Lomilomi, from Hawaii, is a system of treatment that can benefit both body and mind.

Lomilomi, from Hawaii, is a system of treatment that can benefit both body and mind.

Trauma and pain can reside in the body in the form of soft tissue injuries as the result of such experiences as auto accidents, surgery or sports injuries, and trauma from physical, mental or sexual abuse can also reside in the body by way of the nervous system.

There have been advances in psychotherapy to include body-based forms of treatment such as Somatic Experiencing, Hakomi Method of Mindfulness-Centered Somatic Psychotherapy and Somatic Experiencing, to name a few. As we continue to grow in our practice as   massage therapists we begin to understand that the body is more than just a coupling of tissue, nervous system and circulation.

You may wish to follow the path of seeking out new education and certification in such bodywork systems, such as lomilomi, that help people physically and mentally, because there is no separation between our body and the mind and psyche that powers it.

A Life Path

Lomilomi teaches us how to make a deep connection to ourselves, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

At the same time, while learning a valuable technique skill that enhances your overall performance as a massage therapist, there is a philosophy and a life path that is introduced to one that allows for a deeper connection to self, and through this deeper connection to self we are able to cultivate empathy for another individual, especially a client. Because of this, a lomilomi practitioner can facilitate a safe and honoring space to allow for the receiver to have deeper levels of relaxation and even emotional release.

This form of bodywork comes to us from the Hawaiian Islands. It was created by the kahunas, or wise spiritual leaders, of Hawaii as a part of their total health and wellness system. Lomilomi, meaning to massage or to rub, has a vast lineage that has unique ways of addressing the body, mind and spirit.

Lomilomi is a kind of ritual and ceremony that when performed on a receiver can have profound and long lasting positive effects on the body. These ways were handed down by the ancestors, or kupuna in the ohana, or extended family.

In this article I will not explore the cultural practice, even though I give it due honor, reverence and credit. Here I will address the practical application of this unique and ancient from of bodywork as an adjunct to those who have been prescribed massage therapy by a psychotherapist as a part of their self-care regimen.

Access Body Memory

Lomilomi has a technique structure that has a profound and deep impact on the nervous system and the mind that powers it.

“In Sacred Lomi, while holding a safe and sacred space, we flow from one side of the body to the other in circles and figure eights. This movement stimulates the left and right hemispheres of the brain,” wrote Sacred Lomi Hawaiian Temple Bodywork educator Donna Jason in her book, Sacred Lomi.

“This can quiet the analytic mind and sometimes help access memories that are stored in the body,” Jason continued. “As memories surface, the experience for the client can often be dream-like or a visionary which offers the client the opportunity to re-experience the memory in a healing, safe, positive, present-day scenario. This can transform the client’s relationship to the original memory and support a deeper sense of wholeness and inner peace.”

Because of these benefits,many people have sought out lomilomi as an alternative therapy in conjunction with therapy they are already receiving to help deal with trauma—be it post-traumatic stress disorder, emotional or physical abuse, or sexual abuse.

Also, massage therapists seek out lomilomi to help them to better facilitate for people who may be sensitive and have emotional releases when being worked on.

Lomilomi helps massage therapists to be able to hold space for that client without breeching a scope of practice rule. Lomilomi practitioners are not there to even offer up “I think you should do this” advice. Instead, in a compassionately disengaged way, the practitioner provides a space by where the receiver is allowed to have the emotional experiences they wish to have without verbal interference from the practitioner and only physical touch in the lomilomi way.

Advanced lomilomi practitioners have a special kind of empathy and knowing and can hold sacred those boundaries set forth and with movement, breath and techniques take a receiver to deeper levels of relaxation.

I have had psychotherapists learn about lomilomi and refer their clients to me to receive lomilomi. The results were extremely positive. But why?

Body Awareness

By helping a person feel more embodied and aware of their body and also by helping them to feel cared for and honored in a sacred and familial way, that person walks away with a sense of inner peace and also a kind of regaining control of their body and their being.

This is just one avenue of lomilomi. There is so much more to this system that will challenge your notion of spirituality without indoctrinating you. It will also challenge that part of you that is in a comfort zone with your massage therapy and free you to the possibilities that exist with your techniques and your powerful presence with clients.

I encourage you to seek out this work, either as a recipient or by attending a workshop to learn, firsthand, this sacred Hawaiian bodywork.

I honor the kupuna, ancestors, who have come forth, in the face of adversity, to teach these beautiful ways to help make the world a better and more aloha (loving and compassionate) place. Me ke aloha e ka maluhia. (Much love and peace to you)

About the Author:

Jason D. Bratcher, LMT, has 24 years of bodywork and therapeutic experience. He is a massage therapist, instructor and continuing education provider specializing in lomilomi, in Austin/Cedar Park Texas, and owns Austin Lomi Lomi Bodyworks. He has taught lomilomi curriculum, workshops and small group sessions at the Lauterstein-Conway Massage School and Clinic. 

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