by Pat Mayrhofer
Massage therapists around the world have discovered adding stones to a session provides a natural, grounding element to clients’ healing. Stones are a popular spa offering, and with some basic equipment, any massage therapist in private practice can add massage stones to sessions.
Massage stones aren’t new; they have been available within the massage industry for more than a decade. What is new is a revolutionary method that allows massage stones to be created from quarried land basalt.
Finding that perfectly shaped stone has always been a challenge when harvesting oceanic and river basalt, the type of stone most massage stones have—until now—been created from. But carving from quarried land basalt results in massage stones of precise shapes that can reach all the nooks and crannies of the human body.
From sea and land
Oceanic and river basalt stones are the natural stones with which we are accustomed to working. When a volcano erupts and spews ash and lava into the oceans and rivers, stones are created, which are then tumbled for thousands of years and made smooth. During the creation process, these stones absorb minerals, such as iron, magnesium and olivine, from the air and water.
The basalt stones wash up on beaches in various shapes and sizes, and they hold an incredible natural energy. It is now illegal to harvest basalt beach pebbles in the U.S., so most of the stones massage therapists use come from the beaches of Mexico and Peru. These countries are restricting the amount of harvested stones, so natural massage stones are becoming more difficult to obtain.
Quarried land basalt is also created from volcanic eruptions. The lava collects minerals and metals from the earth where it has come to rest. The basalt is then mined in large slabs weighing several tons. The slabs are cut down into smaller, more manageable blocks and handcrafted into various shapes and sizes for use by massage therapists.
Carved, quarried basalt stones are more expensive than oceanic and river basalt stones because more time, knowledge and craftsmanship are involved in creating carved stones than in simply harvesting stones from beaches. In terms of hardness, basalt registers a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. Diamond is a 10, marble is a 3 and limestone is a 1. Specially designed machines using diamond blades are needed to craft innovative shapes for quarried basalt massage tools.
Of heat and energy
Quarried land basalt contains 25 to 30 percent greater amounts of iron and magnesium than oceanic and river basalt. This, in turn, means quarried land basalt has 25 percent higher heat retention.
That higher heat retention is one of the advantages of working with quarried land basalt. Our research has shown that these stones actually heat to a higher temperature and hold their heat longer than oceanic and river basalt. The heat retention of these stones is a tremendous advantage for the massage therapist, enabling them to work longer with a stone.
Because quarried land basalt stones get hotter during the heating process, it is important for the therapist to use more caution. These stones should not be placed on the body without movement, and placement should be made only with a sufficient barrier. This barrier should be a towel, pillowcase, blanket, doubled sheet or specialized product for holding stones. (Even with oceanic and river basalt stones, a barrier should always be used with hot placement stones to avoid burning the client.)
There is also an energy difference in the two types of basalt stones. Oceanic and river basalt stones start their journey in the ocean, and are formed naturally over many years of tumbling in water. Exposure to sand, sunlight, moonlight and tides help the stones establish an “energy personality” all their own. This energy personality can be felt by massage therapist and client alike.
Hand-carved, quarried land basalt stones take a different journey to develop their energy personality. That journey starts as the basalt is excavated, transported and dissected into smaller blocks, then brought to the hands of a craftsman. The craftsman carves these stones into tools for massage therapists. These stones have not seen the light of day until their excavation and have not had the opportunity to be exposed to natural elements like the oceanic and river basalt, and so we say these stones are “newborn.” The therapist can take part in developing a new energy personality for these new stones.
Shapes and sizes
There are many sizes and shapes of carved, quarried land basalt now available to massage therapists: the sculpting stone, shaped like an “S” to offer diversity of movement with one stone; the multipurpose “Y” tool; the large and small cuff, which fits curves and smoothes muscles; the stripping wand, perfect for stripping the iliotibial (IT) band; and basic massage-stone shapes for general massage.
In addition to massage therapists, other professionals may put these stones to use.
Reflexologists can save their thumbs by using the “Y” tool or the Pat’s tear drop; while the medium basalt wedge or the small basalt half moon helps release the reflex pathways; and the specially designed pedi stone is shaped like a foot with every facet useable. There are also specially designed stones for estheticians that allow them to work proficiently around sensitive areas on the face: the basalt and marble facial massage stones; marble eye moons, for under the eye to decrease puffiness; uniquely shaped cheek stones in basalt and marble; Pat’s tear drop used in a cool-lift face rejuvenation; and the waxing relief tool for the instant cold necessary after waxing.
Chiropractors and physical therapists can save their hands with many of the tools, such as the large scapula stone used to release tension from under the scapula or for stripping muscles; either the small or large cuff that hugs the side of the ribs, the IT band or the curves of the arm or leg; the curved trigger-point stone that fits naturally into the hand so not to put excess stress on the thumb; the “V” wedge to release restrictions at the occipital ridge or under the iliac crest; and the universal Y tool.
Of all the new shapes of the carved quarried land basalt stones from which to choose, the tool that stands out the most is the Y tool. This tool has seven different facets to make your work less stressful on your hands and thumbs.
As the name implies, this tool is in the shape of a Y. Each arm has a different shaped end and each curve between the arms has a different radius. This tool is invaluable, since it allows you to release trigger points more efficiently at the occipital ridge or deep in the piriformis. It can also protect your hands as you strip the IT band.
“The Y tool’s unique design will let you put the required pressure on trigger nodules, allowing you to sense almost the same as using your thumb; however, using the cold Y tool will reduce inflammation at site, while the hot Y tool will reduce trigger nodules by applying heat with pressure,” explains Joseph Maio, D.C. “This tool is a must for anyone treating trigger nodules during massage.”
Other effective tools are the medium wedge, which allows therapists to effectively release tension and trigger points under the scapula; and the sculpting stone, which allows the therapist to glide down the scalenes and into the supraspinatus without having to change stones. Another stone, the cuff, has the perfect curve to hug the ribs, hamstrings, IT band and biceps as you smoothly address tired, sore muscles. The cuff comes in a smaller version that is useful for working the forearm or calf muscles.
When you combine carved, quarried land basalt stones with marble stones, you have the ability to offer clients hot-and-cold massage-stone therapy, or what can be called vascular gymnastics.
Contrasting heat and cold causes the blood vessels to alternate between dilation and constriction. The overall effect of this modality is a dramatic increase in circulation. This therapeutic technique will increase your results dramatically, with less discomfort to your client.
It is time to realize your greatest potential as a stone therapist. The new carved, quarried land basalt stones will put your stone-massage practice on the new frontier of stone therapy. With them, you can increase the number of satisfied clients and enhance your practice.
Learn to work smartly and effectively with these new stones. Invest in your profession, and your investment will give you a great return.
Pat Mayrhofer is president and founder of Nature’s Stones Inc., an international massage stone, education and supply company. She is a massage therapist with more than 15 years of experience, having taught for 13 of those years in Italy, Austria, the Dominican Republic and the U.S. Mayrhofer and her staff have created a comprehensive series of live, hands-on training programs, educational DVDs available for distance learning and a line of associated stone and textile products. For more information, visit www.naturestonesinc.com.