Hot stone massage is a special massage therapy to alleviate ailments like back pain and stress. Using direct heat, the stones help to loosen muscles and relieve tension. Sometimes the stones are used to massage the body and also held in the hands of the person receiving the massage. Hot stone massage is similar in technique and philosophy to traditional massage.
Massage dates back thousands of years and is the technique of manipulating soft tissue and muscle through pressure. There are references to as far back as biblical times (c. 400 BC) of using hot stones to massage the body with olive oil.
Hot stone massage may have originated as far back as 5000 years ago in India and the ancient healing tradition of Ayurveda, which balances three substances---wind, spirit and air. It is thought that smooth stones were taken from river beds and then warmed or cooled to use in healing and massage.
In Asian cultures, hot stone massage has been used for close to 4,000 years. Hot stone massage was considered to help with digestion and improve the function of the internal organs. The hot stones were placed directly on the stomach to ease pain. Hot stones were also used to help promote better energy flow and with Anma, the oldest form of Asian massage.
Native Americans used hot stones during rituals and in sweat lodges hundreds of years ago and are still use them today. Hot stones were used to massage the body and hold heat. The hot stones would help to restore balance to an individual and detoxify the body. During ceremonies, hot stones would be heated using the four elements---water, fire, air, and earth---and then passed around to rub against areas of the body with ailments.
Hawaiian and Indigenous Influence
Medicine men, or Kahunas, in Hawaii have used hot stones for massage and healing for many years. With traditional Lomi Lomi Hawaiian massage, heated lava stones are placed directly on the body to increase blood circulation. Lava rock balls are also used to scrape and polish the skin. South American healing traditions of past also include using hot stones to alleviate menstrual pain and assist with massage after giving birth.
In the early 1990s, an American massage therapist name Mary Nelson combined the use of hot stones with her massage therapy and treatment. She created a technique of using 54 hot stones, 18 frozen stones, and 1 stone at room temperature and named it the LaStone Therapy. Incorporating the chakras, or force centres, Nelson created a unique massage experience and is considered responsible for bringing the idea of hot stone massage to the United State and popular culture.