In the bad old days of the Soviet Union, citizens who suffered with minor often weather-related health problems such as runny noses, headaches and sore throats were often diagnosed with poor circulation. Sometimes the prescribed cure was to have a family of live leeches stuck on their backs, to draw the blood to the surface and suck out impurities. Other times, the cure was hot stone therapy.
Hot stone therapy is offered by many day spas as a relaxing treatment.
Like leeches, hot stone therapy existed to clear out the lymphatic circulation and help improve circulation throughout the body. The stones were often heated in a sauna and placed on the (victim’s) back in a fairly haphazard fashion, sometimes leaving marks that took weeks to heal. In rare cases, the marks never disappeared at all.
These days, Western hot stone therapy has evolved into a popular, New Age type of massage, with the hot stones placed along the back’s chakra, or energy points. The idea is the same: to improve circulation while also helping aid relaxation and give renewed energy. Often, the recipient listens to New Age music or the sound of gently flowing water to make the whole experience even more surreal. Does it work? Probably not.
Why Get Stoned?
People get stoned because they want to flush out bad toxins, get their juices flowing and enjoy a relaxing, peaceful treatment that will reduce inflammation and increase their energy levels. Other reasons people choose to indulge in a hot stone treatment are because the recipients a) are curious, b) need some personal attention and relaxation, c) like to try out new massages, d) believe in “Native American healing”, e) are stupid, or f) are all of the above.
The stones used are usually made from a smooth, black volcanic rock called basalt, and are heated to very high temperatures. They normally are vigorously cleaned and sterilized between every treatment – or they should be. The massage begins when the stones are placed either one by one or all together on chakras along the spine, as the client lies topless on his or her tummy. The therapist usually massages the client gently using the smooth stones themselves, often implementing traditional Swedish massage techniques. He or she might also leave heated stones on specific parts of the body to bring about additional relaxation, such as in the palms of the hands.
Skeptics may laugh at this therapy, but believers stress that as hot stones have been used for centuries by various healers, they must be good. We know that heating pads can work to help relieve muscular tension and promote healing, so why not natural stones? Similarly, they argue, the use of cold stone therapy can be important in causing the contraction of blood vessels, thus increasing the lymph flow around the body of different types of waste material. So what if a packet of frozen peas would do the trick just as well – and for a lot cheaper?
Proponents of hot stone therapy say it can help alleviate the following:
Muscular pains, aches and strains
Various arthritic complaints
Depression or anxiety
Hot Stone Facials
Like the name suggest, this technique involves massaging usually the face and neck with hot stones, although sometimes the arms and hands are massaged as well. Is it thought that the massage combined with the stones can improve the health as well as the appearance of the face, as it helps the nervous system by improving circulation of both the blood and lymph, thus helping the cells restore themselves. In some cases, such as with the Elemis Colling Hot Stone Body-Facial, the face is massaged using cooling masks and gels, then hot stones are placed on pressure points to achieve better relaxation.
Hot Stone Pedicures
If you thought an unusual pedicure meant having black or blue polish applied to your toenails instead of bright red, think again. A hot stone pedicure using warm, flat stones from wet riverbeds as well as aromatic mints (no, really) to give your tootsies the massage they have always dreamt of. Could be a thoughtful gift for the person who has everything – including smelly feet. Some canny therapists invite their clients to take part in a sweetly scented “jellybath” beforehand to relax their feet (and presumably get rid of any offensive odor).
Bizarre as it may sound, this therapy uses a special combination of stones of different temperatures to achieve a relaxing effect on the body. It uses 18 frozen stones, 54 hot stones and one stone of room temperature. Why? Who knows!
This “ancient” therapy was developed by one Ms Mary Nelson long, long ago, way back in 1993. She had a Native American spirit guide, who began talking to her and telling her all about getting stoned. She developed a technique that begins with Swedish massage and ends up with hot and cold stones – and one stone of room temperature, don’t forget – being placed all over your back and the palms of your hand.
Interestingly, only certified LaStone Therapy therapists are qualified to carry out this specific type of massage – presumably ones who pay the aforementioned Ms Nelson for training that leads to certification. Even more interesting, these qualified therapists never refer to the stones they use as “stones”. Oh no. They are to be referred to as “Stone Clan People,” due to the special healing properties in which each stones is invested. Cute!
A Cautionary Tale
Please note that not only must the stones be properly cleaned between each treatment (see above), but that the therapist administering the treatment must have proper training. This is not only for you to receive maximum benefit, but also so you will not get burned.
“Basically, we have had a disproportionate number of claims from hot stone massage,” writes Kate Armitage, executive director and vice president of Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals, in an article published in the April/May ’07 edition of Massage & Bodywork magazine. “These claims have all been burns – some worse than others – but some have been third-degree burns.”
So if you want to try getting stoned yourself, make sure you only visit a qualified therapist at a licensed med spa with a sparkling reputation. And even though there are literally hundreds of companies on the Internet that sell massage stones, don’t try this at home – unless you fancy some permanent scarring on your back, hands or face!