Lomilomi is an old Hawaiian Healing Modality, meaning to break into small, then smaller pieces. Lomilomi is not a massage. In fact, the only thing that is similar to massage is that it is viewed as a hand to body technique. Although the hands touch the body, Lomilomi is much more than a massage.
Nowadays, there are two different kinds of lomilomi. One is the old traditional lomilomi and the second is a contemporary version which massage therapists call lomilomi. Most contemporary styles of lomilomi are Swedish Massages with a Hawaiian twist.
In our organization, Lomilomi is a Hawaiian healing technique based on old traditional Hawaiian practices of health and well being. This style of lomilomi, previously unavailable to outsiders, was preserved by several Hawaiian families who were not only practitioners of lomilomi, but also Kahuna Lomilomi. In 1998, Kahuna Lomilomi Aupuni Iwi’ula revealed this old style of Hawaiian healing and it is now presented, taught, and practiced in Halau O Limaloa.
We call those that have learned Iwi’ula Style Lomilomi, Lomilomi Practitioners. Iwi’ula Style Lomilomi is completely Hawaiian.
Aupuni, as the Kumu of a Halau Lomilomi, is required to uphold certain protocol. These protocols are absolute and are to be followed by each haumana once they have learned them. The halau lomilomi is firm in its commitment to present the mana’o of the different types of traditional Lomilomi. Currently, the lomi kino and the lomi kahea are being taught in the halau. Kumu teaches individual haumana about the lomi la’au (lomi using a specially designed lomi stick) and lomilomi a’e (a stepping lomi). Lomi kino is taught every year and is generically known as Lomilomi. Lomi kahea is also taught in the halau. The Lomi Kahea is a very different kind of lomi. Only when Kumu is told by his kupuna kahiko, ancestors, to teach it, will he present the lomi kahea.
In 2003, Kumu asked his Tutuwahine if he could call this style Tutu Makea Style Lomilomi. She said that she would be greatly honored by naming this lomi style after her; however, Kumu had expanded the mana’o to include deeper spiritual roots that she felt it would be better called IWI’ULA Style Lomilomi. When a haumana of this halau lomilomi graduates or goes through an ‘uniki, the haumana is honored for passing the tests of mana’o of the IWI’ULA Style Lomilomi in the presence of the haumana’s family and friends. Approximately 5 to 6 years later or at a minimum of 60 lomilomi later the haumana starts to pass the tests of na’au’ao of the IWI’ULA Style Lomilomi, and begins to see the IWI’ULA phenomenon of the Red Bones in the presence of the halau’s 'aumakua. This phenomenon is an example of the deeper spiritual roots of IWI'ULA Style Lomilomi.
At Halau O Limaloa we provide, practice and teach the old traditional lomilomi. Many people including Hawaiians have been asked what is old traditional Lomilomi. There are four major characteristics of traditional lomilomi:
Ka Pa Lomi
Na Mea Lomi
Ka Wahi Pana
1) Ka Pule. In the protocol of all lomi there is a pule, a prayer. The pule can be Christian Hawaiian or pre-Christian Hawai’i, but the pule is the center of all lomilomi. All pule used by the haumana at Halau O Limaloa is pre-Christian.
2) Ka Pa Lomi. In the Lomi Protocol as practiced by Halau O Limaloa, there is always a Pa Lomi. The Pa can be as simple as a mat, preferably of lauhala; however, a set of pillows will do just as well. If high protocol were used then a set of lauhala mats or a specific lauhala mattress mat would be used. If general protocol were used then a set of pillows would be fine. Once the materials of the Pa are gathered then the setting of the Pa is necessary. The Kahuna Lomilomi determines the setting. For example, the Pa is always coordinated with the directions stated in the pule, or it is set with the directions of the place or space. The pa has to be set before a traditional lomi can be administered.
3) Na Mea Lomi. Materials and specific strokes used in the Lomi also help determine its depth of tradition. Oils used dictate an understanding of the various la’au lomi used during a lomi session. The oils of preference at Halau O Limaloa are kukui, coconut and olive oil. The traditional oils are kukui and coconut; however, coconut oil can become rancid quickly. Hence the usage of olive oil, the main oil that the Portuguese brought to Hawai’i. Traditional lomilomi was always done on the ’āina (earth). The use of the massage table is an import. At Halau O Limaloa lomi is always done on the ground unless for some reason the recipient cannot rest on the ground. To perform lomi on the ’āina a lauhala mat is required. There are two kinds of lauhala mat that was used, A) a flat lauhala mat with pillows added or B) a lauhala mat that resembled a mattress. An example of the later still exists today at Hulihe’e Palace in Kailua, Kona.
4) Ka Wahi Pana. The Sacred Place. On each island, in each ahu’pua’a (a land division usually extending from the uplands to the sea) there are special places where lomi is done. For example, on Hawai’i Island inside Pu’uhonua O Honaunau or on the grounds of Pu’ukohola with the po’o (head) resting on the incline of the Kohala Mountains and the wāwae (feet) facing Kawaihae Bay and the South Kohala Coast. On every island in every ‘ili (a small piece of land usually long and narrow) there is a Ka Wahi Pana Lomilomi, a place that is used for healing modalities, specifically lomilomi.