When’s the last time you had a massage? Confession, the last time my body felt the healing hands of a massage therapist was right after I gave birth to my now two-year-old daughter. And sadly, most of us can relate. Now it’s your turn — was your last massage a splurge on a vacation or birthday treat?
It’s time to give your body the good lovin’ it deserves. But let’s be real, not everyone can shell out hundreds of dollars at a luxurious spa every week. And frankly, it’s not necessary. You can give yourself the massage experience in your own home, every day.
So roll up your sleeves and get your hands oily with massage oil. We’re channeling the aloha spirit with a simple lomilomi practice.
What is lomilomi?
Lomilomi is a Hawaiian healing bodywork treatment that uses a combination of massage techniques, sacred oils, and sometimes prayer, breathing and dance to promote holistic health and wellbeing.
Known as the ‘loving hands’ massage, the massage works gently yet deeply into the muscles to shift the energy. Hence the word lomi , which means “to shift”.
During a lomilomi session, a shift occurs when crystallized emotions held in the body are released. Muscles relax and pain washes away, making space for pure creative energy. As a result, the recipient radiates vibrant health from the inside out. Hello, aloha-kissed glow!
History of Lomilomi
Back in the day, the healing art was passed down from kahuna practitioner to a younger family member. Not your average course — students didn’t have assigned readings, lengthy lectures, or stressful exams. And forget grades! They would simply observe their kumu (teacher) for years before imitating the work. After many years of mentorship, initiates would share their healing gifts with others, but never for money. They would offer lomilomi for free (or by donation).
How It Works
For many Hawaiian kahunas, the physical psyche is composed of three aspects — Au’makua, Uhane, and Unihipili. Au’makua is the High Self or the divine light within, and resides above the crown of the head. Located in the third eye chakra, Uhane is the Middle Self, which converts mana (or sacred power) into thinking and feeling. Unihipili is the Low Self, or the unconscious. Sitting in the solar plexus chakra, it stores memories and emotions in the brain and bones.
During a lomilomi session, practitioners are in contact with all three realms from a divine state of Pa’a (the now ). In other words, the mind is on mute, as they work from the heart. And like magic, they are conduits of something greater than themselves — the divine energy of Aloha.
Why Try It
Not that I need to convince you to get a lomilomi massage! But you may be curious to learn about the many benefits. Lomilomi is thought to:
- release tension
- assist blood and lymph flow
- remove waste and stimulate toxins
- invigorate the body
- promote a sense of peace, harmony and wellbeing
- induce positive physiological changes
There are also many benefits to becoming a lomilomi practitioner. The more you practice this healing art, the more you can sense what’s happening in the body. With your expanded sensory skills, you can intuitively find problem areas. X-ray vision, anyone?
You also learn to live in pono, or for the greater good of all, taking care of yourself, others, and Mother Earth. And in doing so, you sustain a frequency of aloha. Loving vibes on, separatism off.
How to give yourself a lomilomi massage
Here’s a simple practice, inspired by lomilomi practitioners:
In Hawaiian tradition, a mixture of sea salt and alaea (a type of red clay) was baked for the perfect purification tool — alaea or Hawaiian red salt. Used for cooking and for healing, the clay in alaea salt is symbolic of the connection to the ancestors.
To make this purification spray, add alaea salt (available at specialty stores) to a spray bottle and fill with water. You can also add a ti leaf to the bottle. Set the intention for the spray and spritz away!
According to Hawaiian tradition, Ha is the breath of life that contains divine energy. It is our connecting chord back to Source. We can use the Ha breath to release stuck emotional energy and to transmute it into a higher vibration. It can also be used to infuse the cells of the body with mana.
To perform the Ha breath, close your eyes and listen to your breathing. Beginning from the belly, breathe in deeply through the nose up into the heart. And breathe out through the mouth with a “haah” sound. Repeat three times: one breath for your body, one for your mind, and one for your spirit.
Begin with a pule, or prayer. You may say it silently, verbally, or as a traditional Hawaiian chant. Ask for heightened awareness, and to become a divine channel for healing. Of course, make this prayer your own, and take as long as you need.
With your eyes closed, hold your hands a few inches away from the body, and see if you can feel the energy field. Move your hands away from the body, and then back closer. Feel the difference?
From head to feet, slowly run your hands over your body to sense the energetic field, and to detect any problem areas. Once you get to the feet, go back up the body again. Do you feel pulled to a certain place?
When you discover a tight or painful place on the body, take a moment to pause, breathe and ground yourself. Ask the body to release any toxic energy, and transmute it into light. Then use the Ha breath into that part of the body.
Harry Uhane Jim’s Bone Washing Technique
Lie on your back, and place your fingertips at the chest or sternum. Focusing only on the breath, lightly massage your fingertips in a small spiraling motion in a waltz-style rhythm: one-two-three, one-two-three. Along the edges of the bones, gradually move outward to the chest, shoulders, then down the arms, and out the hands.
As you wash the bones, breathe love into each part of the body. Notice any blockages or changes in the energy as you work.
Use the same technique along the edges of the rib bones and pelvis. Slowly sit up, and continue the movement down the legs and out the feet.
In a comfortable seated position, reach under the neck as far down as is comfortable. Repeat the technique one vertebrae at a time, moving up to the head and face.
Watch Harry Uhane Jim’s tutorial video here:
Aunty Margaret’s Big Island Lomi Technique
Known as the Ocean Wave Stroke, this massage technique resembles the waves of the ocean washing upon the shore. First, evenly distribute kukui nut oil, or another massage oil. Kukui nut oil is known to bring spiritual protection.
Next, apply oceanic strokes to any limb of the body in sets of three: the first wave (or stroke) is the shortest, the second is a little longer, and the third stroke is the longest.
For example, start from the ankle up to the knee, and glide back down to the ankle (the first wave). Next, caress from the ankle, up to the hip, then glide back down (the second wave). Lastly, caress from the ankle all the way up and over the shoulder and back down the body (the third wave). Repeat the set of three waves three times.
Once you feel called, close your practice. Breathe in mana, breathe out aloha, and give thanks. Mahalo, pau! Amene. Thank you, it is finished. Amen. And so it is.
Note: these techniques are not meant to replace lomilomi training with a qualified teacher. If you feel called to master this healing art, I encourage you to seek professional training.
How was your lomilomi experience? Share in the comments!
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- Bruno, Isabelle, and Christian Staebler. Massages Du Monde: Californien, Lomi-Lomi, ayurvédique, suédois Et Autres Horizons. Hachette Pratique, 2014.
- Jim, Harry Uhane, and Garnette Arledge. Wise Secrets of Aloha: Learn and Live the Sacred Art of Lomilomi. Weiser Books, 2007.
- Kahalewai, Nancy S. Hawaiian Lomilomi: Big Island Massage. I.M. Pub., 2004.
- Powell, Wayne Kealohi. Hawaiian Shamanistic Healing: Medicine Ways to Cultivate the Aloha Spirit. Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd., 2018.
Photos by microgen, Quanthem and Dmitry Belyaev on iStock, and Coral Antler Creative and pimpic studio on Creative Market