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What is Lomilomi Massage?

Rainbow over Hawaiian beach, with rocky shore, sand, and trees. Lomilomi massage embodies a connection to nature and the ocean in the healing process.


Have you ever been to the Hawaiian Islands? If you hail from anywhere else in the world, landing in Hawaii and stepping out onto island grounds gives you a vast difference in vibes eliciting immediate relaxation and aloha, if you will. It’s quite difficult to put into words, however, if you have experienced the area for yourself, you might know what I mean. 

Just like other cultures of native people and ancient healing remedies, you’ll find they have a unique spiritual knowledge that is embedded into their health and well-being. In this article, Lomilomi is not meant to be confused with the salmon dish of the same name (which is delicious, if you have yet to try it). We’re talking about the massage style that is wonderfully described as a “healing-touch therapy of the Islands… one of its many definitions, is to raise the vibration of the receiver.” [1]


The History of Lomilomi Massage

Unlike other techniques taught in massage therapy programs, the true foundation of Lomilomi massage is passed down via generations of native Polynesian healers. There is no historical or official “textbook” that teaches Lomilomi, (although there are now some knowledgeable accounts) but it is verbally shared when sought after. You can say it’s a deeply revered way of healing that is holistic and rooted in spirituality. But still, to the kahuna and Hawaiian culture, it is much more than that. 

Kahuna is awesomely defined as, “a compound word from kahu, meaning an honored or high servant/caretaker who has or takes charge of persons or property, and na, meaning calmness and quiet evolution of the emotions… a kahuna serves the community”. The knowledge of the kahuna can encompass elements of healing, dance (hula), or spiritual spaces (priests). They are experts in the Hawaiian aspects of life, the traditional holders of Lomilomi mastery, performing initiations and upholding teachings. 

In Hawaiian, Lomi is translated as “thumb” and “energy shift” - if a word is repeated it indicates its significance. Thus, Lomilomi describes “the sacred shift within you that is inspired by the healing kahuna raising your vibration and all that is around you”. This style of touch therapy looks at energy and the awareness of it within the body. 

Historically, learning Lomilomi massage would only be passed down generations within the family; but as it grows in popularity it can now be found in other parts of the world! This is not meant to imply, that if found elsewhere it is culturally legit in the eyes of the kahuna - that is for them (or you) to decide. Now, workshops or schools are teaching Lomilomi in a month or even a weekend when traditionally it would take years, if not decades to do so. This reflects the dedication and cultural knowledge it takes to fully learn this technique! 


Person lying supine on massage table, receiving Lomilomi massage on entire back. Forearms and hands of therapist working and showing movement.


Where Can You Get Lomilomi Massage?

As mentioned earlier, you can receive (and now learn) Lomilomi massage in various parts of the world and likely most massage spas. The healing and energetic aspects of this touch therapy may be what sets it apart from other styles out there. Of course, if you’re in Hawaii or most places of Polynesian descent (Samoa, Tahiti, etc.) you can find Lomilomi massage almost anywhere. 

If you’re in other parts of the world, whether or not your location and practitioner of choice will incite the Aloha Spirit remains in question. Furthermore, each practitioner is bound to have their own unique style as well. Like most massages, you won’t know until you try it out or do a little digging! A true practitioner would be able to tell you where they got their training. 

What is Getting Lomilomi Massage Like?

The wonderful aspect that sets Lomilomi massage apart from most other styles is that it doesn’t ignore the energetic and spiritual aspects of the body. It is a true recognition that healing takes place beyond the physical body. Even your practitioner is meant to prepare themselves energetically (through breath and prayer) before performing their work. They may also chant/pray over you as they begin. Even the space used for the session is considered sacred and often a practitioner may utilize Hawaiian music in the background.  

Many movements for Lomilomi include long, sweeping, and rhythmic strokes, often moving up and down sections of the body. Different strokes may include circular, gliding motions, sometimes meant to mimic the ocean. Your masseuse may use their fingers, hands, and forearms throughout the session and at different pressure levels. Just like other styles, oil or lotion may be used to reduce friction with your skin. 

Ease of access helps optimize the whole body experience, so (as with most massages) the less clothing, the better. If you are energetically aware, the shift in your body’s energy or vibration may be obvious to you - leaving you feeling more relaxed, perhaps immediately.


What Does Lomilomi Massage Help With?

In comparison to other traditional massages, Lomilomi is deeply intertwined with the spiritual and energetic aspects of healing. In a study comparing two groups, it was noted that Lomilomi was able to influence the subject’s emotional state simultaneously bringing them to a relaxed state - the study reported, “…the harmony between spirit and body was recovered, which was statistically relevant.” 

This is not to overlook the impact Lomilomi massage has on bodily aches and pains. Odds are, if you’re mentally stressed, emotionally burdened, or have sore muscles, Lomilomi can do it all. 

As far as particular muscles or body parts, Lomilomi can assist with relieving tension in larger areas but even smaller surface areas such as the neck, hands, and feet. Relieving any built up tension and knowing how to release chronically tight muscles will serve you well in the long run. Wherever there is stagnant energy, an expert practitioner may sense it and work from there to release it. 

Lomilomi Massage: Conclusion

Whether you are a frequent receiver of massages or just warming up to the idea, I hope this information was helpful. I find it’s beneficial to know more about the holistic (and non-drug) related therapies out there contributing to our ideal health and performance should we decide to access them (Check out info on CBD Massage and how to do massage at home). Massage, as we now know it can be intended for more than just pain and relaxation. Read up on more do-it-yourself techniques and products for (back) pain relief if this is what you’re looking for!


[1] Jim, U., Arledge, G., Wise secrets of Aloha, learn and live the sacred art of lomilomi. Weiser Books, 2007. 

[2] Coppola, G.K., Both ends of the rainbow, lomilomi ~ a healing journey. Balboa Press, 2013.

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