The Hot Stone Meridian technique involves the artful application of pressure via warmed stones along the body’s energetic pathways, or meridians.
The value of working with massage stones has been misunderstood. Many therapists and clients alike think massage stones constitute more of a pampering treatment than a therapeutic session; however, there are tangible benefits of working with the heat and energy of stones.
Heated stones make deep penetration into the tissue easy to achieve. In addition, a greater release of muscle stress and strain helps to release toxins.
Pain reduction is an additional benefit of this technique.
M. Cathy Calabria-Kane practices several touch techniques, including massage therapy, shiatsu and hot-and-cold stone techniques.
After working as a therapist for 10 years, she decided to incorporate stone therapy into her shiatsu sessions—and the benefits, she says, are evident.
“It has been a tremendous assist in speeding up the healing of my clients, not just physically but also emotionally,” she says.
Tokujiro Namikoshi is credited with the development of shiatsu, which is based on Western anatomy and physiology. (The word shiatsu means “finger pressure” in Japanese.)
At age 7, Namikoshi wanted to help his mother, who was suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, and began using pressure with his thumbs and palms to give his mother some relief from pain.
Namikoshi went on, as an adult, to found the Japan Shiatsu College in 1940.
A student, Shizuto Masunaga, created the zen style of shiatsu, which is based on traditional Chinese medicine.
Another practitioner, Tadashi Izawa, established meridian shiatsu, which incorporates the meridian theory of traditional Chinese medicine into shiatsu.
This Japanese technique has evolved into yet another healing modality: the Hot Stone Meridian technique, which draws upon both shiatsu and Swedish massage to offer clients a potent means of effecting positive physiological change.
Release Energy Blockages
Each of the 12 meridians mirrors a particular organ or function of the body, and each is an energy channel related to acupuncture points.
Practitioners of Asian healing arts believe meridians connect all body parts.
The Hot Stone Meridian technique was developed for Nature’s Stones by massage therapist and shiatsu practitioner Elisabeth Ott, in cooperation with shiatsu practitioner Carol Livesay, and is based on the principles of meridian shiatsu.
In shiatsu, disease is regarded as the result of an energy blockage or imbalance.
Therefore, shiatsu is about balancing the body by directly addressing points along the meridians. Shiatsu points are located along meridians, and are related to the central and autonomic nervous systems. Treatment involves the whole body.
In the Hot Stone Meridian technique, heat from the stones can release stagnation in the meridians more easily than just the fingers, thumbs and palms.
The energy held by the stones is undeniably important in affecting the movement of stagnation in the meridians.
Stones have developed a powerful energy after thousands of years of being tumbled in oceans and rivers and being exposed to the sun, moon, winds and tides.
The energy of the stones combined with the energy of the practitioner allows the meridians to release their stagnation with more ease.
A focused practitioner who is sensitive to energy provides an extra dimension by connecting to the body with both hands; one hand works and one hand feels the pulse of the body.
“After determining which meridian to begin treating, the giver places the stones along the pathway, gently supporting the opening of the channels and assisting the chi to move freely,” Calabria-Kane explains.
“The stones allow the giver the freedom to move to other pressure points on that meridian while supporting the receiver throughout the entire cycle, no matter where the giver is working.”
Releasing the shiatsu points will unblock and rejuvenate the meridians that run throughout the entire body, aiding in healing mind, body and spirit.
“Once the giver gently removes the stones from the specific points along the meridian, the giver can begin thumbing and palming over these pathways,” Calabria-Kane says. “The heat from the stones stimulates circulation of chi to flow freely through the channel, and the stones support me, as the giver, in assisting the opening of blocked meridians so the physical body can begin the process of healing itself.”
Shiatsu is usually performed on a floor mat, and the client is always clothed.
The therapist works with no oils or lotions, and applies pressure with her fingers, thumbs and palms to release the stagnation in points on the meridians. Stretching is also incorporated.
The Hot Stone Meridian technique is performed on a table rather than on a floor mat, for several reasons: Because hot stones need to be repeatedly replaced during a session, the practitioner would have to interrupt his rhythm to stand up to get fresh stones.
He would also have to be aware of the placement of the heater so as not trip on it. Also, it would be tiring for the practitioner to repeatedly get up and down.
It was determined, after much consideration and trial and error, the best and safest method was to practice on a massage table.
Shiatsu practitioners will have to adjust to working on a table instead of the floor.
They may find it will take some time to overcome their uncertainties, but they will soon see they can connect effectively when their client is on the table.
Western massage uses long, smooth strokes, kneading and palpating layers of muscle tissue using massage oil, cream or lotion.
As you know, this technique is most commonly performed on a massage table with the client unclothed.
There are extensive benefits to massage therapy, including increased circulation, stress relief, pain relief, reduced muscle spasms and cramps, an enhanced immune system, reduced postsurgical adhesions and swelling, releasing of endorphins, reduced migraine pain, and lessened depression and anxiety.
Stress relief is one of the most profound benefits of massage therapy. The American Medical Association estimates stress is a factor in more than 75 percent of all illness and disease today.
Shiatsu is said to be a natural way to help people relax and cope with such issues as stress, muscle pain, nausea, anxiety and depression.
Some say it contributes to healing specific illnesses, although this has not been scientifically proven.
There are many clients who attribute their well-being to shiatsu sessions.
Calabria-Kane recalls one client who commented on a Hot Stone Meridian technique session by saying, “‘The floodgates have opened.’
“The stones support my clients to deeply relax and release on an emotional level, letting go of stored-up tension and anxiety deep within the connective tissue,” Calabria-Kane adds.
East Meets West
Shiatsu and hot stones are a great combination.
Through the combination of Eastern and Western modalities, the practice of the Hot Stone Meridian technique brings a new dimension to shiatsu and hot stone massage.
Energy and heat combine to achieve a path of good health. Stretching aids in releasing stagnation in the meridians, and heat relaxes the body efficiently, allowing for a greater stretch.
The heat from the stones also releases toxins that in turn help the client to feel less pain.
Working the meridians that run through each constricted muscle improves the flow of the body’s energy, allowing the body to heal. The increased flow of energy makes a person less susceptible to disease and illness, according to the shiatsu philosophy.
The ultimate objective is to have energy and blood flow freely with no restrictions or stagnation.
A few shiatsu practitioners have asked whether or not a Hot Stone Meridian technique practitioner can really feel the pulse of a meridian through a stone.
This sensation is entirely possible to experience after studying with an instructor and learning to properly work with the stones.
The combination of energy from the practitioner and the stones allows the meridians to release stagnation more freely. The practitioner will notice a sensation similar to a hammer pounding as stagnation releases.
I believe one massage stroke with a hot stone is equivalent to 10 strokes by hand.
The Hot Stone Meridian technique is a breakthrough for shiatsu practitioners and massage therapists trained in working with the meridians.
It offers variety and intensity to a practice, along with healthy results that keep clients returning.
Education on properly handling the stones is most important.
There are many safety issues that need to be addressed, such as temperature, pressure and the care and cleaning of the stones and equipment.
Proper education will produce excellent treatments; excellent treatments mean happier clients; happier clients mean a successful practice.
“With all my clients, I encourage sequential treatments until both the receiver and the giver feel the balance and harmony of the body, mind and spirit,” says Calabria-Kane. “In most cases, my clients have asked to continue stone therapy in their treatments because of the initial results of feeling more open and the duration of how well they feel after a treatment.”
As interest in Asian healing methods grows, by both consumers and therapists, shiatsu will also continue to grow in popularity.
In today’s economic environment, therapists need that extra edge to help them stay successful. The Hot Stone Meridian technique gives the therapist that needed edge.
About the Author
Pat Mayrhofer is the founder and president of Nature’s Stones Inc., a massage-stone training company offering seminars internationally in many modalities for massage therapists, estheticians, shiatsu practitioners, reflexologists, nail technicians, physical therapists and chiropractors.