What is a Hawaiian Lomilomi Massage?

hawaiian lomilomi massage
Hawaii Aloha Travel > Blog > What is a Hawaiian Lomilomi Massage?

If you plan on getting a spa treatment or massage in Hawaii, you’ll likely encounter one popular option: a Lomilomi massage. 

Though this is a great treatment to enjoy during your time in the islands, it’s more than just a word used to lure in tourists. In fact, it’s a holistic practice that dates back to the earliest Hawaiians. 

Today we’re learning all about lomilomi (or, lomi lomi) massage and what you can expect if you book one for yourself. 

What is Lomilomi Massage

In Hawaiian, lomilomi simply means to massage. This traditional Hawaiian healing practice incorporates a holistic approach to health. 

The History of Lomilomi

The ancient art of Lomilomi was nearly lost to history. In precolonial times, practitioners were selected at an early age, and they studied for years before becoming a kahuna lomilomi. 

After colonization (as early as 1886), “superstitious methods,” including lomilomi, were banned in Hawaii. 

After Hawaii became a state, a license was required to practice massage. This further limited practitioners and forced them to massage “underground.”

But still, generations passed along the art and tradition of lomilomi. Its popularity grew in the 1970s, when Hawaii went through a cultural renaissance. 

Finally, in 2001, lomilomi became fully legal. A legislative act allowed for certification by a Hawaiian medical board and community healthcare providers.

lomilomi massage

The Tradition Continues

Today, The University of Hawaii-West Oahu now offers an entire program dedicated to practices like Lomilomi. Its Hawaiian and Indigenous Health and Healing Program is dedicated to teaching Hawaii’s ancient healing practices in three distinct areas. 

First is ho’oponopono, which is a method of conflict resolution. This means identifying a problem and creating a solution through interpersonal communication. 

Second is lomilomi, the actual massage treatment itself. 

The third pillar of the program is la’au lapa’au, the use of herbal medicines.

Fun fact: the first graduate of the UH West Oahu program was Moani Jones Wong, who months later won the first women’s World Surf League Championship event at the Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu. The remarkable achievement made news around the world. Jones Wong would later credit the program and Lomilomi for helping her get physically and mentally prepared for the life-threatening waves at the most photographed surf spot in the world. She is now known as the Queen of Pipeline.

Who Can Benefit From a Hawaiian Massage

There are many healing, therapy, and massage centers that employ some Lomilomi techniques. It is offered at resorts and hotels as an amenity in their spas and fitness centers. And while we would certainly recommend a massage (they are sublime), it is important to note that it’s not a miracle cure for sciatica or lower back pain (or a crick neck, for that matter). 

But sufferers of chronic pain may undoubtedly benefit from a lomilomi treatment, even if it’s not the most authentic approach to the tradition. 

Aston Kaanapali Shores Massage

In fact, to practice true lomilomi, you must embrace it as a lifestyle committed to the health of the mind, body, spirit, and family. It involves specific rituals, practices, and eating habits that last a lifetime. While it’s doubtful that many Hawaii visitors would commit to lomilomi for life, it can still offer tangible results for some chronic conditions, including a crick-neck.