LomiLomi: The Ancient Art of Massage

Prior to the advent of western medicine, cultures from around the world practiced their own forms of healing.  For most, this included a combination of nutrition, herbs, plants and bodywork.  Indians practiced Ayruvedics, the Japanese studied Shiatsu, the Chinese used Tui Na and Acupuncture while the Hawaiians named their healing arts, Lomilomi.

The literal translation of lomilomi is “to rub”.  The history of this massage technique is mostly lost because traditions were passed down orally.  During the arrival of the missionaries to The Hawaiian Islands, the healing practices were ceased because the missionaries thought that the Hawaiian people were performing sorcery.  During this time, Lomilomi was taught in secret from family elders to their descendants.  One revered instructor in the field of Lomilomi has taught a new generation to carry on the teachings of her ancestors.  Her name was Aunty Margaret Machado (see photo on the left).  My Lomilomi instructor has direct familial ties to Aunty Margaret; his name is Dr. Maka’ala Yates.

Like the majority of massage techniques that I have studied, one of the guiding principles in Lomilomi is to increase circulation of all fluids in the body.  The manner in which this is done varies from other styles.  In Lomilomi, a massage therapist’s primary form of contact is the forearm.  Using long gliding strokes, soft tissues are affected at many depths because the forearm provides a large surface area for the massage therapist to manipulate the body.  This is a very rudimentary description of the basic physicality of Lomilomi, however there are many intricacies and nuances to this art form.  Lomilomi also delves into spirituality and energy or “Life force”.  The Hawaiians call this “Mana”.  Hence, my instructor, Dr. Yates, has coined his style of Hawaiian healing arts to be dubbed Mana Lomi, “Hawaiian Spiritual Massage”.

I will further describe the teachings of Mana Lomi in subsequent blogs. In the meantime, I encourage readers to try a LomiLomi massage so they have a first-hand experience with this ancient restorative art.

Leave a Comment