The Healing Hands of Hawaii
Written 1998 & Published in Free Spirited Magazine
NB : The author has journeyed far in her study and training in Hawaiian healing practices, since writing this article. She acknowledges the ‘modernised’ & Westernised uses of words and concepts at the time it was written, however also acknowledges the powerful, fundamental ‘tools’ contained within, that have been integral to her journey of wellness personally and sharing with others.
Ho’omoe wai kahi ke kao’o Let’s all travel together like water flowing in one direction
My passion concerning all things Hawaiian began more years ago than I care to remember. The people, the Aloha Spirit, the friendly acceptance, their culture and traditions, the beauty and energy of the islands, the list goes on and on. It was a logical progression then I guess, that my spiritual journey would involve a great connection with Hawaiian Shamanism and Bodywork. In hindsight I could see clearly why I was drawn so strongly to both.
As a massage therapist and counsellor I had a busy practice, yet something was missing. As I looked around at other practitioners, I realised what it was – the heart. There were a lot of excellent ‘technicians’, yet every ‘body’ was being treated the same, a production line, trying to ‘fix’ people. There was no heart, no treating the whole being, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Enter lomilomi, the missing key, the heart and soul connection.
“Waiho wale kahiko
Old secrets are now revealed.”
Known also as ‘Temple Style’ and ‘Loving Hands’ massage, Lomilomi is one of the most profoundly healing forms of massage. This sacred, unique form of bodywork has been handed down through the Ancient Master Healers of Hawaii for generations. To understand the depth and profound healing ability of lomilomi massage, an understanding of Hawaiian philosophy called Huna, and how the philosophies of Huna relate to bodywork and healing is useful.
A basic assumption of Huna is that everything seeks harmony and everything seeks love. The hallmark of lomilomi is the loving connectedness between the practitioner and the client, thus the name ‘Loving Hands’ massage. Whilst technique is an important part of the massage and associated healing, much of the work is done by love, with the total focus of the practitioner on the client, using loving hands and a loving heart. This flowing with total energy, using long continuous, flowing strokes, combined with the very loving touch, relaxes the entire being, assisting in a letting go of old beliefs, patterns and behaviours that cause limitations and which are stored in the cellular memory of our body.
The Hawaiians look at things in terms of energy flow, following the idea that an idea or belief can block energy flow as much as muscle tension can. Lomilomi helps release the blockages, whilst at the same time giving the energy new direction. Thus lomilomi 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 occurs on one level, it impacts on all levels. Rather than viewing the client as someone to ‘be fixed’, a lomilomi practitioner views each person as a Being to be assisted in returning to harmony and balance. It is important to remember that the practitioner does not heal but is the facilitator for the healing, creating a safe place for the healing to occur.
“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. Lomilomi helps release this and therefore facilitates the road to healing. On the physical level there are many benefits such as release of stress and tension, blood and lymph flow assisted and the elimination of wastes and toxins stimulated.
A lomilomi usually commences with a stillness between the practitioner and client, usually with the practitioner’s hands gently resting on the clients back. In this stillness the practitioner may quietly say a blessing or prayer asking for whatever healing is needed to take place during the massage. The client may be asked to set their intention for any healing they would like to receive. The masseuse then works very intuitively with the client. Thus, whilst technique is important, there is no set format or sequence for the massage and no two massages will ever be identical.
There are a number of distinguishing features in the style and strokes used in lomilomi. As well as using the hands, the massage is given in fluid, rhythmic motion using the forearms in broad, flat strokes, soothing out tensions. This has been described 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 hip. This assists the recipient in totally relaxing as it is extremely difficult for the brain to focus on the two different areas at once. Flowing over the body as a whole being, rather than working on areas in isolation, assists in a deep sense of balance and harmony to be achieved. Whilst technique is important, the priority is loving the body, using intuition so the massage is the most appropriate for each person.
Under body and full body strokes also help to free the energy and assist the body to become 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 may 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 clients resistance or comfort. The masseuse may also sing gently or hum at various points during the lomilomi as the vibrating and amplified energy that results also aids the release of blockages.
Because the practitioner works intuitively, a massage may be slow and very relaxing or at times it may be a little faster and more invigorating and enlivening to the body. An emotional release may be experienced, as the massage can release and shift negative emotions, negative beliefs etc that have been stored in the cells of the body, with the healing effects of the massage continuing long after the massage is over. Lomilomi is not only therapeutic, it is loving, nurturing and thorough.
Hula movements, combined with energy work and the breath work of the practitioner are also important and integral aspects of lomilomi. These are all vital to assisting the energy flow both within the practitioner and recipient along with helping keep the energy at a high level. The sharing of the breath, the Mana, the essence of the Creator or Universal Energy, is an ancient Hawaiian custom and also greatly enhances the energy flow.
Another feature which sets lomilomi apart from other forms of massage is that the person lays directly on the vinyl of the table and not on a towel. Also, rather than being covered completely by towels, they are covered by a sarong leaving most of the body exposed during the massage, whilst maintaining the recipients modesty and the sacredness of the massage. This allows for the underbody and full body strokes to be performed without interrupting the flow of the massage.
Traditionally a lomilomi can be done by either on person or by two people working together. Having a ‘double’ lomilomi for me is the piece de resistance of massage, an incredibly special experience.
When we think of Hawaii, the word ‘aloha’ usually comes to mind. We often think of aloha as simply meaning hello or goodbye. It’s meaning is however much deeper – ‘ the joyful sharing of life energy in the present’. This really is one of the secrets of lomilomi. Aunty Margaret Machado who is one of the oldest and widely recognised teacher of lomilomi has a definition of lomilomi which is “ The Loving Touch – a connection of heart, hands and soul with the Source of All Life!” Students of lomilomi 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. The deeper meaning of Love to the Hawaiians also includes tolerance, forgiveness, acceptance, non judgement, appreciation, compassion, respect and so many other elements – this is the very foundation of a Lomilomi massage.
“‘A ‘ohe pau ka ‘ike i ka halau ho’okahi
All knowledge is not taught in the same school.”
As with all ancient Hawaiian teachings, there are different lineages and teachers of lomilomi. Each will have a slightly different technique. One is not better than another, they are just different The important thing is the focus, intent and love of the practitioner . They must always be respectful, honouring and maintain the sovereignty of the massage and do what is pono or right with the culture and ancient teachings.
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 beautiful. Why do I do what I do – that’s why.
My passion with Hawaiian healing and wisdom continues to grow and expand, and so 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.
Aloha Mai – I come with love.