The Mana of Lomi Lomi

When I began massage school, I had never heard of Lomi Lomi. Later, having been introduced to the few odd strokes, I became very enthusiastic about learning more, given that I have a tendency to want to listen with and use my whole body in massage, and Lomi Lomi seemed as much like dancing as massaging. On the other hand, I was leery of the spiritual aspect. Though I am a very spiritual person, all things Hawaiian in my upbringing were tainted with shameless tourism, plastic hula girls, and the kind of plinky music that sounds like the background advertising for a Girls Gone Wild video.

As I quickly found out, there was a lot more to Lomi than excuses for tropical debauchery. There are actually at least two main types of Lomi-Lomi: Temple Lomi and Clinical Lomi. Temple Lomi is quite energetic, and more like a dance: long flowing strokes, close to the body, and very spiritual. While Clinical Lomi is also spiritual, is it much slower and more focused to specific areas with specific thoughts. Mana Lomi™, the style I have been studying and practicing, is a form of Clinical Lomi. The Hawaiians believed the soul resides in the bones as much as anything else, so all types of Lomi massage reach into the bones as well as touch the muscle.

A little terminology goes a long way in better understanding Lomi. Lomi means to rub. Repetitions in this language often seem to amplify meaning so Lomi Lomi is roughly big rub or massage. Mana, as in Mana Lomi™, means life force or energy. Thus mana is similar to chi, prana, etc. Pule means to bless or pray. A Lomi session will typically begin with a spoken or silent pule to ask for permission or help or to express gratitude to the guiding forces. And finally, there is piko, which literally means navel, but also has an extended meaning similar to chakra. Hawaiians envisioned a triple piko: one on the head, connecting us to ancestors and the past; one at the navel, connecting us to our current generation of family; and the third at the genitals, connecting us to our descendants and the future. Between the three pikos runs the spine, a structural timeline connecting our past, present and future. Blockages in any piko can cause blockages and movement problems along the spine, in turn affecting parts of the whole body.

But Lomi Lomi is not just about words or even touch in general. It’s about deep, soft, loving spiritual touch. My first Lomi teacher, Barbara Helynn Heard, taught me once of the most useful things I know about massage. If I feel lost or unsure about what to do, or I can’t seem to focus, or some aspect of the client is resisting the massage, I silently say “I love you,” adding the client’s name, and I am always surprised how the message seems to go to the bone, and the muscle and other tissue opens up to me. There is indeed great mana in Lomi.

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