By Leah Theil, BS, LMT
This is an article from the holistic magazine Pattern Pieces I published from 1997 until 2001. When I decided to include her article in the magazine, I went for a treatment. It was the total treatment of hot and cold stones applied to the body for release of tension in the muscles due to stress. It was wonderful!!! I have never experienced anything like it since. Now there are variations of this original style, which I have tried, but the I still enjoy the original form best. When you get an opportunity to experience “Hot Stone Massage” please do so. You won’t regret it.
My first experience with LaStone therapy was back in 1997 in the touristy town of Ouray, Colorado. I had recently moved there and was staying with my best friend, while working as a natural hot springs pool as a massage therapist and lifeguard. At first, I wasn’t interested I. This new, latest crazed therapy that people was doing. Then, about three weeks later, I was asked if I wanted to receive a LaStone therapy treatment. I thought, why not, I now wanted to find out what this was all about, since everyone had been talking it up so much.
Patricia Warne, the therapist, had been doing LaStone for many years and studied directly with the founder, Mary Hannigan. Once on the table, Patricia started with my left leg by gently rocking it back and forth working all the way up to my arm. It was done first on one side and then the other. Next, after completing a few breaths, she sat me up to place about 12 medium hot stones on the table so they would be on either side of my spine and covered them with a pillow case and gently laid me back down. After strategically placing more stones on my body, oil was quickly rubbed on the front of my shins and two medium rocks were used to massage my lower legs and feet. The process continued until she had massaged my entire body. The experience was very calming and peaceful. The heat coming off the rocks felt soothing and comforting. The rocks were constantly in motion so they wouldn’t burn the skin, and they quickly cooled off from the muscles absorbing the heat.
The idea of using rocks hot, cold, or neutral (no temperature) has been practiced by many different cultures for centuries. Great spiritual healers, shamans, and medicine people as part of their healing ceremonies have used stones and crystals. In the Philippines, rough black basalt stones were used to slough off old and dry skin. In Russia heated stones were placed in the bathtub to heat the water. Native Americans used heated stones in their sweat lodge. The women used a hot sun-heated stone to put on their bellies to help relieve painful menstrual periods. Native Americans call the stones the “Stone People.”
Only recently has the art of massaging with hot and cold rocks been rediscovered and combined with today’s modern massage techniques. Mary Hannigan is credited with developing this style. Mary came to use the rocks in this way when she was in a lot of pain from a recurring injury and needed help doing trigger point work on her clients. In the summer of 1993, while Mary sat in a hot sauna with her niece, she received the message, “Use the stones.” She then picked up the stones and began using them on her niece. She noticed this saved her from over-exerting herself and allowed her shoulder to rest and heal. Each day as Mary worked with the stones she was intuitively led to use more of them and slowly developed the method that is used in spa and massage clinics today.
The stones that are used in a LaStone treatment are basalt (volcanic) rocks. The size of the stone usually determines where to use it on the body. The use of the extreme temperatures together increases the blood flow to an area more quickly than just using heat or cold alone. The stones accelerate the exchange of blood, lymph and digestive fluids thereby increasing the circulation. The result is improved quality of blood, which means quicker removal of waste products and better nutrition to the tissues, allowing healing to take place at a faster rate.
Receiving a LaStone treatment is similar to a Swedish massage and has many of the same benefits including increases in circulation of blood and lymph fluids, assists with removal of metabolic waste products, decreases blood pressure, strengthens the immune system and reduces mental stress.
The difference: hot, smooth, basalt rocks used by a trained professional as a therapeutic tool to ease sore, tense and achy muscles. Additionally, stones of different shapes and sizes are placed along target areas of the body such as hands, feet, neck and spine, which facilitates the healing process of the body.
LaStone therapy goes beyond just rubbing the body with some oil and hot rocks. LaStone can be used as a therapeutic tool to help the body’s own healing process. My recommendation is to try it for yourself and see how the Stone People can help you on your journey to reconnect to the Earth and God.
Leah K. Theil, BS, LMT has been a practicing massage since 1989. Her specialities include Cayce-Reilly Swedish, Myofacial Release, Shiatsu and Healing Touch. She is a member of ATMA. I have lost contact with Leah, so I cannot share any current information with you.