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THE HISTORY OF HOT STONE MASSAGE
Although some massage therapists and clients may consider hot stone massage to be simply fashionable, the use of stones and gemstones for healing purposes dates back thousands of years.
A Part Of History
Both verbal and written history confirm the Chinese used heated stones more than 2,000 years ago as a means of improving the function of internal organs. Stones were also used for healing work in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Egypt and India.
These traditions included laying stones in patterns on the body, carrying or wearing stones for health and protection, using stones for the diagnosis and treatment of disease, and for ceremonial uses, such as sweat lodges and medicine wheels.
A Source Of Healing
The healing practices of curanderas (literal translation: “healers” in Spanish) and other female caregivers often included dealing with disease as well as pregnancy and childbirth. These folk healers used heated stones to diminish the discomfort of menstruation, plus the application of cold stones to slow bleeding after labor.
Some sources also cite instances of cultures in which women believed that simply holding stones during labor added to their strength and endurance.
Ancient Greek and Roman cultures have a long recorded history of many forms of massage and bodywork. The Roman Empire, which dates from 27 B.C. to 476 A.D., is noted for its creation of the Roman baths.
This ancient tradition is still with us today in the form of modern hydrotherapy practices. The Romans also used stones in saunas and combined the effects of hot immersion baths with the cooling effects of marble stone and cold pools.
An Old Technique Is Reborn
The use of heated stones in massage was reborn with the introduction of LaStone Therapy, created by Mary Nelson, in 1993. Stone massage has blossomed since then into a multimillion-dollar industry.
Stone massage, done correctly, is one of the most relaxing forms of massage a person can receive and because of its popularity, has once again traveled quickly around the globe.
The full-body, hot-stone massage has evolved to include deep tissue-specific work, hot-stone facials, hot-stone pedicures and manicures, and hot-stone meridian therapy. Because of their incredible energy, stones are used in reiki, polarity therapy and cranial sacral work.
There are many therapists who use their own variation of stone massage, from just placing stones on the body to a deep-tissue massage. Two important safety factors, however, apply to all uses of hot stones in massage therapy:
Never place a hot stone on bare skin without moving it.
Always use a barrier, such as a specific textile product designed for stone placement, or at least a sheet or towel to protect the skin.
The Evolution Of Stone-Supply Companies
With this massage modality growing in popularity, the need for sources of hot stone massage became a necessity. To this end, stone-supply companies evolved, such as Desert Stone People, TH. Stone, RubRocks and Nature’s Stones Inc.
The next challenge came with the need for heating the stones; incredibly, the initial suggested means of heating stones was in a turkey roaster.
Other options included crock pots, electric skillets and warming trays, all of which carried the possibility of overheating the stones and burning the client.
The problem, of course, was that all these options were actually kitchen appliances as opposed to being professional heating appliances manufactured specifically for spas, chiropractor’s offices and massage-therapy treatment rooms.
After much collaboration and cooperation between Nature’s Stones Inc. and the Metal Ware Corporation (makers of Nesco products), the Spa~Pro Massage Stone Heater, a unit designed specifically for hot-stone massage, was created.
The Value In Hot Stone Massage
As therapists recognized the value of working with massage stones, they also saw the need for high-quality instruction in the use of massage stones. Nelson assembled a team of therapists to teach all around the world. Sonya Alexander from TH. Stone was busy teaching, while Carollanne Crichton, founding director of The Institute of the Healing Arts in Rhode Island, then produced a video showing her method of stone massage.
As one of the first therapists on the East Coast to do stone massage, I was busy designing protocols for different modalities and teaching in Europe, the Caribbean and across the U.S.
Please look for future articles on www.MASSAGEmag.com, as I explore the exciting arena of stone massage. I will write about safety issues, contraindications, the expansion of stone therapy to different modalities, the evolution into cold-stone therapy with marble stones and now the resurgence of stone massage with the innovation of carved basalt stones.
MEDITATION 101: TECHNIQUES, BENEFITS, AND A BEGINNER’S HOW-TO
Concentration meditation involves focusing on a single point. This could entail following the breath, repeating a single word or mantra, staring at a candle flame, listening to a repetitive gong, or counting beads on a mala. Since focusing the mind is challenging, a beginner might meditate for only a few minutes and then work up to longer durations.
In this form of meditation, you simply refocus your awareness on the chosen object of attention each time you notice your mind wandering. Rather than pursuing random thoughts, you simply let them go. Through this process, your ability to concentrate improves.
Mindfulness meditation encourages the practitioner to observe wandering thoughts as they drift through the mind. The intention is not to get involved with the thoughts or to judge them, but simply to be aware of each mental note as it arises.
Through mindfulness meditation, you can see how your thoughts and feelings tend to move in particular patterns. Over time, you can become more aware of the human tendency to quickly judge an experience as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant. With practice, an inner balance develops.
In some schools of meditation, students practice a combination of concentration and mindfulness. Many disciplines call for stillness — to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the teacher.
OTHER MEDITATION TECHNIQUES
There are various other meditation techniques. For example, a daily meditation practice among Buddhist monks focuses directly on the cultivation of compassion. This involves envisioning negative events and recasting them in a positive light by transforming them through compassion. There are also moving meditation techniques, such as tai chi, qigong, and walking meditation.
BENEFITS OF MEDITATION
If relaxation is not the goal of meditation, it is often a result. In the 1970s, Herbert Benson, MD, a researcher at Harvard University Medical School, coined the term “relaxation response” after conducting research on people who practiced transcendental meditation. The relaxation response, in Benson’s words, is “an opposite, involuntary response that causes a reduction in the activity of the sympathetic nervous system.”
Since then, studies on the relaxation response have documented the following short-term benefits to the nervous system:
Lower blood pressure
Improved blood circulation
Lower heart rate
Slower respiratory rate
Lower blood cortisol levels
More feelings of well-being
HOW TO MEDITATE: SIMPLE MEDITATION FOR BEGINNERS
This meditation exercise is an excellent introduction to meditation techniques.
Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.
Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the movement of your body as you breathe. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage, and belly. Simply focus your attention on your breath without controlling its pace or intensity. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath.
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