• Nicola Meir

Stone Power !

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I am chuffed to now be qualified in Hot and Cold Stone Massage. But what’s the fuss around this treatment? Why is it so effective?

Throughout the centuries many different stones have been used as part of holistic therapies – jade, marble, volcanic, heated or cooled. Chinese practices using stones date back to before 4000BC. Techniques combined Yin (where the stone is placed or held on the skin to penetrate) and Yang (where the stones are rubbed to boost the circulation) and best results are achieved when using a combination of hot and cold stones.

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The benefit of using stones on the body are not only physical i.e. relieving muscles of tightness, tension and pain but also spiritual i.e. encouraging deep relaxation in mind and body allowing healing to take place. What’s amazing to me is that the heat of the stones can penetrate up to 4cm depth when used on the body which is much more than massaging just with hands, knuckles, elbows, forearms etc.

I work with dense basalt stones which are natural volcanic stones. Known for their heat retaining properties they are found on the exterior surface of a volcano and are formed from the hot lava that erupts from the volcano and flows down the outside. During this process the lava is exposed to other minerals plus the sun, rain, wind etc. This combination gives the stones an incredible energetic charge that can be utilised as part of the treatment. They naturally hold the heat for longer and release it slowly.  These stones aren’t synthetically shaped, they are natural pebbles and different sized ones can be used in different ways on the body. Using Yin and Yang techniques create the most amazing treatment.

Benefits of hot stones:

  1. Causes vasodilation which is a widening of the blood vessels. This helps to increase circulation, flooding the body with oxygenated blood. Think of this as highly nutritional fuel for the body.

  2. Increases metabolism improving the rate at which the body processes food and toxins.

  3. Increases pulse rate which again helps to improve the circulation and helps the heat to pump more efficiently.

  4. Increases cell metabolism which is the rate at which the body produces necessary chemicals for efficient function, helping hormones, blood cells and the immune system.

  5. Increases lymph function. This is the body’s waste disposal system.

  6. Decreases the stimulus of the myoneural junction which means that the therapist can work on the muscles with less discomfort to the client.

  7. Reduces plasticity in the muscles meaning that they become softer allowing for an increased range of work and reducing tension.

  8. The body becomes deeply relaxed allowing healing the take place more efficiently.

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Benefits of cold stones on the body:

  1. Reduces inflammation by sending excess blood away from the area.

  2. Analgesic effect – meaning that the body releases a natural pain relief substance (called prostaglanin).

  3. Reduces histamine which is an irritant present in stressed muscles, resulting in the relaxation of the muscles.

  4. The temperature change forces deeper breath work which in turn increases circulation and oxygenation of blood.

  5. Inhibits the release of necrosis – a natural chemical that causes arteries and vessels in damaged muscles to clot and starve of blood.

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This list is pretty impressive to me.

Using a combination of Yin (hot) and Yang (cold) creates a roller coaster effect within the body, like vascular gymnastics! If you apply heated and chilled temperatures alternately over a ten to fifteen minute period there will be a continuous process of vasoconstriction and vasodilation. This results in increased flushing rates within the body and optimum healing due to increased microcirculation and oxygen intake within the tissue. Also by alternating the use of both hot and cold stones to the body it increases the circulatory response from all systems. The scientific name for this is ‘thermo cryotherapy’ which helps to detoxify the body and bring it back into balance. A truly effective treatment.

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