Getting Stoned in Victoria, BC

The lights were dim. The music was subdued. The scent of vanilla wafted through the air. And I didn’t know quite what to expect. It was my first time. Getting stoned, that is. But this was an experience your own mother would approve of, and probably partake of, herself. I was about to experience "hot stone" massage, a recent innovation in massage therapy.

I was curious. I’d had regular massage before and knew I’d be undressing and lying down on a massage table. So just where did the "stones" come in, and what was this all about.

My therapist explained that people have a long tradition of working with stones or being spiritually close to stones. By using stones – these are smoothed Colorado river stones – in a body treatment, we are relating back to times when people believed in the power of stones. Witness Stonehenge, the pyramids, and the Native American name for stones, The Stone Clan People.

Apparently, many spiritual healers and shamans from various countries use stones in their healing ceremonies, believing each color and type conveys an energy and releasing effect on the client. Heated stones are still used today in native sweat lodges. In the American West, persons sleeping outdoors used to heat stones in the fire and use them to warm the ground where their sleeping bags would lay. In China the use of heated stones to relax muscles dates back to about 2000 BC.

Stone massage therapy is in many ways similar to regular massage therapy but with the addition of stones heated in water. The idea here is to connect with Mother Earth and to feel the benefits of heat while being massaged.

I noticed the rectangular tank, about the size of a microwave, filled with hot water to heat the stones. My massage therapist said she would first rub oil on my body and then use the warm stones to massage me. These stones – a whole tankful in different sizes – came from a Colorado riverbed.

First, she placed a smooth, flat stone on the massage table and asked me to lie on it. It was about where my stomach was and I found it uncomfortable. She then placed large round stones in my hands and around my feet, and placed a cotton sock-like tube of stones around my neck. She rubbed my back and legs with oil and, using firm pressure, began to massage with the stones. I found the stones much too hot, and I asked her to cool them down so I could tolerate them. As soft music played, she continued to massage my legs and back for about 30 minutes.

By then the tube of stones around my neck felt like a millstone. I was glad to sit up while she arranged a spiral of stones on the massage table and asked me to lie down with my back on them. She explained the stones were to open up my chakras to both relax and energize me. I expected these stones to bother me like the one on my stomach and was surprised to find that I did not feel them at all. But when she placed one under my neck, it was extremely uncomfortable, and I asked her to remove it.

Small stones were placed between my toes, and stones again were placed in my hands. She placed another one in the center of my forehead. She massaged my arms and legs, then moved up to massage my neck and face. As she finished and removed the stones, she said, "As I remove the stones, let stress leave your body." Rather the opposite had happened. What with the stones being too hot and uncomfortable, I was relieved to be finished.

I wondered why anyone would choose a stone massage over the relaxing and therapeutic touch of human hands. But people do and apparently this is a trendy new type of massage. Just how long it will last is anyone’s guess.

©2001 by Barbara Ballard. Reproduction of this work in whole or in part, including images, and reproduction in electronic media, without documented permission from the author is prohibited.

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