About Lomilomi


is an ancient Hawaiian concept of working with the life force of an individual to promote well being.

Lomilomi massage

is a traditional Hawaiian method of utilising gentle touch and unconditional love to encourage the receiver's own natural healing processes. It is a holistic approach which recognises and addresses the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual dimensions of the body.

Historical Background

Many Hawaiian cultural practices were driven underground by missionaries in the 1700s. In the 1800s the American government overthrew the Hawaiian government, and most of the Hawaiian healing arts were prohibited. It was not until the 1980s that Hawaiians began to openly share their knowledge and healing arts as it was finally considered legal to do so. Since this time there has been a resurgence of Hawaiian culture. Even though some traditionalists have been resistant to sharing knowledge, it is now possible for non-Hawaiians to delve into the vast knowledge and practices of Hawaiian culture to learn about the interconnectedness of all physical and non-physical things. This is particularly relevant for us in the west as we search for wholeness and healing within ourselves and our societies (Daws 1968). Because Hawaiians recognise the necessity of unconditional love and touch to promote an individual’s health, massage is a part of their everyday lives. Traditionally, lomilomi massage is shared amongst family in Hawai'i. Thus there continues to be as many different styles of lomilomi massage as there are individuals sharing it. In Hawai’i, massage is also only one element of lomilomi. Other techniques like herbs, cleansing, prayer, chanting, conflict resolution and forgiveness are also utilised according to what is needed (Chai 2005). At this time in the west, however, lomilomi practitioners tend to focus more on the massage component.

How Lomilomi Massage Works

Massage keeps the tissues supple, fluids moving, emotions cleared, nerves calm, and energies flowing. A person giving a lomilomi massage uses hands, forearms and elbows to apply gentle and soothing – yet invigorating – flowing strokes across the entire body to get the blood flowing and to shift any physical and/or energetic blockages (Kahalewai 2004). The intent and focus of the giver is also a major part of lomilomi massage. The Hawaiian principle of ‘energy flows where attention goes’ is always remembered whilst the giver is fully present with the receiver in every moment, listening and responding to what the body and heart of the receiver needs for balance, harmony and healing (Kahili King 1983). Whilst technique and intent are important, the foundation for lomilomi massage is unconditional love, which induces profound physiological changes. As Margaret Machado, a respected Hawaiian Elder and teacher of lomilomi says, “Love the body – touch people as if you are touching their souls” (Harden 1999). Nurturing under-body strokes are unique to lomilomi massage and add to the feeling of being caressed by the cleansing ocean, and the gentle stretching of limbs is often included in a session.

A Typical Lomilomi Massage Session

The authentic practice of lomilomi massage can involve the receiver being asked not only for any relevant physical history, but also to share whatever may be going on mentally, emotionally or generally at this time in their life, since all aspects of health are relevant for deep healing to take place. Answers to these questions will help the giver assess what will be most effective for the receiver at the time. A simple Hawaiian prayer may start the session. Oil (which may be heated) is smoothed over the whole body - excluding genitals - while soothing music is played in the background. The massage is then shared by the giver with complete presence, and with an attitude of love and reverence for the receiver at all times. At the end of the massage the receiver is often left to relax. Finally the giver will share any insights about the receiver’s physical or energetic body, and offer any suggestions for creating greater harmony, balance and healing in the receiver’s life. A session can vary from 1-4 hours.

The Benefits of Lomilomi Massage

Lomilomi massage induces profound physiological changes and can be used to bring vitality and balance in almost any circumstance. It can increase the receiver's awareness of the areas being massaged, which in itself can bring about healing. In addition, lomilomi is an excellent way of communicating love and trust. During a massage the receiver is offered the chance to be totally nurtured and supported by the giver, which provides an opportunity to let go of the accumulated tensions that are a part of daily life. By releasing chronically held physical tension, the corresponding emotional component can surface and be released. In doing this a space inside the receiver is encouraged to open for transformation on a spiritual level. On a physical level, lomilomi massage dramatically improves the circulation of body fluids which brings oxygen and nutrients to the cells while removing metabolic wastes, and, like remedial massage, it affects the circulatory, nervous and musculoskeletal systems (Kahalewai 2004). Specific physiological benefits include: * Circulatory - Lomilomi acts to dilate the blood vessels, which increases the efficiency and supply of fresh nutrients to the tissues and eliminates metabolic wastes from the body. Kneading and gliding strokes promote the venous return of blood back toward the heart, which enhances circulation and aids in healing. Lomilomi massage also enhances lymphatic circulation, which is important for ridding the body of toxins and for enhancing immunity. * Musculoskeletal - Lomilomi massage stretches and relaxes tight and tense muscles. It also stretches connective tissue which surrounds and supports the musculature, thus promoting it's health and preventing it from adhering to the muscle. Lomilomi can help to lessen the stiffness and swelling found within the joints. It improves muscle tone by mechanically stimulating inherent reflexes found within the muscle fibres. This is especially helpful for those who do not obtain adequate daily exercise. * Neurological - Lomilomi is an incredibly effective massage for managing stress levels, especially if received regularly. It can have either a stimulating or sedative effect, depending on how it is given, the length of the session, and the present state of the nervous system. Generally though a receiver will feel an overall sense of invigoration and peace. It can "reprogram" neurological patterns and greatly reduce pain, emotional armouring, and impaired sensations. Some techniques can improve motor-nerve function to organs and muscles, thus helping their functional capacity. * Internal organs - Lomilomi often incorporates massaging the abdomen, which aids digestive and eliminative channels to improve function and efficiency of the internal organs and gastrointestinal tract. It can also help in pregnancy or in restoring the proper location of certain organs. * Skin - Lomilomi massage aids the function of both the oil and sweat glands in the skin, our largest organ. It soothes the tens of thousands of nerve endings and flushes out the small capillaries, and generally keeps the skin supple and healthy. * Pregnancy - Lomilomi is one of the few massages recommended and known to be safe during pregnancy. The gentle flowing strokes nurture both the mother and child, provide relief from any pain the mother may be experiencing in carrying there child, and assists in connecting the mother and there child.

Risks, Side Effects, Adverse Events

In general, lomilomi massage is considered to be a safe practice. Very few adverse effects have ever been reported. Those that have been reported generally relate to side effects when an extremely vigorous massage technique - which is not usually deployed in lomilomi massage sessions - is used (Vickers and Zollman 1999).

Possible Contraindications

Lomilomi massage can be effective in almost any circumstance. However,

* diabetics should monitor their blood sugar level carefully; measurements need to be taken immediately after a massage session, as well as over time if receiving massage regularly (Greene 2000).

* caution should be exercised if the receiver has skin irritations such as burns, rashes, cysts, bruises, open wounds, or acute sprains. These areas should be avoided during the massage.

* total abstinence is usually necessary when a receiver has a contagious disease, fever, broken bones, acute injuries or dislocations. If any of these conditions are present it is best to speak with your lomilomi practitioner (Kahalewai 2004).

You should also speak with your lomilomi massage practitioner if you are unsure about any other condition.

Training, Certification and Licensing Requirements

Basic courses for lomilomi massage practitioners include an introduction to techniques and skills of lomilomi massage, some grounding in Hawaiian wisdom and culture, and professional codes of conduct. Some lomilomi practitioners also undertake ongoing training to enhance their technique and skills, and to develop a deeper understanding about the philosophy and principles of Hawaiian wisdom. Practitioners have usually undergone and experienced many levels of their own personal healing and life changes, which enhances their understanding of the healing process. In Australia, courses in lomilomi massage are offered by various teachers in numerous places. For further information contact Charlie Snow alohamia@gmail.com

The Future of Lomilomi

Currently there is no organisational body which houses resources for Lomilomi in Australia. As individuals and health care professionals in the western world learn more about the need to integrate healing on all levels for balance and harmony in a person’s body and life, Lomilomi will be utilised more and more. As the number of people giving and receiving lomilomi continue to grow in Australia, information and resources available continue to grow.

More Information

If you are interested in learning more about Hawaiian culture, learning how to give a spiritual Hawaiian lomilomi massage, or receiving a lomilomi massage, some good places to start are


  • Chai RMR (editor, collected from Elders from Hawai'i). Na Mo'olelo Lomilomi (The Traditions of Hawaiian Massage and Healing). Bishop Museum Press: 2005
  • Daws G. Shoal of Time - A History of the Hawaiian Islands. University of Hawai'i Press: 1968
  • Greene E. Massage Therapy. In: Novey DW, ed. Clinician's Complete Reference to Complementary and Alternative Medicine. St Louis, Mo: Mosby: 2000
  • Harden MJ. Voices of Wisdom - Hawaiian Elders Speak. Aka Press: 1999
  • Kahalewai NS. Hawaiian Lomilomi Big Island Massage. I.M Publishing: 2004
  • Kahili King S. Kahuna Healing. Quest Books: 1983
  • Lee PH. Nana I Ke Kumu (Look to the Source) Volume II. Hui Hanai: 1979
  • Vickers A. & Zolloman C. Massage Therapies. BMJ: 1999