Where did Hot Stone Massage come from?
There are three main cultures which have heavily influenced how modern-day Hot Stone Massage Therapy has evolved: the Chinese, Native Americans and the Hawaiians (although Egyptian, Ayurvedic and many other traditional healing arts are also said to have used stones and/or heat).
One of the first recorded uses of stones for healing was by Ancient Chinese medical practitioners who regularly used various shaped/sharpened stones (Bian Stones) to treat disease. The use of Moxabustion (burning of the herb mug-wort) helped to add heat to these treatments.
Native Americans are well known for their Sweat Lodges, which are similar to modern-day Saunas. The use of heated stones on the lower abdomen to relieve cramps was another common Native American practice.
However it is probably the Hawaiians who had a major part to play in how this form of massage is applied today. Customary uses included wrapping hot stones in leaves with certain therapeutic properties (ti leaves) and placing on sore muscles to reduce pain – like using a heat pack or poultice. Hot stones were also placed in shallow pits and covered with these same leaves, with the patient then laying on top of the leaves to allow the healing properties to infuse into the body. Volcanic stones are also said to have been rubbed over the body after a traditional Hawaiian Kahuna/Lomi-Lomi massage – perhaps less of a massage technique and more of an exfoliation, due to the coarseness of the volcanic stones used. The Hawaiians are still one of the most closely linked cultures to modern-day Hot Stone Massage and Stone Therapy.
Modern-day Hot Stone Massage Therapy, a truly unique style of massage, has been gaining popularity through-out the world after being ‘re-discovered’ in the United States in 1993. The story is that a massage therapist, named Mary Nelson, who was suffering from repetitive use injuries in the shoulders/wrists, was having a sauna with her niece and was ‘called’ to the stones. Mary picked up some of the hot stones and started massaging her niece with them – it felt great (for the client as well as the therapist) and thus Stone Therapy’s reawakening occurred. The first style of modern-day Hot Stone Massage/Stone Therapy was/is called ‘LaStone Therapy’.
A modern-day Hot Stone Massage (also sometimes called Hot Rocks Massage) will usually consist of the therapist placing heated stones (usually basalt) of various shapes/sizes onto the client’s body (for safety, most of the time these ‘placement’ stones won’t be in direct contact with the skin, instead they will be placed onto a towel to buffer the heat). These stones are placed onto different points (chakras, energy points, sore muscles, etc), depending on the style of Hot Stone Massage or Stone Therapy.
Whilst these placement stones are warming and activating specific areas, the therapist will take several other heated stones and begin massaging a different area of the body. The heat from the stones is released deep into the muscles, greatly enhancing the massage. It is said that one stroke with a heated stone is equivalent to ten normal massage strokes! Some therapists will also incorporate cold stones (usually marble) into their treatment which, although not quite as relaxing as the heated stones, do have a part to play for many conditions. A typical Hot Stone Massage will take 60 to 90 minutes.
Most people who have a Hot Stone Massage will be ‘blown away’ by the level of relaxation that is achieved. Some clients will have vivid dreams or even ‘out-of-body’ experiences. It is usually a very grounding, relaxing and healing experience. Apart form the deep level of relaxation, Hot Stone Massage is also great to incorporate into Remedial or Deep Tissue massage. Not only does the client receive the benefits, but when practiced correctly, the therapist will reduce the strain placed on their hands and wrists.