Like the Hawaiian Islands themselves, Lomi Lomi massage is much more intricate and unusual than its first appearance. While mostly the use of a practitioner’s hands on the client’s body, it also combines meditation, assisted stretching and a psychological purging or release.
Recipients of Lomi Lomi move through several different stages, starting with a grounding of one’s mana (life force) and a prayer with the intention for the session sent to Ke Akua (Creator). Clients wear a sarong for modesty, instead of the standard sheet or robe, allowing the practitioner to perform the long, fluid strokes needed for the dance-like routine that is “deep to the bone” but does not leave the client feeling tired or sore as in regular deep tissue or sports massage work.
Through the physical work, the recipient of Lomi Lomi begins to peel away at the emotional and mental issues that manifest physically in their muscles and joints. It is here that they experience ho’oponopono, or a psychological cleansing. There, the client begins the meld of body, mind and spirit, creating the physical embodiment of the ideal of Aloha, unconditional universal love. Lomi Lomi sessions can also include alae (use of salt baths and scrubs) and steam or hydrotherapy.
The feeling of Aloha is most often described as a sense of pure bliss, as the muscular and lymphatic release create a toxin flush of the entire body. Because Lomi Lomi works in the connectivity of the body and doesn’t focus on a single area, this bliss is felt throughout. For instance, if you were to ask for work in your neck, a Lomi Lomi session would be sure to include the face, shoulders, back, chest and arms.
Begun by the ancient Hawaiians, this healing art was practiced by the revered kahuna (practitioners) and kupuna (elders). They were held to be the keepers of the light of knowledge and were highly respected for their work with the body and spirit. When the Christian missionaries created a new government in the late 19th century, this spiritual practice was outlawed and only practiced in secret.
In 1947, the government allowed Lomi Lomi practitioners to resume in the public sphere legally, provided they could pass a test on anatomy, physiology and massage theory. Many were unable and many more simply refused. It was not until 2001, that the Hawaiian government gave native practitioners the ability to be certified by the Hawaiian Medical board, Papa Ola Lōkahi, or a local community health center rather than through the standardized testing option created in 1947. While still controversial among a segment of practitioners, it gave native kahuna legal protection to practice their art.