The Art of Hawaiian Massage: Lomilomi

December 16, 2010, 9:48 AM HST
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Photo Credit: massage has a long tradition in the islands, which was used to bring healing and good health to the island natives. The original lomilomi providers were kahunas or healers, and they would combine prayers, healing herbs and gentle touch to restore health in their patients. Another traditional name for lomilomi providers was ka po ‘e lomilomi, or the “massage people.” Today, lomilomi providers can include traditional healers or modern certified massage therapists that incorporate other techniques into the massage session with the lomilomi.

The Art of Lomilomi

Traditional Hawaiian healers understand the success of lomilomi massage lies in the sincere prayers of the person administering the treatment. Like other Hawaiian traditions, lomilomi massage is deeply steeped in prayer and ritual. Originally, the person who would give the massage would go out and pick the herbs that would be used. During this time, the practitioner would pray over the herbs as he harvested them. Practitioners involved in this task were not to be disturbed, since interruptions could break the “laws of vibration” and interfere with the healing process.

What a Session Looks Like

The massage itself is done using a variety of tools, including the hands, elbow, knees and feet. Sometimes sticks or stones were also used. Massage oil was an essential, crafted from the herbs plucked from the fields prior to the massage session. During the massage, prayers are given and the client might be asked to do some deep breathing exercises to aid in the relaxation process. Humming or dancing might be performed by the massage therapist during the session as well, because this is thought to unblock and amplify energy levels.


Many traditional lomilomi practitioners do not find a clinical or spa setting conducive to effective massage sessions. Instead, they choose to practice in their homes or other quiet environments, where the therapist and the client can both relax, meditate and experience the full effects of the massage. In some cases, lomilomi clients may receive additional advice to enhance their health, including dietary changes or the incorporation of prayer and meditation into their daily lives.


Lomilomi massage sessions generally work a number of different areas of the body. in some cases, two massage therapists work together on a single client, so that more than one area of the body can be massaged at one time for maximum relaxation. During the session, limbs and joints are also stretched and rotated, but only as long as it is comfortable for the client. Lomilomi massage may be light or vigorous, depending on the practitioner and the needs of the client.

If you are interested in lomilomi massage, it is a good idea to look for a practitioner that is certified in the state of Hawaii. This ensures the therapist has been through some formal training prior to working on clients. Lomilomi massage may not be appropriate for women who are pregnant; talk to the therapist prior to treatment to ensure you receive the right type of massage for your needs. Lomilomi is an excellent way to relax the body, soothe joints and muscles and regain a state of optimal health once again.

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