Hot Stone and LaStone Massage


One of my favorite aspects of massage school is getting to try different massage modalities—and there are so many of them to choose from! Of course, the “downside” is that there are now roughly 15,000 modalities in which I want to pursue further training once I graduate. Too many modalities, too little time.

In recent weeks, we had the opportunity to test drive hot stone massage techniques, which employ smooth basalt stones warmed in a hot water bath (we used 130º water warmed in a roaster oven). The stones are placed on or under the body and are also held in the therapist’s hand(s) as tools to smooth over the client’s tissue.

As a total nature junkie, there was something immediately appealing to me about the stones–their smoothness, their varied colors (some of them looked like beautifully speckled dinosaur eggs), their heft. And I love the idea of integrating natural materials into bodywork; they’re such a nice antidote to all of the plastic-y tools and other synthetic junk everywhere.

Our instructor showed us how to choose appropriately sized stones for different applications: the back “layout” (i.e. the stones placed on either side of the spine while the client is lying on their back), the chakra layout, smaller stones to slip between the toes, pointier stones for more detailed trigger-point work, and “working stones,” which were more all-purpose stones used to glide over the body during the moving strokes.

Both giving and receiving hot stone massage is fantastic. On the giving end, it’s amazing to feel the client’s tissue melt as you slide the hot stones over their body, and I was amazed at how quickly they dropped into a deeper relaxed state. With regular Swedish massage, it sometimes takes people awhile to settle in, stop talking, and “get in the zone,” but not so with hot stone massage.

And on the receiving end, what can I say–it’s heavenly. I carry a lot of tension in my neck and shoulders, and the hot stones delivered an amazing icy-hot sensation to my aching muscles, which soon melted into relaxation. After only a thirty-minute practice massage during class, I felt like I was floating.

So, what’s the difference between hot stone massage and LaStone massage? The primary difference is that LaStone uses both hot and cold stones as part of the treatment. LaStone Therapy was created by Mary Nelson, who practices and teaches in Arizona, and she has said that the inspiration for the therapy came to her from spirit guides, an idea that might sound impossibly woo-woo to some, but having experienced my own spirit guide contact (and, indeed, this is how I conduct my tarot readings), this is right in my wheelhouse. 😉

As the story goes, Nelson was sitting in a sauna with her niece, voicing her concerns over how she was going to continue practicing as a massage therapist after injuring her shoulder. Spirit responded with, “Pick up the stones,” a suggestion she didn’t understand at first. The message was repeated, and it dawned on her to pick up one of the stones from the broken wall of the sauna, and she rubbed it on her niece’s shoulder. The rest, as they say, is history.

If you’re interested in learning how to do LaStone Therapy, you can study through in-person classes or through a more limited selection of online courses. One online course in particular seems particularly useful for both LaStone and general hot stone massage therapists: the Health and Safety Course. This outlines how to handle different pathologies, how to sanitize the stones in between clients, and more.