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Massage Today
March, 2012, Vol. 12, Issue 03

Traditional Hawaiian Healing Arts

By Barbara Helynn Heard, LMP

Lomilomi, sometimes called simply lomi, is the bodywork component of traditional Hawaiian healing arts and it has been used in the Hawaiian Islands for centuries. When social and political situations in Hawaii prevented lomi from being openly practiced, Hawaiian families privately kept it alive.

Thus being hidden from a universal practicing method, diverse lomilomi styles developed within individual families who each preserved what they found relevant. As a result, lomilomi today can be very different, depending on who is doing it. There is no one "right" way to do lomilomi; rather there are many approaches and techniques used by different lomi practitioners. That said, in my experience all lomilomi styles share some basic characteristics.

Characteristics Common to Lomilomi

Lomi training emphasizes the practitioners' responsibility to maintain our own physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Making choices that support the highest good allows us to be clear healing channels and to assist others in healing. Lomilomi includes more than physical touch. It includes conducting mana "vital life force" in ourselves and in our clients. We each discover independently how this happens; no teacher can give it to us.

In the Hawaiian world view man, nature and Spirit form an equally bonded lokahi (harmonious) triangle, held together by divine intention in order that all the things of the earth might be protected and nourished. This lokahi triangle forms a foundation which supports Hawaiian healing arts. The traditional Hawaiian way is to live constantly aware of the binding threads which hold together all things great and small. Natural beings and elements, plants, animals, wind, sun, water and land, are alive, conscious, sentient ancestral forms which interrelate with humanity as family. Humanity is responsible for caring for and protecting nature and nature is responsible for caring for and providing for us. Hawaiians know in their bones that we humans form a community with nature.

hawaiian massage - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Lomilomi is done with loving touch and is spiritually grounded. It employs mind and spirit healing techniques. Hawaiians traditionally believe that each person is integrated and equally divine in body, mind and soul. Some techniques for healing mind and spirit are incorporated with bodywork include sweat huts, internal cleanses and medicinal herbs and plants. Traditionally, the first step in treating physical ailments was by ho'oponopono (to make right), the cleansing of negative occurrences of the past and transmuting negative energy into light, allowing us to move forward. Other spiritual tools often used with lomilomi include: oli - chant; pule – prayer; and ho'okuano'o – meditation.

Prayer is another aspect of the foundation of traditional Hawaiian healers and historically played an important role in every aspect of traditional healing work, including lomilomi. In 1894 a "sorcery law" was enacted which outlawed praying to cure, ironically resulting from the influence of the descendents of Christian missionaries who were welcomed by Hawaiian royalty beginning in 1820. The sorcery law established a fine of $100 - $200, and up to six months prison time for native Hawaiian prayer-related healing practices. In 1972 this sorcery law was repealed.

A Hawaiian cultural renaissance movement initiated in the 1970's encompasses traditional Hawaiian healing arts as well as Hawaiian language, traditional navigation, agriculture, hula, education, and more. Aunty Margaret Machado from the "Big Island" was perhaps the most influential native Hawaiian to share traditional style of lomilomi with many people – native Hawaiian and others - who had a sincere desire to learn.

Mana Lomi®

Maka'ala Yates, D.C, a native Hawaiian and founder of the Hawaiian Healing Academy (HHA) developed Mana Lomi®, building on a foundation he gained in his 16-year apprenticeship with Aunty Margaret Machado and from his studies with others. Yates describes Mana Lomi® as movement with pulse and with signature energy which has been passed down through many generations of physical Hawaiian lineage. Mana Lomi® practitioners are energetically connected to the divine through na kupuna, Hawaiian elders with whom we are honored to share lineage.

The simplicity and specificity of Mana Lomi® strokes makes them easy to receive, often triggering an 'ahhh....' response. Strokes are done rhythmically with full, soft palms contouring body surfaces. Smooth and increasingly deep and slow pressure is applied specifically along muscle lengths, usually in sets of threes, flushing the circulatory system and resetting muscle fibers into their relaxed state; and tension in joints is systematically released. While using breath and body weight rather than strength, the practitioner applies soft yet firm contact to relieve aches and pains. Basic strokes are easy, clean cut and simple, though they take much practice to become perfect.

While giving Mana Lomi® to a client, it is important to stay focused to take in vital information. Perceptivity rewards attentive full body listening. Stay alert, fully present and clearly focused to connect with the felt sense of your client's tissues. Like a potter sculpting living clay, carefully shape complex living tissue in a multidimensional body/mind/soul-time matrix. With vigilant problem solving focus, work through soft tissue to communicate down to the bones where Hawaiians believe soul memories, including those from previous lives, are stored. Sense your client's physical restrictions releasing, their pain easing and their mind quieting as their self-awareness grows. Allow your hands, your breath, your thoughts and your voice to be guided and to move surely and firmly, yet gently.

Mana Lomi® is clinically oriented, problem solving lomi. Students learn to support clients in injury prevention and recovery, as well as to provide stress relief and relaxation using traditional Hawaiian healing concepts which work with the body, mind and spirit. Classes teach the students investigative, clinical thinking and loving hands-on healing techniques. They address the muscular and connective tissue systems, the circulatory system, and the nervous system, as well as the effects of thoughts, feelings and beliefs on our bodies. Compression traction techniques applied to tendons and joint mobilization techniques are developed in the advanced classes. All classes include ho'oponopono (the concept of right relationship), chants and use of breath and meditation. Use of hot stones, cleansing and sweat lodges are part of advanced training. We use Mana Lomi® to help people help themselves and to obtain immediate and long-term results.

The Mana Lomi® approach focuses on "unlimited healing potential," and aligns with a period in Hawaiian pre-history recognized by some people as Lemuria, when people lived cooperatively and harmoniously and could "fly with the birds, swim with the fish, and know and understand all things." We recognize our current era as an auspicious time to be alive and we visualize desired outcome for specific body issues, for systemic health and for global well-being. Aloha.

Barbara Helynn Heard, LMP, is a certified Mana Lomi® instructor. She may be reached at ,,


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