Lomilomi massage is a healing journey that originates from Hawaii, and a wonderful modality to practice in today’s stressful world.

This technique’s long, continuous, toes-to-nose strokes can release tension and create an ethereal flow of restorative energy.

As schoolchildren, we learn that energy can neither be created nor destroyed — it can only be transferred or changed from one form to another. As such, we use skillful Lomilomi principles and techniques to help transform a client’s energy into a natural positive place. We strive to take a client’s negative energy and help shift it toward a positive through Lomilomi touch communication.

History & Learning About Lomilomi

When learning about Lomilomi massage, it is important to study the Hawaiian history, principles and culture that helped create it. Some of the practice of Lomilomi itself, is to learn how to change our speed to become one with nature and the universe. One way you can do this is by allowing your language and thoughts of existence to take on a new, spiritual meaning, such as referring to Mother Earth or Father Sky. Most Lomilomi training will include the practice of ho’oponopono (to make right), and tell stories about the ahupua’a system of how Hawaiian families lived together for many generations throughout the islands.

It is OK to learn and become a student of Lomilomi even if you cannot travel to Hawaii, but spending time in Hawaii itself is truly the strongest and richest experience of all. There you can visit with indigenous individuals at any of Hawaii’s state parks — most of them are happy to tell you about their ancestry and answer questions.

Try to visit a heiau (temple), go to a lūau (celebration), learn some Hawaiian chants, or enjoy some other Hawaiian experiences to deepen your cultural and spiritual connection. I personally find the beautiful Hana Highway in Maui to be a life-changing experience no matter how many times I drive it.

Image courtesy of CE Institute LLC

How Lomilomi is Different

When practicing Lomilomi massage, it’s best to create a peaceful harmony within yourself and workspace by turning down artificial noise. This includes tuning out needless thoughts or feelings in our own mind, body and soul as well as removing physical objects that increase negative distraction from the workspace.

Think about how personal freedom can come through body movement. Many of our clients hold their shoulders to their ears (the “no-neck” syndrome) or they work in sedentary jobs. Lomilomi often creates a new sense of freedom for these clients. It can melt feelings and that “protective armor” we hold over our bodies with its fluid, noninvasive strokes.

You may have to restructure the way you work for Lomilomi if you practice neuromuscular therapy, myofascial, trigger-point or similar techniques. In Lomilomi massage, we do not dig or use excessive pressure. (There are other Hawaiian bodyworks, such as bone washing, which are more appropriate for therapists who seek a more anatomical or tactical technique.) Lomilomi massage should be about creating a beautiful, peaceful, healing space to allow the positive energy and feeling to envelop its existence.

To that end, we suggest using coconut or kukui nut oil to promote a smooth glide with long, flowing strokes; we do not allow for any skin friction whatsoever.

The practice of Lomilomi slightly evolves with every therapist and each generation’s application; however, the basic principles of being one with nature in a peaceful, healing, aloha environment should remain consistent.

2 Distinct Styles of Lomilomi

I have found two distinct styles of Lomilomi massage throughout my 25 years of studies and practice of the modality. Big Island style Lomilomi massage is widely attributed to Aunty Margaret Machado, who was a Western medicine trained nurse. A couple of her Big Island-style strokes are similar to some Swedish and sports massage techniques, plus this style generally addresses the body in quadrants like modern-day massage.

The second distinct style is Ancient Temple, which is widely attributed to Kahuna Abraham Kawai’i. Ancient Temple-style is what most therapists think of when they hear the term Lomilomi; most who practice Ancient Temple-style use plentiful oil and those long, head-to-toe strokes. Choosing the Lomilomi style you want to practice may depend on what type of client you serve.

Ancient Temple-style is wonderful for a client who has a lot of experience with massage because of the whole-body, continuous flow of massage. It is much different than a regular Swedish massage, so it is usually a new and incredible experience for those massage connoisseurs.

Big Island style Lomilomi is great for therapists who serve novice massage clients, because it addresses the body in a more conservative manner. Big Island style will massage the back, then one leg, then the other, so the client remains conservatively draped and they are able to process the massage in smaller, more easily digestible amounts.

woman getting a massage

Both styles are beautiful representations of Lomilomi when the spiritual and cultural elements influence the experience. Of course, these are simplified generalizations of the two main styles of Lomilomi. Therapists should seek whatever feels right to them, because whatever is in your heart is likely the best choice.

One Caveat

When practicing Lomilomi, it is important to remember what allows you to work for payment. Most licensed massage therapists in the U.S. today are governed by institutions such as a state licensing board or local board of health. These usually require adherence to draping, sanitation and ethical standards.

In Lomilomi, I have seen all types of practices, such as using a massage table in a way that it was not designed, unnecessary nudity, or no draping at all — which does not always instill a feeling of safety or trust for some clients. These questionable practices could violate multiple standards, never mind the negative energy that is felt when a client is nervous. It is important to practice whatever your ethical, legal and licensed requirements are, as these regularly supersede anything someone could claim as an authentic technique in bodywork.

Lomilomi Classes & Practice

Lomilomi massage is usually an easier modality on a practitioner’s hands and joints than a traditional Swedish or deep tissue massage. It frequently becomes a favorite in any massage therapy practice, but requires a quality, hands-on course to learn the technique and execute it. Seek out an experienced instructor who has spent time in Hawaii and can share some historical Hawaiian lifestyle principles in addition to the hands-on bodywork. Lomilomi classes can be intensive, but it is easy to learn and can add a whole new dimension to your practice.

The Hawaiian healing journey of Lomilomi has helped many clients; and, many Lomilomi students have shared they have found it to be quite profound and personally enriching, too.

About the Author

Selena Belisle is the Founder of CE Institute in Miami, Florida. She has practiced Lomilomi massage for 25 years and is trained in both Big Island and Ancient Temple styles. You can learn more about her Lomilomi CE classes and other massage workshops at ceinstitute.com.