College program gets the massage

The professional massage program at Kaua‘i Community College offers 16 dedicated students an education that reaches beyond technique.

The program is a comprehensive training in physiology, anatomy, nutrition, diverse body work traditions and metaphysical practices.

While the state requires only 570 hours of training to become a certified massage therapist, Virginia Dumas leads students through 600 hours in two full semesters.

Dumas has designed a curriculum that mirrors her own rich and meandering path through the world of healing and physical therapy; graciously sharing a lifetime of experience with aspiring students.

“I have people in the program of all ages and backgrounds — from right out of high school to accomplished professionals wanting a change in career,” Dumas said.

The first semester encompasses meditation, energy work, yoga and centering, as well as chair massage technique, basic and advanced Namikoshi Shiatsu Therapy. Interwoven with academic classes in nutrition, anatomy and physiology, the students learn that being a good massage therapist requires “an ability to work from both sides of the brain.”

Dumas explains, “Maintaining a healing atmosphere, centering one’s own energy and leaving the baggage at the door, is just as important as learning strokes.”

In the second semester the students delve deeper into styles of massage such as Swedish, Lomi-lomi and sports recovery. This is paired with CPR, first aid, structural kinesiology and medical terminology.

One of the best things that comes from this type of study is “the application of these health principals leading to a transformation of each individual student, in their own lives,” Dumas said.

A special course in business and law help the students plan a career that often requires legal knowledge in self-propriotorship.

Faculty from the nursing school as well as the business school teach these specialized segments.

At the conclusion of study within each massage modality, the students offer their services to the faculty and community. The proceeds of these community-outreach massages go to The United Way. The recent chair massage session held in Macy’s at Kukui Grove earned nearly $700 for the fund.

“By the time the students graduate, they have worked on so many body-types, in all the different massage styles we’ve covered, that their confidence to work in a professional environment is bolstered by this hands-on experience.”

Virginia Dumas has been a massage therapist for more than 40 years.

Beginning by working on her husband during his treatment for cancer, she soon found she had a gift for healing. Family members and neighbors sore from pulling coconut plants and the daily grind began to request her services. “I didn’t know what I was doing. But I began to learn,” she said.

Massage in America only gained mass acceptance recently, at the time Dumas began studying in the early 1970s, there were many taboos attached to the practice, and very few state certification programs. “Books became my teachers,” she said.

Dumas was self-taught through Eastern tradition and hands-on practice.

Moving to the North Shore of O‘ahu in ’78, Dumas eventually created one of the first teacher-training programs in the state.

Her long journey through licensing and working at high-end hotel spas has led her to create KCC’s comprehensive and diverse curriculum.

Dumas is proud of her students’ ability to maintain a peaceful atmosphere in a room full of other students and clients. “This is a testament to their ability to maintain focus and a healing solitude in a room-full of activity,” she said. “They are practicing a right brian modality while keeping left brain time.”

Afternoon sunlight pours into a classroom at the Nursing School while kneading hands, deep breathing, rhythmic movements float over the bodies of tired and stressed-out community members.

Dumas whispers, “Isn’t it just wonderful? I really believe this program changes people’s lives.”

For more information on the program, call Carol Bland, nursing secretary, at 245-8325.

Keya Keita, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 257) or kkeita@kauaipubco.com.

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