Friday, July 8, 2011

Hot Stone Massage – Some Tricks of the Trade Part III: Choosing, Using and Caring for Your Equipment

Some of the things we will point out today may appear to many to be so obvious that we wouldn’t need to mention them.  Unfortunately, however, very often the obvious gets overlooked the most, which is why we want to address it anyway.  No doubt, for your stone massage you need the proper equipment and you need to care for it properly.  But, what is the proper equipment?  And where can you get it?  Does it have to be imported, or can you purchase it, here in India?  Finally, how do you care for it so that you can enjoy its use for a long time? 


1. What Kind of Stones Should I Use?
Different stones have different qualities.  Typically, basalt stones are used for hot stone massage, which are rich in metals such as magnesium and iron.  Due to its molecular structure basalt can absorb and enclose heat well, for longer than many other stones.  Stones from marble are ideal for cold stone massage.  Marble contains calcium carbonate, which makes it a ‘cold stone’.  Can you use your essentially ‘hot’ basalt stones also for cold stone massages?  Theoretically, yes; but you would need to apply a greater amount of lubrication, which then in turn makes it more difficult to clean the stone in order to use it later again for a hot stone massage.  And can you use a cold stone for a hot stone treatment?  No, you cannot.  But what you usually can do is use marble on the body without any additional lubricant, which is another reason for this stone to be so suitable for cold stone massages.  Best is, you keep different sets or depending on how they are packaged, different stones of one set for hot and cold stone massages (as some suppliers sell stones for hot and cold stone massages in one and the same set).  If you want to find about a little more, inquire with the Aithein staff over the phone as we have stone sets for sale and also more information at our disposal, or look up Patricia Mayrhofer’s site in the US www.naturestonesinc.com, which gives clear and concise information on the different stones and their use.

2. What Shape & Size Should the Stones Have?
Particular applications in the course of a stone massage require stones of different sizes and shapes.  As mentioned above, you would usually acquire the stones in sets, and a set has all the kinds of stones that you will require for your work.  For example, the Aithein set of hand polished stones comprises 64 pieces I different sizes, and shaped for different purposes, from the two super big stones to be put on sacrum and solar plexus, through the big and medium stones for back, legs, hands and arms, down to the small face, toe and trigger point stones.  Especially for the super big and big stones extra caution must be taken when using them.  All placement stones must have sufficient barrier, like a towel, wrap, booties, mitts or at least a doubled sheet.

3. How Do I Heat the Stones Before Using Them?
There is only one answer to this question: With a professional stone heater.  Anything else is out of the question.  No frying pans, no oven.  You need good temperature control, and for the purpose of heating stones only a professional stone heater gives you that control.  After all, you’re not in the business of baking bread.

3. What Do I Do with the Stones After I Have Used Them?
Proper care for the stones and proper hygiene are more than important; they are essential.  You will definitely want to wash the stones after each treatment, in water with a little bit of dishwashing liquid added.  Likewise you will want to change the water in the heater after each session.  If your practice tends to be rather busy meaning that you schedule treatments in relatively quick succession, you will also need to have more than one set of stones and more than one heater at your disposal.  May be two will suffice, or you may even require to have three, if there is no supporting staff at hand to assist you with the cleaning (which in India is unlikely).  The stones themselves, by the way, require the hygiene as much as your clients deserve it.  After they have been washed they need to be dried.  It is not a good idea to leave stones wet and exposed to air for any longer period of time.  Remember, we said above that they have minerals in them, including iron.  If you do not take proper care, they can develop rust spots.

4. What About Long-Term Care?  Do the Stones Lose Energy with Use, and Do They Need to Be Recharged?
In parts I & II of our 3-part posting on bodywork with stones, we hinted at the fact that this r type of treatment, whether in the form of hot or cold stone massage, originated in times and places when people were still connected with their environment and lived in greater harmony with nature than we.  It is therefore desirable that your treatments and the way you treat your stones reflect that same, should we say more ‘primeval’ attitude of empathy and connectedness.  For the Native American mind for example, the ‘grandfather stones’ were not a poetic phrase, they used, nor were they a mere concept to be read and understood like a ‘symbol’ or ‘archetype’.  No, their understanding was literal.  Since volcanic stones are the oldest manifestations, yes, of life on earth, and NOT of dead matter, connecting with the energy field of such stones was seen to be tantamount to connecting with the oldest form of knowledge and intelligence available to us.  The stones ARE literally our grandfathers, and we therefore would want to treat them with the same kind of respect.  No matter what your beliefs are in this respect, it is still good practice to also take the appropriate measures for the long-term care of your stones.  Simply put, your stones may need some time off, after you used them regularly for a while.  One therapist who has been working with hot stones for years put it like this, “Many therapists sense that the stones they use have their own energy, and that they pass along that energy and help balance they energy of the human body.”  In the process they lose some of their strength, which needs to be replenished.  If you have worked with healing crystals before, or with other semi-precious and precious stones, you know that you can recharge the energy of a crystal, by putting it in a light saltwater bath for a while.  The same is true for your bodywork stones.  In addition to washing them after every use, Gart, another stone therapist points out, “I addition to washing them after every use, give your stones a weekly rest on a tray of salt.  Being crystalline in structure like the stones, salt will recharge them… and for a real vacation, give them time back on or even in Mother Earth.  Bring them out and let them bathe under the moon and under the sun.” 

That’s after all, how they have lived not for thousands, but for millions of years!  Therefore, that is also how they can regain their life force.

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