Wisdom of the Elders

By Jed Heneberry
[ABMP Member Profile]

When Jeana Iwalani Naluai teaches lomilomi, she’s drawing from a local tradition that extends back generations. “In lomilomi, each vertebra of the spine represents the support of a specific generation,” she says. “When we work, we are invoking our own ancestral roots and support, and that of the person on the table.”

A desire to learn the ancient Hawaiian healing art bloomed following Naluai’s completion of a physical therapy master’s program on the mainland. She returned to Hawaii determined to find a lomilomi teacher. “Lomilomi has always been an oral tradition,” Naluai says. “Until the 1970s, it was very rare to have an opportunity to learn in depth outside family lineage.”
Naluai traced her genealogy back in hopes of finding an elder who would take her on as a pupil. Eager to find someone to teach her, she began traveling from island to island before being directed to the late Auntie Margaret Machado, and eventually an elder within her own lineage, Auntie Mahilani Poe Poe. Once educated in lomilomi, Naluai was hooked. “After seeing the elders work in a gentle, holistic way, I could not continue to approach the body with the same physical therapy techniques that I had previously practiced.” Even though Naluai maintains her licenses as both a massage therapist and physical therapist, it’s lomilomi that drives her work today.
Immersing herself in the study of lomilomi brought Naluai in contact with teachers who showed her the roots of the work, helping her connect with sacred traditions like working with healing stones, chanting in Hawaiian, and performing kualua—Hawaiian back walking.
Today, Naluai teaches the traditional Hawaiian bodywork to practitioners from across the world at Ho’omana Spa in Maui. She’s even traveled internationally, including Austria and Japan, always bringing much more than just technique when she goes. “For a long time there wasn’t even sharing between islands,” she says. “We want to share this work and also sacred sites, local history, Hawaiian legends, and culture. We call it ‘building the rainbow bridge.’”

See Jeana in action: www.youtu.be/QTG2wj11D2Y

Learn more about Jeana Iwalani Naluai and her work at www.lomimassage.com.