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Massage Today
August, 2011, Vol. 11, Issue 08

The Lomilomi Experience

By Gloria Coppola, LMBT

Have you ever transcended time and space during a massage and felt your cells being blessed?

Lomilomi, the Hawaiian healing art form of massage, has been described by Aunt Margaret Machado (the first Hawaiian to get licensed in massage) and others as "loving touch." However, lomi is more than technique.

It is a life style and a journey to know one's self on a deeper level.

Every lomi session begins with pule (Prayer) and intention. There are different styles depending on the lineage and what was offered in their 'Ohana (family). One of my original mentors, Penny Prior, who lives on the island of Kauai states, "Lomi begins when I wake up in the morning and go to bed at night. I ask myself, how can I contribute?"

To truly understand lomilomi one must experience it by a skilled practitioner who lives lomi in their life on all levels. In this article, I have chosen to ask lomi students and practitioners about their personal experience to give you a greater understanding of the possibilities and depth of this Hawaiian healing modality.

How Does Lomi Differ From Regular Massage?

hawaiian flower - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Angie from Missouri says, "I am consciously working with my client on all levels. I create a sacred space which is safe for the healing to occur. Lomi to me is to contemplate in nature and nurtures the soul, spirit and body in a much deeper way than a traditional massage."

Becca from North Carolina states, "It's not about manipulating tissue. It's about listening and following the individual's inner compass of wisdom and providing them a safe and loving space to assist them while they balance their spirit and physical temple."

Naomi, who is a new massage therapist, was excited to share her recent experience. "To study lomi under a wise instructor who allows the student the freedom to 'disengage' from their mind and follow their natural instincts to blossom, was the gift I received. I chose to enhance my gifts by focusing my intention, my energy and my heart. I feel lomi is an opportunity to honor God in my practice."

Kumu Michael Locey shared with me in a recent interview why lomi is so special. "All things are sacred in Hawaii. To us, that means feeling it, from your head to toe, above and below, realizing the air we breathe is alive and a conductor of the source of the life force. The words we use have recognition of our connection to the source of life as we chant our genealogy, and our intentions. Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) literally means "real man." Our genealogy links us to our ancestors and teachers (kumu). We become extensions of them in the divine breath of life, no? One must connect to the fullest extent possible; breathe the air in Hawaii, share the breath of the Hawaiian elders to say I have the aloha spirit in me"

What Was Your Experience In Receiving Lomilomi?

I couldn't agree more with all of these statements above as I recall my first lomi experience. The practitioner took the time to create a sacred space and to clear himself so that he was in the best place for me. This took approximately an hour. Upon his first greeting and connection with me, the lomi began with grace and beauty. He chanted over my body and it was in that moment, I knew something was more powerful and more connected. Might I also add this individual was not a massage therapist, but an accountant from Switzerland with a passion and love for this healing work. He had studied lomi for many years and three hours later I was in total bliss!

Several massage practitioners shared with me some of their first experiences, which I feel might help you understand the process and the outcome.

A practitioner from Massachusetts tells me, "Quite honestly, I knew very little and was a bit uncomfortable. I had lots of issues and the feelings ran deep. I experienced a profound personal realization about my life, my heart and how to love others. The student who worked on me in class was so gracious and loving that healing took place to my surprise on all levels and continues to do so. I am continuing my studies and want to learn all I can about Hawaiian spirituality. It is life changing!"

Another lomi student and practitioner shared that she realized even gentle movements can create shifts in a receiver's state of being, also making the deeper work seem less invasive and part of the relaxation. Poetically described, "Lomi, in essence, is like floating on a raft in a peaceful lake. The gentle yet firm pressure while the forearm glides from the top of your shoulder to the sole of your feet mimicked the soft movements of the ocean. I was invited to deeply relax and release stress, to clear my mind and allow myself to simply be in the moment."

In a recent interview with Felicia Brown form Spalutions, I was explaining Lomilomi. It surprised her to hear the depth of this work and at one moment she realized that a session she received at a spa many years ago was not the traditional lomilomi we are speaking about today. She felt disappointed that she did not have the experience we are sharing today. She shared with me that after hearing more about Lomilomi it felt to her that it was a "Full Body Prayer." Lomi is truly a Full Body Prayer and I could not have put it in any better words.

How Long Does It Take To Learn Lomilomi?

Often students of lomi who are "called" to this ancient healing method will study for many years and perhaps with a variety of kumu's. Traditionally, a member of the 'Ohana was chosen by the Kahuna lomilomi to study for approximately 20 years. They had to learn about the 'aina (land), medicinal herbs and so much more before they even touched a body.

Today, in modern society we do things quicker. However, I encourage you to immerse yourself in this beautiful Hawaiian restorative healing method. A weekend class will not provide you with the depth of the work. It is truly an Introduction. I reach out to you to realize you will not and should not offer Lomilomi after a short introduction. As Kumu Brenda Ignacio, from Oahu asks "Lomi is not to be exploited."

There are trainings offered everywhere. There are different styles from a variety of lineages. When you are called, you will know where you must study. Listen to your heart and be guided by the ancient ones as Lomilomi whispers in your ear and says "Aloha."

I am still learning and growing. Each time I have the opportunity to learn from another kumu, my heart jumps for joy and sings Aloha. Aloha is more than a greeting. It is the breath and essence of spirit. It is humility and compassion. It is a life force that runs deep within our veins and our spirit. Lomi is not mere fluff. It is powerful beyond words.

Gloria Coppola has been in the healing arts for 25 years. The former owner of a massage school and curriculum writer for several massage schools across the nation, she is now a continuing education provider. Gloria has also contributed articles to several massage publications over the course of her career. Thanks to Ryan's encour-agement you can also enjoy some video clips on massage at Contact her at or email her at .


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