When I first mention to people that I use hot -and- cold stones they usually pause, apprehensive of the cold. Who can blame them. When I say cold, most people instantly think of cold weather, snow, an ice-cube down the back, freezing fingers and a bunch of other uncomfortable things.
A massage is after all meant to be comfortable, relaxing and an enjoyment. Warm stones are pleasant, but why add the cold to the experience?
There are many reasons for this, which I will briefly cover in this blog post.
The most important factor is overheating. Using cold stones in combination with hot stones prevents overheating. A stone massage with only hot stones is like sitting in a sauna for an hour, without a cool shower afterwards. It leaves you sluggish and sleepy, your alertness is reduced and it might even feel uncomfortable to you.
These are all warning signs that the core temperature is too hot. The body focuses on protecting itself, by lowering the blood supply to the brain and instead direct cooler blood from the surface of the body towards the internal organs. This is why you just want to lie down and sleep if a stone massage has been too warm for you.
By applying cold stones the blood stream is cooled down and excess heat is removed from the body. When cold stones are used right, you’re refreshed and energized after a massage, while maintaining the benefits of relaxation and released tensions.
Inquire and ask questions
If you encounter a stone massage where only hot stones are used, do ask the practitioner questions. Where did they do their training, what is their reason for only using hot stones, do they know of the potential health risks, how do they deal with overheating and how much hot do they apply to their massage.
Obviously, if they only use a couple of hot stones to release tensions in particular tight tissue and the room is cool, the risk of overheating is minimal. If they on the other hand use only hot stones during the entire massage, then there’s a great risk of overheating. Be critical and ask your questions before the massage begins.
I have a client who had only tried hot stones and she absolutely hated the experience because she became overheated from the treatment. I introduced her first to cold stones and then at the next massage convinced her to try the combination of hot and cold. Now she just loves massage with hot and cold stones, and while preferring the cold, she wouldn’t want to be without the hot.
Therapeutically there are many reasons to use cold. Cold helps to relieve muscular tension much more efficiently than hot does. It reduces inflammation and scar tissue, and cold promotes mobility. The combination of hot and cold helps flush out waste-products and kick starts the lymphatic system.
The overall health benefits can be compared to spending a time in a hot sauna and then jump into the snow or icy lake. I must say though that it’s much more comfortable to receive the hot/cold flush on the massage table than jumping out into the snow.
On an energetic level the hot and cold works like yin and yang. Using both in combination brings balance to the massage, and can open up for strong spiritual experiences. The alternating temperatures can also help release emotional tensions, and it promotes an increased body-awareness for the receiver.
Cold feels good
If cold stone feels outright uncomfortable and makes you squirm, it is because it isn’t used right. A stone needs to be cold, not just cool – all depending on location and use of the stone. Often a stone which isn’t cold enough will feel horrible, while a stone that’s chilled properly will feel hot and comfortable.
How the stone is used matters greatly. If it is moved too quickly it will feel terrible. The trick is to move slowly, and that’s very slowly. This way the cold also gets time to penetrate the muscle tissue and really work its magic.
Finally, the tissue needs to be warmed up before applying the cold. The cold is applied to draw out excess heat, not to make you feel cold. If there’s no excess heat in the tissue worked on, then the cold stone will only serve to cool down the muscle instead of bringing it to the natural balance.
Demand the best
So please, for your own sake, insist on a stone massage that includes hot as well as cold stones. Make sure you get a practitioner who is educated in the safe use of hot and cold, and who understands the underlying mechanisms and reasons for using both. If you’re uncomfortable with cold, do tell your stone practitioner and the appliance of cold will naturally be adjusted accordingly.
Enjoy your next stone massage and see what difference cold makes.