If you want a massage on O‘ahu, you can find one almost anywhere. But in the center of Kailua there’s a special lady with the hands and heart to heal you way beyond the ubiquitous backache.
Since kumu Brenda Ignacio’s birth on the Big Island, this Hawaiian-Portuguese woman has grown in the healing arts, starting with hula, where she first realized the impact her hands could have on others.
A Kailua resident since 1995, Ignacio is a highly regarded teacher at her own Lomilomi Aloha School of Healing Hawaiian Arts; she also treats “kindred spirits” (also known as clients) at Lomilomi Hana Lima Healing Center and Day Spa, which she co-founded with her son David Keoni and daughter-in-law Eri Virden, in the same Uluniu St., above Cinnamon’s Restaurant.
A stress-filled professional woman might venture up to the healing center for a first appointment, hoping for a quick fix by someone who has knows a technique. But be warned: To meet kumu Brenda can be a life-changing experience, and the so-called massage clinic is actually a safe, sacred haven where therapist and client work in partnership to get past the pain. Along the way, the goal also is to leave the room awakened, strengthened, refreshed and self-empowered. It’s called achieving a balance in order to nurture a healthy lifestyle.
“I’ve been told to tell you that one of my greatest gifts is that I am intuitive,” Ignacio explains in her humble, engaging way. “I get right to the center of their problem. They look at me and start to cry, because they see that I am going to get to the truth.”
Her first question might be: How can I best serve you today? The next one: When was the last time worrying helped? From there, she summons the spiritual, mental, physical and emotional aspects of lomilomi—the tools used by generations of cultural healers. And Ignacio has met many of these healers herself on her own difficult path in life, a path that led her through Kaimuki High School, to marriage, a hectic hotel industry career, children and divorce.
“I am actually just starting to claim my gifts,” says Ignacio, a vivacious 69 year old grandmother, with laughter in her eyes. “I have my Ph.D in life, and they tell me it’s time to stop being the appetizer and become the whole meal.” The transformation sped up in the past five years, ignited much earlier by her mentor, the late Nana Veary. A beloved native spiritualist, living treasure and author of the acclaimed Change We Must, Veary gave Ignacio her Hawaiian name, Mohalapua—a flower that continues unfolding. “It also can mean ‘free of fear’ and ‘shining as a light,’” Ignacio explains. “It felt like a big name, and yet I’ve seen all of it come true.”
Ignacio is a kumu and certified practitioner of lomilomi, a licensed massage therapist and kahu (licensed Hawaiian minister), and a DOE-approved instructor of lomilomi massage. She has traveled the world giving workshops on healing, appeared in three local documentaries by her Kailua neighbor, John Zak, and shares a 2007 Telly Award for one of them, Pule Wailele, as its coordinating producer.
With Veary in 1981, she met the Dalai Lama during a private audience in Hawai‘i. “He taught us that God has a sense of humor,” she recalls.
Through Veary, she also learned that in healing, she should “step aside and let the gifts play out.” Similarly, in hula, she learned to pray before a performance and say, “God, I’m walking out there, but you dance.” Some were healed as she danced, she says. As Veary explained, she was “channeling the healing love that allowed their hearts to open.”
That channeling power, Ignacio shares, helped to heal a little girl with Chiari malformation and an Ohio penpal in hospice care. The Lanikai keiki was blind in one eye, and one leg was shorter than the other. “I kept telling her she was perfect, sending healing messages, and she believed me,” Ignacio recalls. “Within a year, her eye opened, her leg was good, and she’s now very vibrant and outgoing!” (Hospital tests proved she was fully healed, Ignacio says.) She also came to her penpal’s bedside to dance for her and help her prepare for death: “In that short time, she healed everything she needed to heal on this side (forgiveness, acceptance). Her life force was never stronger.”
Ask Ignacio about breathing, and she’ll share an exercise to build the gift of calm as it dispels toxins and negative thinking. (“Recognize our creator and let it flow through you to create good,” she would say.) Admit to a bitter relationship, and she’ll help to mend it. (“We’re all connected in one consciousness, so look through the eyes of aloha, listen through the ears of aloha.”) If a client is depressed and operating with a “low pilot light,” she loves to fan the little flame.
Teaching is now her passion, she declares, and she’s taught hundreds already. “Lomilomi is a loving touch,” she tells her students, “which we convey through gentle thoughts via our tone and words. Come down from your thinking brain to your heart.”
Speaking of heart, Ignacio recently reconnected with her teenage flame. Though they were forbidden to date at the time, the two honor students were very close and would journal each other, before following separate paths in life.
Sparked by their 50th Kaimuki High reunion this year, they found each other on the Internet. An engagement ring now sparkles on Ignacio’s left hand, a healing hand that has finally forged its own happiness.
“Life is just a bunch of lessons,” she says, her eyes bright and knowing. “Then you reach the bridge, and the question is whether to cross it or burn it? I think the answer is some of both. It’s important to make things right.”
To reach her, call 754-5934.