Many cultures have their own distinctive form of massage therapy, and Hawaii is no exception.
Hawaiian massage, also known as Lomilomi, is a modality with a rich and complex history. Incorporating sound, motion, and positive intentions during the massage, it has unique features that lead many therapists to specialize in this peaceful therapy. While there are many therapists who only practice Lomilomi, many practitioners have also found that they can incorporate some aspects of Lomilomi massage into the wider range of bodywork they perform on their clients.
The Origins of Lomilomi
The term Lomilomi means “masseuse” in the Hawaiian language, and Lomilomi massage has a long cultural tradition on the islands. While its original function was to provide the physical benefits of massage therapy, it also had other uses. Lomilomi massage therapy was also used to heal spiritual and emotional issues, to help with digestion, and also by practitioners of Hawaiian martial arts.
The Hawaiian philosophy of Huna plays a key role in Lomilomi massage. According to this belief, all things seek harmony and love. In fact, Lomilomi is sometimes called “loving hands” massage. Lomilomi therapy is practiced with prayerful intent, requiring a loving heart so that healing can begin in the mind and spirit, as well as in the body.
When missionaries came to the Hawaiian islands, they began to preach against Lomilomi therapy as primitive and pagan due to its spiritual nature. In time, some laws were even enacted to prevent the native people from practicing this modality. Even though it was illegal, however, Lomilomi still flourished in secret.
Today, it is widely practiced, and is regulated on the Hawaiian islands as a health practice. In fact, in order to practice true Lomilomi massage therapy, the therapist must become certified by the Hawaiian medical board.
Characteristics and Techniques of Lomilomi
While practicing Lomilomi in Hawaii may require certification, true Lomilomi massage therapy is not a modality that is easy to learn. There are classes available that claim to teach it, but traditional practitioners believe it requires years of training and internship to master. Incorporating some Lomilomi techniques, however, is something that all massage therapists can be trained to do.
Lomilomi massage therapy utilizes long, gentle, continuous strokes. One unique feature of Lomilomi is that more than one area of the body may be worked at the same time. Instead of concentrating on the shoulders, for example, the shoulder and the hip may receive massage simultaneously. The goal is to enhance relaxation, as it is difficult for the mind to concentrate on both areas at the same time.
The joints are also worked in Lomilomi massage. It is believed that energy flows throughout the body can become blocked in these areas. Because of this, each of the joints are worked in turn, gently stretched, and rotated only as far as the client’s comfort will allow.
The Spiritual, Mental, and Emotional Aspects of Lomilomi
Lomilomi massage therapy’s “loving hands” nature enables it to heal more than just the physical body. In fact, most sessions begin with the Lomilomi therapist saying a blessing or prayer for holistic healing. Spiritual healing is as important as physical healing in Lomilomi massage.
While many massages are relaxing, a Lomilomi massage can be either relaxing or stimulating depending on the focus of the therapy. Lomilomi therapists work intuitively to heal the mind as well as the body, and clients often report that they experienced emotional breakthroughs during the session in addition to the benefits to the physical body.
Lomilomi massage therapy is also intended to help the recipient get rid of spiritual and emotional blockages in their life. Often, clients are asked to pray and meditate both during the session and afterwards, adding a spiritual dimension to the therapy. The therapist may include breathwork in order to maximize the healing energy, and may even hum in order to provide vibrations that will help with the removal of these blockages.
Lomilomi: A Uniquely Hawaiian Modality
While massage therapy is practiced around the world, Lomilomi is a uniquely Hawaiian modality. It incorporates the true meaning of “aloha,” which is more than a greeting or farewell. The spirit of aloha is about joyfully sharing life energy, and Lomilomi massage therapy is a physical manifestation of this philosophy.
Lomilomi massage therapy can also include dance. Hula dancers may surround the client, bringing energy and helping it to flow during the massage. Multiple therapists are often used at once, allowing the client’s body to be touched in multiple areas at once. This practice helps the mind to relax and disengage from the body, enhancing the mental and emotional rewards of Lomilomi massage therapy.
Lomilomi massage therapy may take years to master, but some of its elements can be incorporated by massage therapists who also perform other types of bodywork. Loving, healing intent as well as Lomilomi strokes can be incorporated into any massage practice, bringing a piece of this rich modality to people around the world.