Traditions of Lomi Lomi Massage

Traditional lomi massage in Hawai‘i developed over many generations by the people of the islands. Lomilomi begins and centers on a state of consciousness that reflects the grace and aloha of Hawai‘i and her people. The most important ingredient of lomilomi is a genuine and unpretentious way of being with yourself, your spirit guides or guardians, your client, and Akua (God or Spirit). Lomilomi is the hands-on manifestation of aloha and unconditional love skillfully delivered into the soft tissues of the body.

In the Hawaiian tradition, purification precedes any hands-on massage. The body is cleansed physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s just as critical to make pono (realign; correct) the client’s self-defeating thoughts, as it is to address his or her physical problems. Individual ties to any negative person, place, or thing are corrected with the help of a higher power. The Hawaiians of old believed that each person was born “a perfect bowl of light” so healing was about helping the process of returning to one’s true divine nature. In traditional lomilomi bodywork, medicinal herbs, ti plants, Hawaiian salt, stones, sweat lodges, water immersion, hot rocks, and lomi sticks are all frequently used as healing tools.


Like all healing arts, lomilomi has evolved over the millennia. It was influenced by the Asian healing arts as well as European practices. The techniques are not difficult, yet their proper application takes years to master. They enable the physical and energetic systems of the body to flush out, transform, and revitalize as the soft tissues are gently but firmly loosened, separated, and loved. It encompasses releasing and forgiving in order to bring all aspects of self into alignment. It is holy and holistic, sacred yet practical.

One of the biggest misconceptions people have about lomilomi is that it is a specific set technique or routine. The actual massage techniques were only part of the lomilomi treatment. There are probably more versions of lomilomi than any other type of bodywork. Hawaiian lomilomi has as many styles as it has practitioners. All the great original practitioners did lomilomi differently. Each island, every extended family, each ahupua‘a (land division from ocean to mountain), and each system of healing was unique.

Lomilomi is difficult to write or read about because it was essentially an unwritten art. Many people today are trying to understand the depth of the old styles done by the elders who have since ‘walked the rainbow’ into Sprit. Primarily due to the wonderful oli (chants) and keen memorization skills so valued by their culture, specific family traditions survived for many generations. Medicinal recipes, the gathering and cultivation of secrets, and the knowledge of when it was kapu to use certain practices or substances were mastered and passed down by the kahuna la‘au lapa‘au (herbal medicine master).After the missionaries taught the native Hawaiians how to read and write, many plant formulas and healing testimonials were written down in the Hawaiian language in journals kept by the herbalists. Some of this knowledge has been archived and preserved for future generations.