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Traditional Lomilomi Healing Session in Maui, Hawaii

May 24, 2008
The Kahuna lomilomi were priests who practiced the healing arts with much reverence, love and spirituality. They believed that physical discomfort and disease were the results of suppressed emotions, mental disturbances or spiritual disharmony.

The traditional lomilomi healing session began with a thorough investigation into the nature of the dysfunction, as well as prayer, fasting and several sessions in the steam hut. Once the malady was identified, the treatment would often begin with heated stones and herbal poultices. Then the Kahuna would massage and use particular lomilomi strokes necessary for that individual.

One of the common similarities among lomilomi practitioners of old was the power and knowledge they had. That is, their ability to communicate deep to the bones of their patients via their touch through soft tissues, yet being noninvasive and connecting it all with spirit, says Maka'ala Yates, a Hawaiian medicine specialist.

The lomilomi technique focused on finding congested areas in the body and dispersing them, by moving the palms, thumbs, knuckles and forearms in rhythmic, dance-like motions. Setting the intention for healing, the Kahuna would also utilize prayer (pule), breath (ha) and energy (mana). The practice of lomilomi was common within each Hawaiian community and contributed to a vibrant, healthy society.

Early visitors to Hawaii noticed and commented on this healing art. In 1803 Archibald Menzies wrote, "A number of natives placed themselves around us to lomilomi and pinch our limbs, an operation which we found on these occasions, very lulling and pleasing when gently performed." In 1819 a Mr. Frecient wrote, "Two females about 40 years old knelt down on each side of me and squeezed and rubbed my limbs with all their might.

All the parts of the body were pressed between the hands, going from the arms to the legs and from the thighs to the shoulders. Here it is employed as a means of making people sleepy."

In the 1820's early missionaries to the Hawaiian Islands found the native healers to be accurate in their diagnosis and treatment of illness, and in mending broken bones. They considered the Hawaiians to be heathens, however, and in 1893, after years of political upheaval, the new government outlawed all spiritual traditions, including healing arts, the study of the Hawaiian language, and hula dancing.

But the sacred traditions did not die; they were hidden and practiced in secrecy, passed down only within the Hawaiian community (ohana), through "iki maka lihilihi a maka alawa", which means to do by observation and insight.

"It is correct to say that lomilomi encompasses a massage, but it is not limited to it. Native Hawaiians say the true definition of lomilomi is reconnecting with spirit."

The tradition of "iki maka lihilihi a maka alawa" was noted in a Board of Health report in 1896 by Charles Peterson, M.D., who wrote, "The practice of Kahunas (sic) in this district is, I am confident, quietly carried on. The Hawaiians will not expose them, and investigation only elicits falsehoods and assertions of ignorance. Nearly every group has its family Kahuna, and Honolulu furnishes the shrewder ones upon occasion.

I have frequently met with the evidence of the presence of these mystery workers, and in the circle about the sick bed, easily noted the one with the power. However under no inducement will they give any knowledge of the proximity of any such. The belief in the power of the Kahuna, although denied, is shared in, I am positive, by all classes of Hawaiians, some whites, even. I am assured they are allowing their ministrations in their families. The Hawaiian will assent to anything proposed by the foreigner, and at the same time continue his belief in his Kahuna and his ancient gods."

It wasn't until the 1970's that the laws were changed and Hawaiians were free to pursue their native heritage and spiritual traditions, without fear of punishment. This freedom rekindled a flame in the heart of many native people, and led to a resurgence of interest in their cultural heritage.

Hawaiian elders were sought out and questioned about their knowledge, and grass-roots organizations sprang up around them. In 1973, Auntie Margaret Machado, a respected kupuna (elder) from the Big Island, decided to share her family's knowledge by teaching it to anyone who had a sincere desire to learn, Hawaiian or not. She felt is was time for the ancient healing gift of lomilomi to be felt throughout the world.

While Auntie Margaret was criticized by many in the Hawaiian community for revealing the secrets of lomilomi, it was through her efforts that lomilomi was brought to the forefront of a resurgence of interest in native Hawaiian healing.
About the Author
Come Learn Massage atAloha Massage School of Massage Therapy serving Haiku, Makawao, Kahului, Kihei,in Maui, HI. We offer a professional
600 hour training in massage therapy.
You will learn Lomi Lomi, Shiatsu, Swedish Massage Techniques, reflexology and so much more.We can be reached at (808) 871-9966
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