The Benefits of Hot Stone Massage

  The Benefits of Hot Stone Massage
        -by Julie Campbell, LMT OR#15892   

      As a professional Massage Therapist I strive to create a calm and healing atmosphere that makes each and every client leave their treatment feeling transformed and educated.  My practice covers several modalities, one being Hot Stone Therapy. I love using the Hot Stone’s because it relieves tension in the body and mind of my clients before I give a deep tissue massage. But, I’m often asked, “What are the benefits of using hot stones for massage”? The occurrence of this question in so many of my interactions with my clients is the motivation behind today’s blog post.  
     Hot Stone Massage has been around for more than 5000 years and is utilized by practitioners all over the world. In a article by’s Antirna Brown She states that, “Hot stones warmed by fire were used by Native Americans to treat aching muscles, but the modern revival of hot stones in massage is generally credited to Mary Nelson, a native of Tucson, Arizona. She trademarked her style of hot stone massage, called LaStone Therapy, which has a Native American spiritual component and requires training and certification”.Other sources speculate when Hot Stone Therapy was reintroduced in the United States since massage in general is attribute to the ancients healing arts, but we have all seen it quickly grow in popularity during the last 20 years.
     There are many types of Hot Stone Massage but for simplicity I will describe only two. The first is what I like to call, “Placement Stone Massage”.  During this type of therapy your practitioner will position warm stones over the top of a sheet or towel on specific points of the body, for example;  the sacral area, muscles along the spine and between the shoulder blades.  Some believe that this type of hot stone placement assists in activating the Kundalini Energy leaving you feeling balanced and refreshed. 
      The second type of Hot Stone Massage what I will refer to as “Moving Stone Massage”.  With this type of therapy your practitioner will incorporate the hot stones into the massage as an extension of their hands.  Your practitioner will use the stones not only to warm up the muscles but to manipulate the muscle tissue as well.  This is the type of Hot Stone massage I incorporate at Written on the Body Massage and Acupuncture Studio in Portland, OR.  This type of therapy caters to deep relaxation for my client’s and allows me to work more deeply into the muscle fibers without as much soreness for the client in the following days. I have also had a lot of success and expedited healing times when using “Moving Stone Massage” for injury treatment because the heat acts as a conduit for muscle circulation.
     The overall benefits of both “Placement” and “Moving Stone Massage”, include improved circulation, deep muscle and tissue release, deep relaxation of the body and mind, improved range of motion, and detoxification as well as many others. In the end I always trust that my clients’ know their bodies and if hot stone therapy resonates with them then the therapy will most likely be a benefit to their personal journey.  The most important part of any massage treatment is that it feels good to you, you know yourself better than anyone!    

Make this year a happy one!

“Plan Your Way to Less Stress, More Happiness”
By Marina Watson Peláez
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A recent survey by psychologist and self-help author Robert Epstein found that 25% of our happiness hinges on how well we’re able to manage stress. The next logical question is, of course, how best can we reduce our stress?

Epstein’s data, which he presented last month at the Western Psychological Association meeting in Los Angeles, was intended to help answer that question. It involved 3,000 participants in the U.S. and 29 other countries, who responded to an online questionnaire. Participants’ stress-management skills were gauged by asking them to rate their level of agreement with 28 items, such as “I frequently use breathing techniques to help me relax.” The volunteers were also asked about how happy they were and how successful they were in their personal and professional lives.

The stress management technique that worked best, according to the survey: planning. In other words, “fighting stress before it even starts, planning things rather than letting them happen,” says Epstein. “That means planning your day, your year and your life so that stress is minimized.”

Epstein points to his former professor, the late Harvard behaviorist B.F. Skinner, as a master organizer. (Skinner is best known for his highly influential research on the effects of reinforcement on behavior.) “Skinner was amazing at managing stress. He was quite a planner. Not only did he plan his day every day, but he had a 10-year planner,” says Epstein.

Epstein’s survey was also able to track stress management with participants’ overall levels of happiness. “The association was very strong,” says Epstein, “suggesting that nearly 25% of our happiness is related to our ability to manage stress.” (Incidentally, he remembers his former teacher Skinner as having been a genuinely happy person.)

But the bad news is that, in general, people are really bad at managing stress. “The mean score on our test was 55%. In a course, that would lead to a failing grade: F,” says Epstein.

You don’t have to be scientist to know that excess stress can lead to a host of ill effects, psychologically and physically — including early death. According to the New England Centenarian Study carried out by Boston University School of Medicine researchers in 2010, longevity is 20%-30% determined by genes and 70%-80% attributable to the environment. And a major characteristic consistent among people who lived to 100, the study found, was the ability to manage stress. “Stress kills,” says Epstein. “Stress is not only daunting, it’s also an important factor responsible for the acceleration of the biological clock.”

“The most important way to manage stress is to prevent it from ever occurring,” by planning, says Epstein. Of course, for some people, the idea of making checklists and calendars, organizing and planning ahead sounds, well, stressful. So Epstein suggests a few other stress-management techniques, taken from his self-help book on stress, that might work better for you:

Relax. O.K., if you could do that, you wouldn’t have any stress to begin with. But you can learn to decompress. Epstein found that study participants who had received stress-management training — even just a yoga class — had higher happiness scores than people who hadn’t. The more hours of training, the higher their scores.

Getting relaxed can be as easy as deep breathing, meditating or practicing muscle relaxation. “It’s important to practice one or more of these techniques every day, before stress ever hits,” says Epstein. “That’s a way of ‘immunizing’ yourself against stress, so that it doesn’t hurt you so much when it occurs.”

One simple breathing technique: the cleansing breath, which consists of inhaling deeply, holding for a slow count of five and exhaling slowly.

Tummy Breathing. When you’re stressed, you breathe with your chest, so Epstein recommends learning to breath with your gut. Place one hand on your chest and another on your stomach and try to keep your chest still as you breathe more with your tummy. “Abdominal breathing relaxes muscles throughout the body and lowers stress levels,” says Epstein.

Double Blow. Another easy breathing technique. All you have to do is exhale fully, then when all the air seems to be gone, blow out forcefully — this helps fight the tendency to take shallow fast breaths when you’re stressed. “This gets rid of the air trapped in the lower lungs and refreshes the respiratory system,” says Epstein, noting that shallow breathing circulates carbon dioxide and other toxins through the bloodstream.

Epstein says he taught his daughter the double blow when she was just 3 years old. Now 5, when she gets upset, he says he tells her, “Do your blowing.” Epstein says it works every time: “She’ll do this huge ‘Pfff’ and try to blow my head off and then she’ll start laughing. She’ll go from borderline getting upset to absolute cheerful.”

In a previous study, Epstein found that parents’ stress management was the second most powerful predictor, after love and affection, in outcomes of parenting. “The tragedy is that we don’t teach these things to children,” says Epstein.

Reframing. Last but not least, Epstein says people can reduce stress by reframing, which means thinking about things in a neutral or positive way, instead of negatively. “We don’t have much control over the events around us, but we have almost total control over how we interpret them,” Epstein says.

Often, we make assumptions or blow things out of proportion, only to realize later that we were wrong. So, for instance, if your boss passes you in the hall looking surly without saying hello, don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that you’re about to get laid off. Rather, ask yourself whether he might have just received some bad news or was simply being absent-minded.

**We would just like to add that regular massage and acupuncture treatments are a wonderful way to reduce the amount of stress in your life!  B