the past when I have been touched by a professional person there has been pain or a violation. I am therefore anticipating this as a very real possibility and am therefore unable to relax into a parasympathetic state.
Both these points are valid but there are some drawbacks.
Firstly, the practitioner needs to be very conscious of their reason for being naked and ensure they are consciously working in the best interests of the client rather than being driven by an egoic desire to be seen.
A danger of the practitioner being naked is that it can charge the situation with sexual energy. Both people being naked mirrors an intimate encounter, which can cause confusion in the client's mind and body and increases the practitioners vulnerability to unwelcome touch or behaviour.
I would argue that by agreeing to work naked, at the client's request, the practitioner is not helping the client, but feeding their existing patterns and associations. The real work is to help the client to uncover the trauma they have experienced and the conditions of worth that continue to limit their ability to connect with an experience and enjoy pleasure.
Another reason for the practitioner to remain clothed is the locus of attention.
In TTM the overriding aim is to promote change, growth and transformation, by encouraging self-reflection and increasing self-awareness. During a TTM session the client will continually be encouraged to turn their attention inwards, to their own inner experience, their thoughts, feelings, sensations, and to communicate those to the practitioner.
If the practitioner is naked this can be a distraction and serve to take the client’s attention away from their own experience.
For me, it is important that clothing or lack thereof, is a conscious choice which is motivated by the type of work the practitioner is doing, the aims they are seeking to achieve and the needs of the client (as opposed to their wants).
If a client is seeking an erotic experience, or the practitioner is looking to create a sense of connection and intimacy through a joint energy field, then nudity is a way of achieving this.
However, if what the client is seeking is self-understanding, personal development and ultimately transformation, the practitioners clothing or lack thereof should be immaterial.
In all my massages I remain fully clothed and do so consciously to promote the aims of Transformational Tantra Massage. I always wear loose comfortable clothing to avoid being distracted by my own discomfort so that my locus of attention is on the client and their experience.