March 17, 2010

Lomi Lomi

MEREDITH GOAD

— By

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John Patriquin/Staff Photographer: Thursday, Feb. 21, 2008. Suzanne Blackburn practices Hawaiian lomi lomi bodywork on a client in her Portland office today.

john patriquin

click image to enlarge

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer: Thursday, Feb. 21, 2008. Suzanne Blackburn practices Hawaiian lomi lomi bodywork on a client in her Portland office today.

john patriquin

Additional Photos Below

Staff Writer

It's 20-something degrees outside, but inside Suzanne Blackburn's massage room, it's a balmy 80 degrees.

Her client lies face-down on an extra-soft table, covered only by a strategically placed cloth. Blackburn, who's wearing a black tank top and a sarong, stands to the side and prayerfully begins chanting a ''body blessing'' in Hawaiian.

Then she translates:

''Listen Great Spirit, ancestors, teachers and healers. Give your blessings and bring love quickly to this woman, with love, with freedom, with peace, with power, with truth, and always, always, with love.''

Hawaiian music begins playing softly in the background, and Blackburn starts another session of Lomi Lomi, a form of body work that has its roots in ancient Polynesian spirituality.

Lomi Lomi is a type of massage that uses long, flowing strokes, gentle rotation of the joints and unique ways of applying pressure to release tension in the body.

What makes it different from other forms of massage -- and more like an internal trip to the islands -- is that it also incorporates hula steps, Hawaiian music and chanting to bring the client into an altered mental state leading to deep relaxation.

''It's like drugs without drugs,'' said Serena Kolb, 58, of Freeport. Kolb tries to visit Blackburn's business in Portland twice a month to deal with the stresses of her job and muscles that have become tight from scoliosis.

Kolb has tried various forms of body work over the years to relieve physical tension and keep serious headaches at bay. She's found that deep-tissue massage, while often helpful, can be uncomfortable at times. In Lomi Lomi, pressure is exerted over a broader area using the forearms.

''I seem to be getting the release from the Lomi Lomi without the pain,'' she said.

COPING WITH CHANGE

Traditionally, Blackburn said, Lomi Lomi was offered to people who were experiencing a transition, such as a marriage, or some kind of challenge in their lives, such as grieving the loss of a loved one or taking up a position of power.

''The Lomi Lomi sessions were offered so that they could receive the energy they needed to take on this new stage of their lives,'' she said. ''When it was offered to the nobility or the elite class, then it was performed by a kahuna (shaman). Families would also do this for each other.''

When outsiders began settling in Hawaii, spiritual practices were deemed illegal, and the practice of Lomi Lomi went underground. It's only been in recent years, Blackburn said, that the tradition has been publicly resurrected and taught again.

The massage costs about the same as other forms of massage. Blackburn charges $65 for an hourlong session.

Blackburn has been practicing Lomi Lomi for seven years. She had just turned 50 and was teaching guided kayaking in Bremen when she decided to look for something to supplement her seasonal income.

She learned Swedish massage, but needed a way to distinguish herself and her business. About that same time, her husband (they're now divorced) suggested they take a trip to Hawaii.

Blackburn was not enthusiastic about the idea.

''In my mind, Hawaii was all used up and all built up,'' she said. ''It was just golf courses and all-inclusive hotels. I said, 'Can't we just go somepleace natural and wild? Can we go to Tonga?'

''But I went to Hawaii, and I absolutely and immediately fell in love with Hawaii. It got into me in some kind of amazing way. I was like, 'Wow, this is a very magical place.' ''

While she was in Hawaii, Blackburn stumbled across a class in Huna, the ancient Hawaiian spiritual path, and that's where she first heard about Lomi Lomi.

In the years since, Blackburn has studied Lomi Lomi in Hawaii and Germany. She completed Advanced Temple Lomi Lomi training with Susan Pa'iniu Floyd of Aloha International, a nonprofit organization in Hawaii dedicated to spreading knowledge of Huna. Blackburn now lives in Portland, where she has a practice on Woodford Street.

GO WITH THE FLOW

There are many different styles of Lomi Lomi, with different techniques being passed down in families over generations. What's common to all of them, Blackburn said, is the focus on removing obstacles to the flow of energy, or mana wai, in the body. The idea is that when energy flows properly, people feel well and live in a state of health, or ola. When energy is blocked, illness, or ma'i, can result.

''Some of the traditions use herbs, plant medicine,'' Blackburn said. ''Some of them use counseling, which is not body work but conflict resolution. It's called ho'oponopono.''

Blackburn's tradition, Temple Lomi Lomi, uses passive stretching to work on the joints.

Different parts of the body may be massaged at the same time -- one hand working on a shoulder while the other is on a hip -- to fool the mind into letting go. The idea is that the brain cannot focus for long on two different areas at once, and that leads to deeper relaxation.

''A client's mind will try very hard to keep up for a while,'' Blackburn said. ''We always want to keep control of what's going on, right? After a few minutes, they can't even tell how many hands I'm working with, let alone where I am on the body. It forces your mind to let go, and that's when that deep, deep relaxation can happen.''

The hula steps allow Blackburn to keep her own energy up.

''In the early days when people were doing this, they would do it for hours and sometimes days, and just keep the energy going,'' she said. ''I've gone as long as a four-hour session without undue fatigue.''

Glenn Kooyenga of South Portland has been using Lomi Lomi once a month for the past three or four years to help with the process of aging and to ease old sports injuries. Kooyenga, 61, said he has hip and shoulder issues that no other form of massage has been able to improve.

''I used to walk with a little bit of a limp, and I don't limp anymore,'' he said.

The chanting, Hawaiian music and atmosphere are also an important part of the experience, Kooyenga said. He said there have been times on the table when his body has felt so light, it seemed as if it would lift into the air.

''You really get into a deeper state,'' he said.

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

mgoad@pressherald.com

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer: Thursday, Feb. 21, 2008. Suzanne Blackburn practices Hawaiian lomi lomi bodywork on a client in her Portland office today.

john patriquin

click image to enlarge

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer: Thursday, Feb. 21, 2008. Suzanne Blackburn practices Hawaiian lomi lomi bodywork on a client in her Portland office today.

john patriquin

click image to enlarge

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer: Thursday, Feb. 21, 2008. Suzanne Blackburn practices Hawaiian lomi lomi bodywork on a client in her Portland office today.

john patriquin



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