Lomi Lomi is one of the most profound forms of healing practice, handed down to us by the kahunas (native healers) of old Hawaii. The word lomi lomi means to “to knead, to rub, or soothe; to work in and out, as the paws of a contented cat.” I intentionally avoid using the term ‘massage’, because Lomi Lomi is rooted in a totally different universe than the massage modalities we use nowadays in our Western world.
Lomi Lomi was used for various purposes, recreationally for lua fighters, as a luxury treatment to ease digestion for chiefs and kings, but also respected kahunas included Lomi Lomi in rites of passage, helping big changes and transitions in the life of the individual.
There are many different lineages of Lomi Lomi in the Hawaiian Islands, and it became more and more diverse as it spread to other parts of the world. This is not an easy task to find authentic sources as the kahunas of the old days are slowly leaving us. The type of Lomi Lomi I first came to learn is called Integrated Lomi Lomi by my respected teacher, Witold Kucharczyk, and it mainly represents the so called ‘Temple style’. The bulk of the ‘Temple style’ Lomi Lomi techniques originate from Kahu Abraham Kawai’i, and reached my teacher via Susan Pai’niu Floyd who teaches this massage as Lomilomi Nui. Witold also studied Lomi Lomi in Hawaii from Kumu Auntie Maile Napoleon, and Ho’oponopono from Haleaka Iolani Pule. My other wonderful teacher, Jody Mountain studied directly from Kahu Abraham Kawai’i and calls the work she is sharing Ancient Lomi Lomi. This rare type of bodywork originates in pre-Polynesian Hawaii and was practiced only in temple spaces, used exclusively by the chiefs and people with great social responsibility.
A bit of history and background
In ancient Hawaii, people lived very close to nature, and to each other. Living ‘isolated’ on their island, it was necessary to use efficient practices to maintain harmony and solve the conflicts within the community. Ho’oponopono, Lomi Lomi and Hula was three of the many arts and crafts serving the same goal: get to know and make peace with oneself and with each member of the family. By family, they meant each living thing and entity that surrounds us and lives within us. They especially respected the elders (kupuna) and the ‘aumakua, the spirits of the deceased, the guardian spirits who often took on animal forms.
According to the shamanic approach of the Hawaii of old, everything is connected, and everything in the world seeks harmony. All memories are stored in the body, so for example, muscle contractions or tensions in the articulations can be considered as imprints of important events, traumas in the past. If these are treated on the physical level, the related emotional, mental or spiritual content may also come to the surface and may be released. The loving touch of Lomi Lomi can help us let go of old, stuck behavioral patterns and limitations, and bring us closer to balance, the original feeling of harmony. This is why after a session, many of us feel younger, or even as a newborn child.
Lomi Lomi as a prayer
The old kahunas, aunties and uncles could not stress enough the importance of prayer in the healing work. The prayer is to honor that there exists something bigger than us, and we ask its help for the healing to take place. Lomi Lomi addresses the divine aspect of the individual, through the divine aspect of the practitioner. Traditionally, a Lomi Lomi session done in heiaus (temples) could last from 10 hours up to 15 days, with 1-5 kahunas working with your system.
The patient was required to participate actively in the process, was often given instructions to follow a certain diet, to clean himself in the ocean or in a steam bath. During the session, the kahuna could drum, sing, chant, use hot stones, bamboo sticks, medicinal herbs. Appropriate time and space was available, and every detail served to establish the connection between the person and the divine entity, so that healing and long-lasting changes could take place.
How does a Lomi Lomi session look like today?
Nowadays in our rushed daily life we have more limited possibilities than described above, but traditional Lomi Lomi practitioners intend to create a sanctuary-like space for their sessions, which last from 1.5-3 hours. The session opens and closes with a prayer, in the meantime we work in silence or with often Hawaiian music in the background.
Lomi Lomi is done with oil, and limited draping is used, so that the long, continuous, wave-like strokes can be performed. The intimate parts remain always covered. (If somebody is not comfortable with the nakedness, disposable underwear is available.) There are practical and symbolic reasons for nakedness. The continuity and flowing nature of the massage is supported by the ancient Hula steps with which the masseur moves by the table. The work is done mostly using the forearms and palms. The pressure needed comes from the practitioner’s bodyweight and in case of the under-body strokes and lifts, gravity. Gentle stretches and rotations of the joints are also incorporated to assist the release of tensions. The practitioner works intuitively with the client, and no two sessions are identical. The harmony being born from this joint work, and the oceanic, rhythmic movement lets our mind sink into a deeper level, which facilitates regeneration.
The most important element in Lomi Lomi is not the technical part, but the spirit of Aloha, the spirit of unconditional love and acceptance. By using loving hands and a loving heart, the practitioner creates space and opportunity for the self-healing to happen.
What are the benefits of Lomi Lomi?
- improves circulation, slows heart rate and lowers blood pressure
- boosts immunity
- increases range of movement, flexibility
- Lomi Lomi is highly beneficial in the following cases:
- physical, mental, emotional stress
- troubled sleeping, anxiety, fatigue
- chronic headaches
- feeling of being stuck
- depression, burnout
- low self-esteem
- Lomi Lomi as a therapy can also help in the emotional processing of traumatic experiences (loss, abuse)