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The good, the bad and the ugly hot stone

Hot Stones After UseImage by Caro’s Lines via Flickr

Not that any stone is ugly, but there are good and bad stones when it comes to Hot Stone Massage.

It matters what size and shape the stones used for a Hot Stone Massage are and what they’re made from. Energy-wise it matters how the stones were harvested and how they’ve been treated. Once you’ve held good stones and worked with them, or received a massage by them, you’ll begin to feel sorry and pity many of those stones you can find on eBay or see at alternative health fairs.

So what makes a good massage hot stone?


The stone is made of basalt as it keeps the heat for a long time. But there are differences between types of basalt, all depending on how the lava the rocks are made from cooled.

Basically, the longer time it took for the lava to cool, the more dense the stone is and the better it can keep the heat. So the rocks created by lava running into the sea like on Hawaii contains a lot of air pockets inside, which doesn’t keep heat well. It’s easily felt as the rock is much lighter than the slow-cooling ones. The heavier a basalt stone, the more compact it is.

The colour is less important than the weight. Some stones have a reddish cast, while others have a green cast. This is merely a sign of what other minerals and metals are found in the stone. Though the darker a heavy stone is, the more likely it is to keep heat well.

The purpose of the stone dictates its size. For overall massage, the stone should be the size of and fit your palm. It should be so large that you easily can cup it without curling  your fingers around the stone. This way the stone becomes an extension of your hand and you can hold it effortlessly.
For the stones that go between the toes you want small flat stones, while for chakra-work and passive stones you want them as large as your hand if not larger. The weight adds its own dimension, and the size allows for the stones to keep their heat longer.

Good massage stones are flat, but not thin, and have a oval shape.  They essentially have the shape of your palm without any rough edges.
For detailed in depth work, a stone with pointy ends serves best. This way you can work into depth and in detail. The stone should have a size and shape that allows you a good grip and ability to do different types of work. As you become familiar with using the stones, you’ll quickly pick specific stones for specific work, but not be limited by them.
For the face a smaller flat and thin stone is useful.
The shape of the big chakra stones is less important, as long as they can rest on the body without rolling off.

In general, flat roundish shapes work the best for the massage stones, with the exception of pointy stones for deep tissue and detailed work.

Any stone that’s used to massage with should be smooth and soft to the touch. Not polished to a sheen where it feels like it’s been lacquered, but smooth so there are no rough edges or nicks which can scratch and hurt the recipient. The more sensitive the area massage is, the smoother the stone should be. The stone should feel pleasant and enjoyable to the touch.
For the stones which are used passively, such as chakra-stones, the texture is less important. Again, make sure there are no rough edges or nicks.

The best massage stones have been harvested with respect for nature and the place they’ve been taken from. Riverbeds and breaches are good places to find massage stones. The best stones have been fully shaped by nature over thousands of years. To take the last rough edges, they’re sand-polished. You can easily find your own massage stones this way. Just make sure you respect nature and environment when you harvest them. Be critical, go for the stones that already have the right shape and size and weigh each one in your hand asking if it’s the right stone for hot stone massage.

Unfortunately, there are big commercial interests in spas and wellness and as result you have many stone-producers who harvest stones in quarries, where-after they polish these stones in big machines, creating some very random shapes, even cubes. No need to say that these producers have no idea of how the stones will be used or what their purpose is, nor do they think about respecting nature in their production.

Massage stones should be treated properly, just like other tools you use when you massage. Between each client they must be sterilized, as I wrote about in Hygiene in Massage. Ideally, if there’s time, the stones should be washed with soap after each massage, removing the oil and grease on the surface. At least, do this by the end of every day, while they’re still warm after their last use. If they’re not washed, a layer of oil and fat will build upon the surface of the stones, making them feel greasy, sticky and unpleasant to the touch.

The stones should be respected and thanked for their work. The Native Americans consider them living beings, the Stone People, who’re here to help us in our journey and help us with our work. It is said that stones which have been mistreated will stop working. Either they won’t keep their temperature no matter how long you heat them, or they’ll be too hot and burn the clients.

There are many ways you can pay your respect to the stones. Allow them time to recharge in the sun and moon light, place them in patterns that has meaning to you. Play with them and become familiar with them, appreciate them and love them. They’re the extension of your hands and a tool of healing. Treat them as you would yourself and your own hands.

So do yourself a favour and don’t buy the first and cheapest set of hot stones you can find on eBay, but take your time to find a stone supplier who treats the stones with respect and provide stones of the right size and shapes. Or even better, go on a field-trip and harvest your own stones. This way you know they suit and fit you. You, your clients and the stones deserve it.

If you want a hot stone massage, take a moment to ask your therapist about his stones, or even better, see them and feel them before you decide upon the massage. Receiving a massage with good stones  instead of cheap stones, is like eating at a good restaurant compared to cheap fast food.

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About Pia Poulsen

Pia Poulsen is educated as a wellness massage therapist at Institut FIGARI in Paris, from where she passed her certification exam in January 2008. Since then she has expanded her skills to become the first Advanced LaStone® practitioner in France as well as a certified LaStone® instructor.


2 Responses to “The good, the bad and the ugly hot stone”

  1. Thank you for all your help. I am a recent massahe graduate, yay! I just received a beautiful set of stones and as I sat down to “season” them I found myself nurturing and putting all of my most pleasant energy into them. I am now drawn to stone massage. Wonderful article!
    Rachel Marie, AZ

    Posted by Rachel | Wednesday 30 June, 2010, 05:07
  2. Hi Rachel,

    Congratulations on your graduation, and welcome to the world of touch and healing.

    Thank you for your comment. I'm happy I was able to help you. Feel free to contact me for more information.


    Posted by Pia | Wednesday 30 June, 2010, 10:59