The use of stones in bodywork is found in the ancient indigenous cultures of Europe, the Americas, Asia, and the Pacific Islands. The Chinese used heated stones as a means of improving the function of the internal organs and nervous system. In Japan, stones assisted the energetic treatment of acupressure points. European folk healers diminished the discomfort of menstruation with heated stones. The Romans used stones for therapy in their saunas. A variety of methods that use stones in their massage practices, including Batu Jamu (discussed earlier in this section) and the Hawaiian Pohaku Welawela, an adjunct part of the Lomi Lomi system of healing (see the section on Special Therapies in this chapter), have been developed over the years in different parts of the world. Heating an area of the body with hot stones causes more blood with fresh nutrients to flow into that area; cold stones cause the blood vessels to contract and are commonly used to reduce inflammation or to move blood out of the area. The more extreme the temperature, the stronger the response. Sometimes, hot and cold stones are alternated, creating a pumping action that promotes healing on a cellular level by producing a rapid exchange of blood and lymph that increases oxygenation. In most instances, hot stones are preheated by the therapist, but their preparation can also be geothermal (naturally heated by the heat of the earth). Stone therapy in all of its many applications has been shown to be beneficial for the circulatory, digestive, nervous, and lymphatic systems and for the muscles and skin. Stones and minerals are also used in the practice of Lithotherapy for energetic balancing.
Which stones are chosen depends on the practice. Volcanic lava stones such as basalt are commonly used for hot stone work, and marble is ideal for cold
applications. In any case, the various sizes and shapes will be smooth. Jade, limestone, crystals or gemstones can also be employed to obtain particular metabolic and emotional effects. During a hot stone massage, the client typically lies alternately on tummy and back, unclothed but covered with a large towel. Stones heated to a comfortable temperature are placed on the skin at various locations on both sides of the body so that the penetrating heat can soften the tissue, relax the body, and relieve myofascial pains. Hot stones can be stroked along the body, applied with gentle rotary pressure, or simply rested along areas such as the spine to release stagnant energy. They can also be pressed into particular locations on the body’s meridians for energy balancing or on specific trigger points to release painful muscle constrictions. Sometimes massage cream or oil is first kneaded into the skin so that the stones can glide smoothly over the body.
Though the actual origins of Hot Stone Massage are lost in the distant past, the use of stones was revitalized and offered to the general public in 1993 when LaStone Massage was developed by Mary Nelson-Hannigan. She drew upon the wisdom of various ancient healers to further develop her own approach to stone bodywork, which uses alternating hot and cold stones in a specific way throughout the whole massage. This method is now used by many health spas.
Another form of stone bodywork, called Stone Therapy Massage created by Jane Scrivner, places stones along the main chakras as well as at specific locations on the back, hands, neck, and legs. Hot natural basalt stones and specially shaped cold marble are used at different times to massage the whole body. Alternating the temperature of stones can produce a very relaxing, calming, and yet stimulating experience. Both hot and cold stones are left on the body for an extended period of time to create the strong physiological response that will help the body keep itself in balance.
Many variations of hot stone therapy have been incorporated into other types of massage such as Swedish Massage, Deep Tissue Massage, Myofascial Release, Polarity Therapy, Craniosacral Therapy, and energy-oriented chakra or meridian work.
This modality comes from “Our Inner Ocean”, a book by Captain LeCain W. Smith: The author, LeCain W. Smith, learned early in life that his personal path to awakening was through ocean sailing, bodywork, and transformational energetic experiences. When living on the sea, making friends with the elements and with nature, he uncovered his passion for adventure, exploration, fitness, and health. He spent many years studying and experiencing bodywork and practicing yoga, qigong, breath-work, and meditation. This passion, combined with seeing numerous friends struggle with health problems, eventually drove Smith to reach out and help others through the writing of this book. If this endeavor changes the life of only one person, he will consider it a success.
Good health is something we all aspire to, but it’s so much more than just being free of disease. A perfectly functioning body, tranquil mind, and vibrant spirit working together harmoniously create the joy and happiness that put the good in good health and the worth into a life worth living. Our Inner Ocean describes ancient and new holistic modalities of practitioner-applied bodywork and revitalizing self-care practices.