In the Hopi Indian language, Hakomi means “How do you stand in relation to these many realms?” This traditional, multilayered way of asking “Who are you?” embodies the spirit of a modern therapeutic style that embraces elements of talk therapy, bodywork, and spirituality. If you’re looking for a healing modality that is derived from principles of healing touch and personal growth, Hakomi bodywork may be right for you.
Hakomi vs. Hakomi Bodywork
Hakomi bodywork practitioners use mindfulness techniques to help clients self-regulate their biology. Hakomi clients are made aware of the inner language of sensations to develop an understanding of mindfulness. With this knowledge and experience, you may be able to better manage your nervous system and work on resolving trauma responses in your body.
With collegiate training in experimental psychology, years of experience as a psychotherapist, and inspiration from Swami Rama, Ron Kurtz created a new method of psychotherapy called Hakomi. To create this new technique, Kurtz drew on his experiences with yoga, Taoism, Buddhism, bioenergetics, Rolfing, Feldenkrais, and Moshe (among many other experts and traditions). His passion for the science of living systems, psychotherapy, and Eastern thought became Hakomi.
It is important to note that while Hakomi bodywork is a physical adaptation of Hakomi psychotherapy, it is not a psychotherapeutic method. Rather, it integrates the elements of Hakomi psychotherapy in a physical way to help clients understand what their body’s structure and movements are trying to express.
Hakomi bodywork involves releasing your physical memory of difficult events. According to guidelines of the practice, your nervous system “freezes” when you experience a traumatic event, leading to a variety of emotional and physical ailments. As a result, your body may experience physical symptoms from trying to cope with and compensate for a painful experience that ended long ago.
The Benefits of Hakomi Bodywork
Receiving the services of someone trained in Hakomi bodywork can help you take in kindness and nourishment from the world, yourself, and those around you. You can increase your feelings of worthiness, discover new possibilities, and release limiting beliefs that are physically expressed in your body. By adopting these empowering attitudes, habits, and skills in a therapeutic environment, you can begin to trust yourself to use them in the rest of the world.
Your experience with Hakomi bodywork may help you cultivate a variety of peaceful, healing attitudes and states, including:
- Ease and flow
Adopting these emotional states can contribute to better physical structure and alignment in the body, so the client feels more comfortable and energized in daily life.
Hakomi Bodywork Precautions
Hakomi bodywork can help make people feel more safe and open, which helps facilitate emotional release. However, not everyone experiences a positive and growth-inducing Hakomi bodywork session. If you have endured difficult experiences as a young child or have had great traumas in your life, Hakomi bodywork may not be for you. Talk with your practitioner about your history and emotional well-being before going deep into a Hakomi bodywork session.
A small number of people who experience Hakomi bodywork may raise their defenses and increase the physical and sometimes painful coping mechanisms they use to avoid deep, inner pain. If you feel overwhelmed during a Hakomi bodywork session, talk with your practitioner about pausing (or even ending) your session. Keep yourself safe by treading slowly and protecting the psychological structures on which you rely. In certain rare cases, you may need to keep your defense mechanisms in place to stay functional.
What to Expect from Your First Hakomi Bodywork Session
Even more so than other bodywork and emotional release modalities, Hakomi bodywork involves deep, genuine, and open communication. You will talk with your massage therapist before, during, and after your session to help them understand your needs and your progress. Be sure to share body sensations such as, “My heart is in my throat,” or “I feel sick and scared in my belly,” or “I feel guarded and tight in my chest.”
Your practitioner will help you enter a mindful state and “probe” your emotions by offering affirmations that contradict your limiting beliefs. Any time your practitioner is touching you, they are accessing emotions and belief systems as they are expressed in the body’s tissues, structure, and daily movements. Using this gentle method, your massage therapist can help you bring your repressed emotions to the surface for observation and release. Your session will likely include a few phases:
- Setting a gentle context for your session
- Recognizing your emotions in the moment
- Going within yourself (when you feel ready)
- Crossing the mind/body interface
- Observing how your body takes part in your emotions
With your permission, your Hakomi practitioner will use touch to help you engage with the habitual physical actions you use to manage your emotions. For example, if you hunch forward when you’re afraid, your therapist may gently guide your shoulders inward and press you into a slouching position. With this noninvasive physical interaction, you can engage with emotions you would otherwise avoid, releasing long-held stress habits.
Your Hakomi transition should feel simple and relaxing as your body softens into the therapy. You should feel comforted. The goal is for you to breathe easier and deeper, open your shoulders and chest, and feel free to move around.
As you leave your session, you begin an essential part of the process: learning to maintain the peaceful state you experienced in the bodywork session in your daily life. As you continue to visit your practitioner and practice body awareness, you should slowly reset your internal programming and feel more and more comfortable in your own skin.
- Barstow, C. (n.d.). Overview of the Method. Retrieved from http://www.hakomiinstitute.com/Resources/barstow-overview.html
- Günther, U. (n.d.). Hakomi: Strengths & limitations: Indications and contraindications for the use of Hakomi with clients with significant clinical disturbances (Hugo Schielke, Trans.). Hakomi forum, Summer 2006(16-17), 35-42.
- Kaplan, A. & Schwartz, M. (n.d.). Listening to the body: Three pragmatic case studies of body-centered psychotherapy. Retrieved from http://hakomiinstitute.com/resources/research
- Kurtz, R. (2008). A little history. The Hakomi Forum, Summer 2008(11-13), 7-18.
- Walker, H., Hall, W., & Hurst, J. (Eds.). (1990). Clinical methods: The history, physical, and laboratory examinations (3rd edition). Boston, MA: Butterworths.