Diane, this lovely person that Wing Tek introduced us to said that if we ever wanted to try Lomi Lomi massage that she had a great person to recommend. We do. And she did: Maka at the Kailua Medical Arts Building.
Lomilomi, (Hawaiian: masseur, masseuse) is the word used today to describe Hawaiian massage, traditionally called lomi (Hawaiian: To rub, press, squeeze, massage; to work in and out, as the claws of a contented cat).
Lomilomi practitioners use the palms, forearm, fingers, knuckles, elbows, knees, feet, even sticks and stones. Lomilomi practices varied by family, ahupua’a (region) and island.
Traditionally, lomilomi was practiced in four contexts:
- As a healing practice of native healers — kahuna lā’au lapa’au (healers) and kahuna hāhā (diagnosticians)
- As a luxury and an aid to digestion, especially by the ruling chiefs (ali’i)
- As restorative massage within the family
- By ’ōlohe lua (masters of the Hawaiian martial arts)
Although the word kahuna lomilomi is widely used in contemporary writings, traditionally the people who performed lomilomi were called ka po’e lomilomi (the massage people) or kanaka lomi (massage person). A related term, kauka lomilomi, was coined in 1920 to describe osteopathic physicians. The word kauka is the Hawaiianized version of doctor.
Like all endeavors in old Hawai’i, lomilomi was conducted with prayer and intention.
- Hawaiian kupuna (elder) Auntie Margaret Machado describes lomilomi as “praying” work (Chai 2005: 39).
- Emma Akana Olmstead, a kupuna of Hana, Maui, in the 1930s, said, “When a treatment is to be given, the one who gives the treatment first plucks the herbs to be used. He prays as he picks the herbs. No one should call him back or distract his attention, all should be as still as possible for they do not want the vibration broken. They knew the laws of vibration. They knew the power of the spoken word. They knew Nature. They gathered the vibration of the plentiful.” (Chai 2005: 40)
Lomilomi is now a common and popular form of massage throughout the world, especially in Hawai’i, Japan and Europe. Traditionally taught lomilomi practitioners are generally unwilling to work at just any spa or massage office. They prefer to treat selected clients quietly and privately, often in home settings. Lomilomi practitioners may also ask their clients to pray, meditate, change their diets, and engage in other self-help activities usually believed to lie outside the scope of massage. Lomilomi is a holistic healing tradition beyond simple massage.