Lomi Lomi

The 'Rolls Royce' of massage

Massage master at work, click image for details

Massage master at work, click image for details

Lomi lomi is a natural evolution of massage. It is a holistic form of treatment that recognises our physical body as a vehicle or vessel for our spirit.

In life, the cells in our bodies are in constant communication with each other, but in times of stress that communication breaks down and we suffer from mental and physical stress.

Therefore lomi lomi works energetically as well as physically to integrate body, mind and soul as the physical stresses are eased out of the muscles and the skeleton is bought back into structural alignment.

In recent years, as well is relieving physical problems, the lomi lomi massage has become an excellent tool to help people overcome deep mental and emotional stresses because it treats the whole person.

Ancient History

To understand Lomi Lomi, it's helpful to understand that the Hawaiian peoples are genetically related to the Tlingit of Southern Alaska who in turn are related to Tibetans and that elements of Tibetan traditions exist in Hawaii.  Some 5000 years ago, Tamils (from south India) travelled the pacific and shared their spiritual understanding which is still evident despite European colonisation.

This means that the Hawaiian traditions are more universal that what many people think and that the Huna wisdom and Lomi Lomi traditions originate from Vedic India; even the twin hull canoe (catamaran) was first invented in Tamil Nadu.

If you visit South India today and especially in Kerala, there are traditional therapists practising what can only be described as lomi lomi massage even though they call it by another name.  In olden times, both the giver and receiver would have been completely naked. This in part is because clothing was really worn in tropical paradises like Hawaii and they did not know the prudishness that was prevalent in Western society.

Modern History

Early visitors to Hawaii noticed and commented on this healing art as Archibald Menzies wrote in 1803, "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.”

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. However they considered the Hawaiians to be heathens and in 1893 after years of political upheaval, the new government outlawed all spiritual traditions, including the 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.”

Lomi Lomi in Kerella, India

Traditional Lomi Lomi style massage in Kerala, India

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.

However, as the history of Lomi Lomi, however, goes back beyond the history of Hawaii to ancient India, the secrets of Lomi Lomi are also making a comeback and spreading from India.

Defining Lomi Lomi

Lomi Lomi is a form of Holistic Bodywork. "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."

The late Aunty Margaret Machado who is on of the oldest and widely recognized teacher of Lomi Lomi defines Lomi Lomi as: “The Loving Touch – a connection of heart, hands and soul with the Source of All Life. One may ask if it's like a Swedish massage; but no. It's very different. It's a praying work. One learns to pray first to God and 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."

One of the common similarities among Lomi Lomi practitioners of old was the power and knowledge they had. That is, their ability to communicate with 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.”  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 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, the flow of blood and lymph is assisted and the elimination of wastes and toxins stimulated.

The Lomi Lomi Massage
By Kjol Lahti

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 working on different areas simultaniously, 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 practitioner 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.

While Lomi Lomi 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 Lomi Lomi's physical benefits are the emotional releases felt during and after a session. Recipients of a Lomi Lomi 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 Lomi Lomi 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 Lomi Lomi is to bring alignment back to the individual in body, mind and spirit."

During a genuine Lomi Lomi 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.

Spiritual Practice

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'opnopono 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, discussion, confession, repentance, and mutual restitution, forgiveness, release and severance. Its overall goal is to "set things right", to correct and restore pono among family members.

Learning Lomi Lomi

Most therapists come to Lomi Lomi 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. Lomi Lomi 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 Lomi Lomi 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.

About the Author

Kjol Lahti is “The Finnish/American therapist who does Hawaiian bodywork that professional athletes trust” He is a practitioner and assistant instructor of Lomi Lomi massage.

Please note; while lomi lomi was once performed with both therapist and client being naked (with no secrets), this massage has been heavily sanitised by the massage schools of the USA. Therefore when you go or a lomi lomi massage today, aside from the use of the forearms in the massage, there maybe little difference between lomi lomi and regular Swedish massage.

If you are fortunate enough to find an experienced therapist and you are able to set your prudishness aside, you may get to be treated naked apart from a small towel over your privates.


3 comments to Lomi Lomi

  • Julieanna

    Definitively my favorite massage and if I had the cash, I’d treat myself more often

  • Mike

    Awesome article and as a massage lover I’ve gotta admit that most of the lomi massages I’ve had have been sanitised and a waste of money and some of the treatments in Eastern Europe have gone a bit far the other way in terms of arousing sexual energy.

  • MaryAnn Barbarin

    Hello, I’m someone who loves being massaged and I’ve had massages in many different countries but what they call lomi lomi in America sucks. I’ve been to several different clinics with a front of my body has not been touched, not being massaged, not been respected. Even in Hawaii with all their regulations, this massage is a farce. The most memorable and satisfying was with an older guy in New Zealand but other massages I had was so politically correct as to be offensive to one’s body. I think the massage industry has been killed by political correctness

Leave a Reply