Kjol Lahti

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Hawaiian Lomilomi Massage

by Kjol Lahti



"Touch the body with a loving touch. If your hands are gentle and loving, your patient will feel the sincerity of your heart. His soul will reach out to yours, and the Lord's healing will flow through you both." Aunty Margaret Machado

Early visitors to Hawaii noticed and commented on this healing art. In 1803 Archibald Menzies wrote, "A number of natives placed themselves around us to Lomi Lomi and pinch our limbs, an operation which we found on these occasions, very lulling and pleasing when gently performed.”

History of Lomi Lomi Massage

In the 1820's early missionaries to the Hawaiian Islands found the native healers to be accurate in their diagnosis and treatment of illness and in mending broken bones. They considered the Hawaiians to be heathens, however, and in 1893, after years of political upheaval, the new government outlawed all spiritual traditions, including healing arts, the study of the Hawaiian language, and hula dancing. But the sacred traditions did not die; they were hidden and practiced in secrecy, passed down only within the Hawaiian community (ohana), through "iki maka lihilihi a maka alawa", which means, “to do by observation and insight.”

In 1973, Aunty Margaret Machado, a respected kupuna (elder) from the Big Island, decided to share her family's knowledge by teaching it to anyone who had a sincere desire to learn, Hawaiian or not. She felt it was time for the ancient healing gift of Lomi Lomi to be felt throughout the world. While Aunty Margaret was criticized by many in the Hawaiian community for revealing the secrets of Lomi Lomi, it was through her efforts that Lomi Lomi was brought to the forefront of a resurgence of interest in native Hawaiian healing.

The history of Lomi Lomi, however, goes back to the beginning of the history of Hawaii. "It is correct to say that Lomi Lomi encompasses a massage, but it is not limited to it. Native Hawaiians say the true definition of Lomi Lomi is reconnecting with spirit."

What is Lomi Lomi Massage?

One may ask if it is like a Swedish massage; Aunty Margaret says absolutely "no." It's very different she says. " It's a praying work. Each student learns to pray first to God."

One of the common similarities among Lomi Lomi practitioners of old was the power and knowledge they had. That is, their ability to communicate deep to the bones of their patients via their touch through soft tissues, yet being noninvasive and connecting it all with spirit, says Maka'ala Yates, a Hawaiian medicine specialist.

The Lomi Lomi technique focused on finding congested areas in the body and dispersing them, by moving the palms, thumbs, knuckles and forearms in rhythmic, dance-like motions. Setting the intention for healing, the kahuna would also utilize prayer (pule), breath (ha) and energy (mana). The practice of Lomi Lomi was common within each Hawaiian community and contributed to a vibrant, healthy society.

Lomi Lomi literally means, “knead-knead.” Aunty Margaret, who is one of the oldest and widely recognized teachers of Lomi Lomi, has this definition of Lomi Lomi which is: “The Loving Touch – a connection of heart, hands and soul with the Source of All Life.”

Learning the Techniques

Students of Lomi Lomi learn to flow the love from the heart, through the hands, to connect with the soul of the one receiving the massage. Healing is increased by love, love received and love given.

In the Oxford Dictionary the definition of love is “fondness, a deep or passionate affection to someone or something.” To the Hawaiians it is so much more; it also includes tolerance, forgiveness, acceptance, non-judgment, appreciation, compassion, respect and so many other elements. This is the very foundation of a Lomi Lomi massage.

To understand the depth of Lomi Lomi massage, it helps to have an understanding of the Hawaiian philosophy called Huna, and how the philosophies of Huna relate to bodywork and healing.

A fundamental assumption of Huna is that everything seeks harmony and everything seeks love. So how does this relate to massage? Perhaps this can best be understood by one of the alternate names for Lomi Lomi, and that is "Loving Hands" massage. The reason for this is that it works gently yet deeply into the muscles with continuous, flowing strokes, totally nurturing the body and, enabling the recipient to relax, give in and simply be.

So, whilst technique is an important part of the massage and associated healing, much of the work is done by love, with the focus of the practitioner on the client being deep and complete, using loving hands and a loving heart.

This flowing with total energy, using the long continuous, flowing strokes, combined with the very loving touch, relaxes the entire being, assisting in a letting go of old beliefs, patterns and behaviors that cause limitations and which are stored in the cells of our body. People generally think of memory, beliefs, our "programming", as being stored in our head, in our brain. This is not the case. This memory, and other programming, is, in fact, stored in all the cells of our body.

The Flow of Energy...

The Hawaiians look at things in terms of energy flow, suggesting that an idea or belief can block energy flow as much as muscle tension can. Lomi Lomi helps release the blockages, whilst at the same time giving the energy new direction. Thus Lomi Lomi is not just a physical experience; it also facilitates healing on the mental, emotional and spiritual levels as well. The Hawaiians view all aspects of the body as one and believe that the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual are all part of the "whole" self - when healing is effected on one level, all levels are affected.

When harmony is lacking, the effect is pain physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. Illness is a state of tension, which leads to resistance, which blocks energy movement. Lomi Lomi helps release this and, therefore, facilitates the road to healing. On the physical level, through Lomi Lomi, stress and tension are relieved, blood and lymph flow assisted and the elimination of wastes and toxins stimulated.

So, what happens during a Lomi Lomi massage?

How is it performed? A Lomi Lomi usually commences with stillness between the practitioner and client, often with the practitioner’s hands gently resting on the clients back. In this stillness the practitioner will quietly say a blessing or prayer asking for whatever healing is needed to take place during the massage.

Alternatively, or as well, the client may be asked to set their intention for any healing they would like to receive. The therapist then works very intuitively with the client. In this respect, there is no set format or sequence for the massage and no two massages will ever be identical.

The massage is given in fluid, rhythmic motion using the forearms as well as the hands. Some people have described this as feeling like gentle waves moving over the body. Another feature is that different parts of the body may be massaged at the same time.  For example, one arm or hand may be working on a shoulder and the other hand may be working on the opposite hip. This assists the recipient in totally relaxing, as it is impossible or at least extremely difficult for the brain to focus on the two different areas at once.

By not working on areas in isolation, a deep sense of balance and harmony is achieved. As I said earlier, whilst technique is important, the priority is loving the body, using intuition so the massage is "right" for the client. The client on the table is not viewed as someone to be fixed, but a being to be returned to harmony and balance. It is important to remember that the therapist does not heal but is the facilitator for the healing.

Under body and full body strokes also help to free the energy, make the body soft, promoting free and abundant flow of life energy in the recipient. According to Huna philosophy, energy also gets blocked in the joints. Gentle stretches of the body and gentle rotations of the joints are therefore also incorporated to assist the release of tensions and assist the flow of energy. Once again not forcing, but feeling the level of the client’s resistance or comfort. The therapist may also hum at various points during the Lomi Lomi as the vibrating and amplified energy that results also aids the release of blockages.

Dance work, or hula movements, combined with the breath work of the practitioner are also important and integral aspects of Lomi Lomi. The reason for the hula-type dance around the table whilst massaging is not just because it looks cute! The movements are all-important to assisting the energy flow both within the practitioner and recipient and help keep the energy at a high level.

This, combined with breathing techniques by the therapist, are also important in assisting the energy flow. The sharing of the breath, the essence of the Creator or universal energy--whatever name you like to give it--is an old Hawaiian custom and greatly enhances the energy flow once again.

Because the practitioner works intuitively, a massage may be slow and very relaxing or at times it may be a little faster and, therefore, more invigorating and enlivening to the body. Sometimes the recipient may experience an emotional release as the massage can release and shift negative emotions, negative beliefs and other "stuff" that has been stored in the cells of the body, with the healing effects of the massage continuing long after the massage is over.

Lomi Lomi is a Spiritual Massage

While LomiLomi is often referred to as a spiritual massage, the technique is also practical and specific. It is, for example, effective in breaking up calcium deposits and lactic acid build-up. This is accomplished by a variety of movements, such as circular thumb strokes that are done in a one-two-three rhythm directly over the area. Knuckle strokes are used on larger, denser muscles in the same rhythm, followed by soothing forearm strokes and hacking.

In addition to LomiLomi's physical benefits are the emotional releases felt during and after a session. Recipients of a LomiLomi treatment often experience freedom from anxiety, worry, fear and a host of other negative thought patterns. This freedom comes only when the practitioner is aware of their responsibility to the client.

"It is a process that allows the patient to meet the practitioner mid-way in their crisis so healing can take place." Yates says. "It is the LomiLomi practitioner's responsibility to guide and treat each patient with right intentions using the correct protocol of treatment based on his/her feelings. The purpose of LomiLomi is to bring alignment back to the individual in body, mind and spirit."

During a genuine LomiLomi session, the therapist is aligned with divine energy, and keeps his or her heart and mind clear for Spirit to move through them as a conduit for healing energy. Proper breathing and pure thoughts are important. According to the Hawaiians, thoughts contain mana, or energy. When thoughts are combined with touch and breath they are transferred to the receiver. Therefore, the therapist's thoughts must be focused on love and healing.

If something has occurred which interferes with the therapist's ability to control their thoughts, then ho’oponopono is practiced. Ho’oponopono is a prayer of forgiveness and of making things right. It must be done if we have harmed another person or ourselves in thought, word or deed. 

Ho’óponopono "is a spiritual practice of making things right with yourself and all others before God. One who truly practices ho'oponopono is one who takes a daily inventory of his or her thoughts. This practice is frequently performed at sundown as a way to end the day with a right heart. Any intent to harm, any conscious or unconscious attitudes of malice, jealousy, or hatred must be rooted out and replaced with aloha. Aloha is recognizing the divine nature in every living thing."

Ho'oponopono is a spiritual practice which was nearly lost in the last few generations. It is a precisely structured traditional family health maintenance procedure in which discordant family conflicts and problems are resolved through pule (prayer), discussion, confession, repentance, mutual restitution, forgiveness, release and severance. Its overall goal is to "set things right", to correct and restore pono among family members.

Lomi Lomi Therapists...

Most therapists come to LomiLomi after years of doing other types of massage and bodywork. One can expect months of training and years of practice to truly master the technique. This is due to the mental and emotional clarity and physical stamina required of the practitioner.

Many massage traditions teach that the therapist must continually shield him or herself from negativity that may be coming from the client, but Lomi Lomi teaches the opposite. The client is considered to be the vulnerable one, open to and receiving the therapist's energy, positive or negative.

LomiLomi practitioners must learn to control their thoughts and trust in their higher selves in order to direct positive healing energy to clients. Dedicated practitioners know that this is a constant process of self-awareness and prayer.

Some months ago a new client, who for years had concerns about her size, was in tears at the end of the massage. She told me that it was the first time in her life she had ever felt safe & beautiful. Why do I do what I do? – That’s why.

The old ways of the Hawaiian ancestors are being absorbed into a technological world; however, the original intention of aloha remains. A LomiLomi session is a respite from the outside world. My passion with Hawaiian healing and wisdom continues to grow and expand, and so do my regular sojourns to my island home to reconnect with the energy that feeds my soul. My desire is to spread the Aloha Spirit and bring as much of the energy and wisdom back to create a little piece of paradise here.

My use of the term “Aunty or Uncle” is a term of respect on the islands of Hawaii, not a blood relationship term.

Aloha Mai - I come with love.

Reprinted with Permission: Kjol Lahti


Aloha Mai - We come with love!

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NCBTMBSacred Bodywork, LLC is approved by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) as a continuing education Approved Provider. NCBTMB Provider # 450670-08, and by the States of Florida and Louisiana Boards of Massage Therapy, Florida CE Provider # 50-9043 and Louisiana CE Provider #LAO0155.