Lomilomi is the word used today to mean “massage therapist” or “Hawaiian massage.” In the Hawaiian language, the word used traditionally, called lomi, means “to knead, to rub, or soothe; to work in and out, as the paws of a contented cat. It may also mean “to take and turn, to shift” as in “the sacred shift within you that is inspired by the healing kahuna…” said twice “lomilomi” for emphasis.
Lomilomi practitioners use the palms, forearms, fingers, knuckles, elbows, knees, feet, even sticks and stones. It may be performed with or without emollient.
Traditionally in ancient Hawaii lomilomi was practised in four contexts:
1. As a healing practice of native healers
2. As a luxury and an aid to digestion, especially by the ruling chiefs
3. As restorative massage within the family
4. By ʻōlohe lua (masters of the Hawaiian martial arts)
The early Polynesian settlers brought their own form of massage and it evolved to become something uniquely Hawaiian. It was practised by everyone, from child to chief. As an indigenous practice that evolved over hundreds of years in isolated valleys throughout the island chain, there are many different “schools” of lomilomi with different approaches and techniques.