Taking time out to focus on ourselves is something many of us forget to do. We’re so busy rushing around with work, family and chores that we no longer have space for true relaxation.
Yes, there’s that glorious moment when you climb into bed, settle in with a good film or reach for a glass of wine, but how do we really set our thoughts at peace and unwind properly?
For many, just the word ‘massage’ alone exudes deep relaxation. Here we look at the power of incorporating hot stones into the traditional pampering ritual.
What is a hot stone massage?
It’s a well-known method of relaxation and is pretty much what it says on the tin: a massage using heated stones and oil.
According to Karenanne Hay, a massage therapist at Hertfordshire-based Haelan Therapy, the use of stones for healing purposes dates back thousands of years. “History suggests that the Chinese were using heated stones more than 2,000 years ago as a means of improving the function of internal organs,” she tells TRAIN for HER.
“The traditional use of stones included laying them in patterns on the body, carrying or wearing stones for health and protection, and using stones for the diagnosis and treatment of disease of the body.”
These days, therapists use flat basalt stones made from volcanic rock which are heated in hot water at around 43-54°C and retain their warmth.
What are the health benefits?
Hot stone massages offer a number of health benefits. “The heated stones penetrate deeply into your body tissues, allowing your blood vessels to open and improve your circulation,” explains Vivienne Curran, senior therapist at KAM Hair and Body Spa in Moray, Scotland. This will also serve to reduce blood pressure and gives the muscles more oxygen, which can help ease aches and pains.
Vivienne adds: “The stones allow your therapist to manipulate deep tissues more easily and effectively, releasing tension and sore muscles and taking away any stiffness or tightness in the muscles.”
Thanks to the heat placed directly on the body, the treatment helps to promote muscle and joint flexibility. This encourages a greater range of motion, enabling your body to feel suppler in the hours and days afterwards.
A hot stone massage treatment can also have a positive impact on your skin by helping to release toxins through increased lymphatic drainage.
“For those living with stress and anxiety,” says Karenanne, “the combination of massage strokes and heat from the stones creates a sedative effect which assists the client to relax and switch off effortlessly.”
However, if you’re after a cure for more intense muscle pain, a deep tissue or sports massage would be much more beneficial.
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What does it feel like?
To experience a full body hot stone massage myself, I headed to the Beauty and Melody Spa at the Montcalm Royal London House Hotel.
Contrary to what stock images had made me believe, the stones weren’t simply placed along my spine alongside a delicate orchid. Rather, my therapist, Giuseppe Morgera, lathered me up with oil and used the hot stones in constant motion as well as his hands.
As they first touched my back, the stones felt incredibly hot but they instantly became both bearable and intensely satisfying as their warmth permeated my skin. They were rolled around my body and their curves dug in gently, painlessly easing my aches.
Interestingly, the moment of greatest relaxation came when Giuseppe finished massaging my back and positioned the hot stones on top of a towel he laid over me. Then I felt truly pampered. Similarly, when I turned over, small stones were placed on my forehead and the heat was delightfully soothing – perfect for a frequent migraine sufferer like me.
As advised by the friendly team, I headed to the steam room afterwards in order to keep my muscles warm and luxuriate in my hour of tranquillity.
Who is it good for?
A hot stone massage can pretty much benefit anyone in need of relaxation. Andriana Loumi, manager at Beauty and Melody Spa, tells me they have many stressed-out office workers coming in for the treatment. What’s more, if you dislike being touched too much by a masseuse or you’re very ticklish, it can be an ideal option.
The massage can also help those with more serious health concerns. Karenanne explains: “The heat from the stones enables the therapist to work more deeply and effectively with a lighter touch and helps to relieve chronic pain in the body by decreasing the transmission of pain signals, thus making this a very effective treatment for clients living with conditions such as Fibromyalgia, a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body.”
It can also be beneficial with those suffering from ME and chronic fatigue.
Does it offer total relaxation?
I thoroughly enjoyed my treatment and felt very relaxed physically. Unfortunately, I was unable to really turn off my brain totally, which somewhat hampered achieving complete and utter relaxation (perhaps that’s when the orchid is needed?). Clearly, I have more work to do.
Nevertheless, I would certainly recommend the treatment as an excuse to enjoy a well-deserved break from a hectic day. The warmth makes it perfect in winter, too.
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