tofino spa: lomilomi at the wick

Lomilomi in Tofino

by Gillian Dickinson, Tofino


I walked into the Ancient Cedar Spa unaware of half the muscles in my body and half the emotions in my soul. And I left feeling focused and alert, responsive to all that is around me and integrated to all that is within me. Let me explain.

Before Lomilomi I was a foreigner to bodywork as I had experienced very little. What I did have equated to an hour of basic back massage by professionals, or whatever my friends were willing to dole out to silence my pleas. So when I walked into the spa for my Lomilomi treatment, I had no idea what to expect.

Greeting me at the reception desk was Lisa. Responding to my request for some explanation of the treatment, she allowed me one fragment of fact.

“ There will be two people massaging you at the same time,” she said.

Eyebrows raised, curiosity flaring, I followed Lisa into the dressing room and was shown my locker, labelled ever so charmingly with my name. Inside was a fluffy white robe and slippers satisfying all that one could ever need.

While awaiting the two therapists who would be giving me the treatment, I took advantage of the cedar steam room. I let the soft mist drown my mind of thoughts and just allowed myself to feel good. At this moment Linda, one of the Lomilomi therapists, poked her head through the steam and spoke single the word “Aloha.”

Clue number two, I said to myself; “Lomilomi is Hawaiian.”

Linda and Rob (therapist number two) met me in the courtyard overlooking the point on the north end of Chesterman Beach. It was a wonderfully warm and beautiful day. Here the two told me all about the mysterious treatment.

In the ancient Hawaiian tradition coming of age was celebrated and honoured. The actual transformation from boy to man, girl to woman, involved the Kahuna (elders) sending the children to a sacred temple where they were given a deep-tissue-massage and treated to a highly spiritual dance performed around them. The dance encompassed all the earth’s energies – human, animal, plant, air, water, fire, stone. Lomilomi was used to engage the child with their spiritual, physical and creative self, until all three became one. At the end of the practice the child was transformed into a fully integrated adult, and human being.

But like many ancient traditions and cultures, the modern world effected Lomilomi, and it was practiced less and less. So a Lomilomi Kahuna (master in their chosen profession) named Abraham Kawai’i, thought it was time to introduce this sacred temple ritual to the global mainstream. This would help counter the depletion of Lomilomi in his culture and allow people outside Hawai’i to reap the rewards of this beautiful art form. Now it is used all over the world to help gracefully guide people through major changes in their life such as retirement, marriage and pregnancy.

Now I didn’t think I had to be gracefully guided through a change in my life when I had the treatment done, but it turns out we are always changing, improving and learning. That day I changed from being relatively unaware of all the aspects that make me, to being more integrated and observant to what’s happening within me.

The treatment itself lasted about an hour and a half. It began with Linda and Rob chanting Hawaiian blessings over me. They then performed a series of patterns over my body, called Kahi Loa, each representing a different element of the earth and this world. For example, when they called on rain to wash over me, I felt a patter of 20 fingertips running from the top of my head to the tip of my toes. And when they called on wind to blow over me, I felt the blanket covering me, lift and fall, lift and fall, making me feel calm and somehow smooth.

Then the deep tissue massaging began and the true benefits of Lomilomi were revealed. Linda and Rob exuded deep concentration and energy with every movement. I was covered in a lovely vanilla and jasmine essential oil – my two favourite smells mixed together. Linda and Rob coordinated movements in such a way that I was unable to decipher where each touch was coming from. It was a melting pot of hands and movement pushing me closer and closer toward subconciousness. While one pressed into my back, the other smoothed the muscles on my legs. While one separated the tension in my shoulders, the other massaged my feet. The two coordinated their movements perfectly in time with the heavy percussion and chanting music coming from the stereo. When the music mellowed, their touch became softer. When the music increased in intensity with more drumming and louder chanting, so did the massage, with added pressure and faster movements.

Lomilomi is an intimate experience. It should be known the treatment is done “sans” clothing, as with most spa treatments. I could have felt exposed and vulnerable lying on the massage table, but because I trusted the therapists, I was able to relax. This is key.

I was totally relaxed at the end of it and could barely feel my body, (sitting up was indeed a challenge). I felt more relaxed than I had ever felt before, and more open to the world than I ever thought I could.

After I was showered and dressed, the numbing effect of the treatment had pretty much worn off. It was then that I felt “focused and alert, responsive to all that is around me and integrated to all that is within me.”

In short, lomilomi is an experience worth writing home about.

Gillian Dickinson is a West Coast writer and reporter for the Westerly News.

Tofino Body & Soul - Spa and Wellness articles

Tofino Time Magazine September 2004

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Lomilomi is a Hawaiian massage technique that is offered by the Ancient Cedar spa in Tofino. Gillian Dickinson describes her experience in this article for Tofino Time Magazine.

tofino time september 2004

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