The History of Hot Stone Massage Therapy
Hot stone massage therapy is an increasingly popular modern method of relieving stress, reducing muscle stiffness, and boosting blood circulation. However, the use of smooth, hot stones to warm, relax, and therapeutically massage key points of the body is nothing new. In fact, it is something very ancient in its origins.
The Ancient Roots of Hot Stone Massage Therapy
Many experts believe that hot stone massage therapy was first practiced thousands of years ago in India, as part of the Indian holistic health tradition known as "Ayurveda." At that time, smooth stones were sought from local river beds, which were used either hot or cold as a therapeutic massaging instrument.
Similar practices are known to have existed in ancient Japan and China, where warmed, smooth stones were used to heat body parts so as to improve the functionality of various internal organs.
Hundreds of years ago, heated stones were in use in at least two other locations as a holistic health treatment: Hawaii and North America. In Hawaii, lava rocks were warmed and laid directly on the body to boost blood circulation. Among the various people groups of North America, hot stones were in common use in "sweat lodges," where are much akin to saunas, and in fact, are still so used to this day. Additionally, Amerindians would rub hot stones against hurting parts of the body during ritual healings and rub them up against the abdomen as a way to combat cramps.
The Modern Rediscovery of Hot Stone Massage Therapy
While used in antiquity and continually in use among Native Americans, hot stone massage therapy was kept in relative obscurity until it was "rediscovered" by Mary Nelson in 1993.
Ms. Nelson stumbled upon the technique quite by accident while massaging her niece during a sauna session. She, being a professional masseuse, soon found creative ways to integrate hot stone massage therapy into her existing practice. She dubbed the "new" techniques "LaStone Therapy."
Before long, Mary Nelson trained others in hot stone massaging methods and had them travel the world, teaching it to yet others. And today, hot stone massage therapy is relatively well known and popular in almost every region of the globe.
How Hot Stone Massage Therapy Works
During a hot stone massage, the smooth, warmed stones can be held in the therapist's hands and rolled/pressed on key areas of the body. They can also be laid to rest on the back, while the therapist works elsewhere using manual techniques.
Stones are fully sanitized and heated in a temperature-controlled environment, normally immersed in water. Massaging oil will be used to ensure the stones slide easily over the skin' surface.
Most massage stones are egg-sized and smoothed naturally in a stream or by oceanic waves. Basalt stones are most commonly used because basalt's high iron content guarantees a high heat absorption/retention rate.
The Benefits of Hot Stone Massage Therapy
While hot stone therapy has many potential health benefits, including the following:
- Deeper massage penetration of muscle layers due to warmer muscles
- Expansion of blood vessels, leading to improved circulation
- Deep relaxation and relief of stress and muscle tension
- Increased joint flexibility and range of motion
- Chronic pain relief, including for back pain and arthritis
- Elimination of harmful body toxins
- Lessens the effects of depression and insomnia
Therapeutic use of hot stones has a long history in many far-flung lands, but it was only widely popularized in the last couple decades.
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