Some stones have a slightly more velvet surface with some non-abrasive edges, while others are silky smooth and perfectly round. It’s like the distinction between velvet and silk. The textured, velvet surfaces are perfect for deep massage as they grip the connective tissue. Their high skin-gripping factor means they don’t slip off the body. The silky stones tend to slide along with greater ease, making them ideal for gliding on sensitive areas of the face. The textured stones slightly exfoliate the skin, gently increasing kinesthetic awareness, bringing the client back into their skin, so to say. The textured stones are more porous by nature, giving them a sponge-like action. This sponge action soaks up energetic debris, negativity and bacteria. As a result, textured stones need more recharging and physical cleaning than silky ones. Silky stones are less porous and wonderful for a light, refreshing massage. But when they begin to cool down, they can be confused with the smooth surface of the palm of a hand. Their radiance variable is low, which means the rate in which they give off heat is fast, intense and sometimes unpredictable — especially if they are basalt. Consequently, silky stones can be too hot and slippery to place directly on the skin. While some New England sea stones are silky smooth, the majority of them have a velvet textural distinction.
The Dosha-genic Color of Stones
Some stones have subtle color variations that help with the bodywork process, as each color corresponds with one of the three doshas. A greenish hue is indicative of oxidized parts of copper sulfide deposits. This muted green soothes the attribute of oiliness and edema in both the pitta and kapha doshas. Some stones may have foliation or stripes of muted reddish colors or burnt orange, colors which soothe the oily attributes of both pitta and kapha. These colors have a balancing effect on the copious amounts of oil that abyhanga (oil massage) indicates.
A clear pink color can soothe the attribute of heaviness in the kapha dosha, which is responsible for deep-seated grief and sadness. A clear rose quartz is very effective when it is placed on the heart marma point. If a client is experiencing heavy grief due to the loss of a loved one, then a raw, unpolished ruby would be appropriate at the heart marma point. A ruby may also be placed on the third eye as it amplifies the energy of the pituitary, promoting mental concentration and sharp intuition. This is why many yogis and gurus choose to wear a red bhindi or mark between their brows.
Stones that are muted blue gray can soothe the attribute of heat and lightness in the pitta dosha. This color instills peacefulness, removes anger and nourishes the auric field. Blackish brown stones soothe all the doshas, since black is a mixture of all colors.
Personality Shapes the Stone
Basalt stones are the hardened residue of volcanic eruption, so their personality and energy is eruptive, stimulating and activating. Anyone searching for a new direction in life or in need of a change would do well with an active-stroking basalt massage. This will also help alleviate stagnation on all levels. The shape of a stone is something to consider as well. Herbalists know the shape of an herb, bush or plant can often resemble the part of the human body that it would have an affinity to heal. We can incorporate this principle into stone healing, too. Hence, a stone placed under the sacrum would ideally resemble the shape of the sacrum bone. A stone placed on the heart would ideally have the shape of a heart. Stones placed along the erector spinae would ideally have the long shape of those muscles and so forth.
Many of the stones found in New England are round and flat. They simulate the feeling of an old-fashioned flatiron smoothing over the surface of the muscles, covering a lot of space with one stroke. We can call them nature’s flatiron and they are easy to grip and manipulate.
Ultimately, stones are not just conductors of heat or magnetism, they are radiators of the vibration, disposition and personality of the therapist. The geological constituents within a stone are valuable pieces of information, but more importantly, the therapist behind the stone is what will determine the overall benefits of the massage.
Children, pregnant and menopausal women, and the elderly should be treated more gently and with less extreme temperatures in a stone massage. People with skin conditions such as eczema, rashes, acne and psoriasis should avoid the heat. People with numb skin due to skin graphing or neuropathy should be extra cautious. Anyone on medication that causes skin hypersensitivity (i.e., antibiotics, Accutane) should wait until they are off the medication. People who are extremely obese, perspire profusely, or have a fever or swollen glands should avoid thermotherapy. People with heart conditions should avoid the extreme contrast between heated and cooled stones so as not to shock their delicate systems. Therapists should avoid working on varicose veins, open wounds or areas with infected skin conditions. Ask clients to take off any bulky jewelry during stone massage, as it interferes with the work of the stones.
In the presence of a ruptured, herniated or deteriorated disk, bony protuberances or osteoporosis, heavy stones should not be used directly over the spine. Avoid micro-dermabrasion, waxing, glycolic acid peel or any other professional peel within one week of a heated stone facial. A therapist should never put cold stones and crystals in the client’s hands, as the hands are extensions of the heart. Cold temperatures constrict and repress emotions, shutting down the heart chakra. An exception to this guideline is people with high pitta conditions, since pitta represents the fire element in the Ayurvedic tradition. If a client is in an angry mood, therapists should turn down the temperature of the heating unit or do a traditional massage without heated stones.
For the angry client, practitioners should consider using cool white quartzite stones on the face. If a stone slips off an area more than once, it may be an indication the stone doesn’t need to be on that body part. Stones have consciousness and awareness. A particular stone that has fallen or slipped off should possibly be removed because it needs to be recharged or it should be placed on a different area of the body.
Stones can offer entirely new levels of therapy. Bringing cohesion to the body, mind and spirit, infusing pranic energy, offering magnetic health properties, increasing vitality and circulation, and decreasing inflammation are just a few of the avenues stone work can address. And that’s not even taking into account the benefits of stone work to the therapist. Many therapists turn to working with tools, especially stones, after injuring their own hands. Stones can attack knots efficiently and quickly without hurting the therapist. Bodyworkers also reap the rewards of the warmed stones as they work not only on the client, but by default, on the therapist’s own hands.
There is much to be understood about working with stones, including the spiritual element they bring to the table, but by the reaction of clients and therapists alike, there is great promise to be realized.
Parts of this article first appeared in Spirit of Change magazine, May/June 2002.
By Karyn Chabot, D.Ay., LMT, is the owner of Sacred Stone Healing Spa and School in Newport County, R.I. She has a bachelor’s degree in alternative health and fitness and is a graduate of The Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico. Contact Chabot at 877/832-1372 (toll-free) or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her website at www.sacredstonehealing.com.
Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, February/March 2003.
Copyright 2003. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.
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