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The Healing Happiness of Hot Stone Massage The Healing Happiness of Hot Stone Massage
As with the origins of any massage technique it is hard to pin down exactly where a practice originated first. For thousands of years,... The Healing Happiness of Hot Stone Massage

by Nick Lakoff, CMT

As with the origins of any massage technique it is hard to pin down exactly where a practice originated first. For thousands of years, indigenous populations of several civilizations and continents incorporated stones of all sorts in their rituals related to healing, clairvoyance and well being.  In India as far back as 5000 years ago, hot and cold stone massage was used in Ayurvedic traditional healing practices.  In China, hot stones have been used for close to 4000 years by Anmo practitioners (Chinese traditional massage) to help digestion and improve the functioning of internal organs.  Native Americans have used hot stones in their sweat lodges for hundreds of generations and also used them to relieve cramps.  Hawaiians have used heated volcanic stones for millennia by wrapping them in leaves of plants believed to have medicinal properties and placed on the patients and stones were also used following sessions of Lomi-lomi (Traditional Hawaiian massage).  In South America hot stones were used to relieve menstrual cramps and used in massage after giving birth.

The modern form of Hot Stone massage can be traced with some accuracy however.  On August 19th 1993 Mary D. Nelson, an American, being plagued with repetitive stress injuries while working as a massage therapist, was inspired to use hot stones to work on her niece’s neck.  After this epiphany, she developed a system of 54 hot stones and 18 cold stones to be used in a choreographed massage routine.  The technique soon caught on across the United States and around the world.

This massage targets musculature as well as balancing electromagnetic energy in the body. Made from volcanic basalt rock, the hot stones have the characteristic of storing heat once warmed.  The cold stones are sedimentary in nature and their mineral composition allows them to stay cool when chilled. For years most stones sold on the market were not mechanically altered and were polished and smoothed over millennia by water in the rivers in which they found themselves.  There were harvested from areas close to ancient volcanic activity.  The stones were sorted by shape, size and composition and about 1/3 of the harvest typically was retained for resale.  As with anything, the popularity of Hot Stone Massage around the world has meant prices for naturally sourced stones have gone up considerably so many companies now offer mechanically shaped basalt stones, carved, shaped and polished as an economical alternative.

A typical Hot Stone Massage starts with placing some stones on the back over a sheet or towel at positions that correspond with different Chakras (energy centers of the body).  The heat is dissipated throughout the body and the stones energy starts to harmonize with the body’s own energy.  Then hot stones lathered in oil, cream or gel are placed in the practitioners hands who then starts performing the massage manoeuvres in order to warm the body and work on its energy patterns.  At the end of the session, the cold stones are used on the face to act on the sinuses and wake up and refresh the client.  There are contra-indications using hot stones for those with very bad circulatory problems such as Phlebitis and/or Oedema in the lower limbs.  In this situation you can use room temperature or cold stones for the legs and feet as an alternative.  This form of massage is more difficult to perform and requires great skill and sense of touch by the massage practitioner and having massage experience is essential when giving this sort of massage.  Stones being very hard and unforgiving, much care and attention is needed in order not to hurt the client.  When performed correctly the stones become an extension of the massage therapist’s hands and are quite effective at removing knots and tension.

I always recommend this type of massage when someone comes to me saying they are run down, feeling a little lost and need some cocooning.  This type of massage; balances energy levels, brings warmth, refreshment and grounding to its recipient.  One word of advice however, do not plan anything after a Hot Stone Massage because you will be in no condition.  Most people are like mush when they leave after a session and simply go home and either take a nap or go to sleep for the night.  One thing that I have always found fascinating practicing in a Nordic country like Canada was the fact that I would have more requests for Hot Stone Massage in the Summer time than in the Fall, Winter and Spring combined.  Hot Stone Massage is definitely a treat for those who want to pamper themselves and recharge their batteries.

Nick Lakoff is a certified practitioner in the following disciplines:  Swedish Massage, Sports Massage, Reflexology, Acupressure, Myo-Fascial Release, Massage for Pregnancy, Swedish Chair Massage, Hot Stone Massage and Reiki.