Smooth stones are heated and then lubricated with oil or essential oils, the therapeutic effects of heat are used to relax muscles more deeply. Used as an extension of the therapist’s hands, the use of massage stones induces deep relaxation and provides a unique experience many find to be tremendously calming and centering.
I hear a few different reasons that a person hasn’t tried hot stone massage. The most common one being that he or she doesn’t understand the purpose of the stones. It’s hard for an individual to believe in the comfort of a massage using a tool like a stone. The second reason for avoiding hot stone massage being that the person isn’t sure that they are going to enjoy the heat. There’s an element of nervousness concerning burns. Lastly, there’s a limited number of massage therapists that enjoy giving hot stone massage so they don’t.
I like to explain that a hot stone massage is about an 80/20. Eighty percent is with hot stones and 20% is manual. The stones are warmed to a comfortable 125 degrees. It sounds like a high temperature but, rest assured, it is very relaxing. However, if a person finds that he or she is more sensitive to the heat I encourage you to speak up. I keep a cold bowl of water next to the stone warmer for the heat sensitive clients. One dip in cold water drops the stone temperature by three degrees. It may take several dips in cold water to achieve the most comfortable stone temperature for the receiving client and that’s okay.
It is important to note that hot stone placement is not direct skin contact. There are a high number of spa photographs circulating through the internet and billboard ads alike that show stones placed directly on the body. Leaving hot stones on the body without a barrier, such as a towel or sheets, is irresponsible by fault of the massage therapist. In a typical hot stone, the stones are always moving across the body minimizing opportunity for burns. When stones are placed on the body, the sheets are left draped over the part of the body that is holding stones or, with the back, there is a towel placed on the back to be used as a barrier for the skin.
The greatest benefit to hot stone massage is the heat. One stroke from a stone is equivalent to ten strokes with a hand. The heat relaxes the muscles faster than in a typical massage. Relaxed muscles encourage a relaxed mind. The stones are also a wonderful tool to use for some deep tissue work. With appropriate application the pressure combined with the heat of the stones can encourage a better release from specific tension knots.