Hot Stone Massage: My Spirit Guide Made Me Do It!

ST asks: “A few of my friends have been singing the praises of hot stone massage which they have been receiving at a local spa. From the little I read about it, it sounded awfully New Age. What do you know about it?”

Enough to tell your friends that they are falling for the latest New Age snake-oil and could get just as much relief (for a lot less money) from a hot water bottle. 

Hot stone massage, or LaStone® therapy, was developed by Mary D. Nelson in 1993. Nelson is a graduate of The Desert Institute of the Healing Arts (definitely not an accredited medical school) who claims she was guided by her “inner spirit” to explore the energies of the body.

Here’s how she describes it on her website:

“A little on the history of how I developed LaStone® Therapy with the help of my spirit guides. On August 19, 1993 I was sitting in a ‘broken’ sauna room talking to my niece Tonya Council (now Bucinell); as we spoke I was also carrying on a side conversation with Spirit. I wanted to know how I was going to carry on as a massage therapist when I continuously injure my right shoulder; I wanted Creator to give me answers as to what I could do to keep my passion alive in body work. . . .”

She had been treating her rotator cuff injury with nutrition, ice packs, and basic massage, but the pain was limiting her ability to do full Swedish massage and the body work she was so passionate about.

“As I sat there in the sauna room with Tonya, I began to internally talk to Spirit regarding my injured arm and what or how was I going to be able to continue in the field of massage, asking for guidance and seeking a solution to my inability to perform massage,” she continues. “Then the answer came to me through Spirit, ‘Pick up the stones.’ I did not understand what Spirit was trying to get me to understand and again the voice said, ‘Pick up the stones’.”

Mary D. Nelson

Because she couldn’t understand what the message meant, she decided to carry on the conversation with the spirit at another time and attempted to leave. Just as she was doing so, however, the spirit once again commanded: “Pick up the stones and use them.”

She continued: “That time it was clear to me what Creator wanted me to do; so I picked up a stone and rubbed it on Tonya’s shoulder and she said ‘Gosh Aunt Mary, that feels great.’ [How’s that for scientific scrutiny?] Then both of us picked up some stones and placed them in the ginger fomentation I had heated for her treatment that day.”

After this revelation, Nelson says she went home and told her dad who suggested that it would be a good idea to use the stones in massage.

“And the rest is history,” she concludes.

Mary, who claims to have been awarded the Spavelous Spa Rose Award as Massage Therapist of the Year in 2008, offers private sessions in her Tucson home and trains others in this method.

Nelson’s concept might be a tad loopy, but she didn’t invent hot stone therapy. It dates back to ancient times when man first discovered that he could put something warm on an aching muscle and it felt better. But Nelson’s spectacular revelation somehow managed to convince people that it’s cool to use heated rocks like they did during the Stone Age and the concept is now the latest thing in New Age massage parlors.

Essentially, the therapy consists of using hot stones, preferably river rocks which tend to be smooth, and those made of basalt because they are rich in iron and retain heat well. The stones are immersed in water and heated in an electric heating device until they are within a certain temperature range, and then are placed on specific points on the back, in the palms of the hand, or between the toes. The heat warms and relaxes the muscles, which allows the therapist to apply deeper pressure. The warmth of the wet stones allegedly improves circulation and calms the nervous system.

Therapists will often place the stones on points on the body they believe to be “energy centers” in order to rebalance the body and mind.

A typical hot stone massage lasts anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes and ranges in price from $50 to $190 per session.

Believe it or not, this utter quackery is widely accepted in the bodywork industry with spas, fitness centers and other facilities offering it to their clientele.

My advice is to stick to a good old-fashioned microwave heat pack and leave these “spirit channeled” rocks in the river where they belong.

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