The Real Health Benefits of Lomilomi — Hawaii’s ancient massage

The Real Health Benefits of Lomilomi — Hawaii’s ancient massage

Lomilomi translates to massage” in Hawaiian, but it is much more than a feel-good back rub — it can relieve muscle pain, improve range of motion, and aid digestion. The ancient Hawaiians considered lomilomi a powerful healing treatment. Today, physicians throughout the world agree that lomilomi complements Western science and can accelerate wellness. 

What makes traditional lomilomi different

Unlike most therapeutic massage, lomilomi is performed with rhythmic and long flowing strokes by the forearm and elbow — not just the hands — and alternates between light and deep pressure, which stretches and relaxes tight and tense muscles in the back, arms, and legs. It also stretches connective tissue that surrounds and supports the musculature, which prevents it from adhering to the muscle.

Lomilomi can help to lessen the stiffness and swelling found within the joints. A lomilomi therapist may lightly stretch limbs and carefully rotate joints to open new range of motion and release tension. 

Photo: Ale Romo

Core Focus

While traditional massage techniques tend to have a whole body approach, lomilomi massages place a strong emphasis on the abdomen. Hawaiian abdominal massage or opu huli (opu means stomach and huli means to turn) focuses on the large intestine and other organs in the abdomen in order to aid digestion, elimination, and relieve lower back pain.

The up-and-down movements of this ancient method of massage mimic the oceans rolling, surging waves and relax the body while stimulating blood and lymphatic circulation, which makes it effective for recovering from fatigue, eliminating swelling, reducing jet lag, and improving sleep. Additional wellness effects of this technique include lowering blood pressure, slowing heart rate, and improving posture.

Photo: John Mark Smith

Spiritual Center

Styles and practitioners may differ, but what makes lomilomi so powerful is that it always begins with a pule (prayer) by the massage therapist for gratitude and guidance — often silent — and requires the giver to have an open heart and loving hands. Aloha means unconditional love and compassion” and it is the spirit of aloha that adds the magic to these nurturing treatments. The spas throughout the islands are sharing this legacy that was historically reserved for Hawaiian royalty and warriors. In fact, lomilomi is the most requested spa service throughout Hawaii.

Heading to Hawaii? Here are the best wellness hotels that feature lomilomi

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