So you want to include some form of hot rock therapy in your business? It is a wonderful treatment, you should investigate it. If you scroll down you'll find info on Stone, Stone Heaters and Courses with some links. The lists of links are only provided to help you research the subject. Listing a link does not endorse them in any way. All the following are my opinions, you may or may not agree with it. I urge you to do your own investigations beyond what I offer here.
This page is about the nuts and bolts of incorporating stones into your business. You can find the information on the energetic and etheric qualities of stones and stone massage from almost any stone massage site, you're probably finding lots of that kind of info already with no easy to find concrete facts of what you might be getting into. Hopefully this will answer some of your questions about the how to's around the stones.
I did my first stone course in 2000. Ever since I've been refining my treatments - I've come up with some ideas on my own, some I've found on the web. The following is some information I've collected over the years.
To help you decide if hot stones are for your business, consider the following:
Stone therapy is much more than just a massage with a few rocks. Rocks are placed under the body, on the body and are used for the massage. Crystals may also be used. All those rocks being placed means you need a LOT of stones. I use almost 20 under the back alone.
The rocks are heated in a water bath. If you have a lot of rocks, you need a lot of water bath.
Just on the practical physical level, hot stones add a LOT of set up and clean up time to a treatment. You need to provide a lot more than a good pair of hands and a massage table. You need to put the heater on at least 30min before the session. If you have another client in the room for a non-stone treatment beforehand, you need to heat up the stones before they are in there. I suppose it is a more complicated version of having wax pots ready, or having the paraffin dip for a manicure on. You need to gather the stones together, put the stones in the heater, add the water to the heater. Afterwards you need to clean the stones and empty the water. Depending on what you have in the water (from spa sanitizer to nothing) , you may or may not need to empty the water between clients, but I usually do because the water does get a bit on the oily side and I am a bit oil-phobic. I allow 30min between clients, and that can still be a bit on the frantic side. At least the heater doesn't need to warm up from cold. Once you get past the heating/cleaning challenges, there is also the energetic care of the stones required - putting them outside really does help them hold the heat. Maybe it is just putting them somewhere cold make something shift so they heat better, or it is the moonlight, whatever you choose to put it down to, they do need to go outside every now and then, like changing the oil in a car. Then you have to bring them inside.... The stones make deep work much easier for the therapist and more comfortable for the client, and make the treatment incredibly relaxing for the client, but the setup and care of the stones, does add to the therapist's load.
You don't need to get into the energetic new agey side of stones to get results, but it can help explain results to clients. You know your market, you know what they will accept, you decide how new agey to make the explanation of the treatment. I don't cover the energetic aspect of the stones in the following, that info is easily available elsewhere.
Recently there have been reports that natural
stones are not safe because they heat unevenly leading to burns - it is not the
stones that burn, but heating incorrectly and using them for placement/massage
incorrectly. If you are heating wax for hair removal in a rice cooker and applying
it directly on a clients legs you would expect the wax to burn, it's the fault of
the technician heating the wax incorrectly. If stones are heated to that same
temperature they will burn. If you use equipment that heats to a safe temperature,
using stones, or any other instrument, is safe, it's the temperature that is the
concern, not the material.
Heaters and other supplies
At long last, someone is importing heaters without a ridiculous mark-up. The most affordable (less than $200) and reliable stone heater we have come across is the Firm 'n' Fold 18 Litre Massage Stone Heater " They've got distributors all over the place, so you can probably avoid shipping, and makes warranty concerns easier. They have an enameled coating, easy to clean, without any non-stick concerns.
I'm leaving the rest of this info here to see the alternatives and why some of the alternatives aren't recommended......
Rock heating supplies in Australia
are not cheap - basically you're using commercial food equipment. You
can use electric fry pans or crock pots, but they just aren't big enough
to be practical for a full treatment. If you just want a few warm
rocks to rub on someone's back, they will probably suffice.
I've been told about someone using a $99 chaffing dish with 2 flame burners underneath working very well - for an occasional treatment, working from home, it is probably a good option. I've seen these at kitchen shops in shopping centres (Victoria's Basement etc). In a professional clinic environment, naked flames, going all day.... not so sure, but possibly a place to start. I have also seen chaffing dish electric heaters where you can convert a naked flame burner chaffing dish to electric, but these were in the $300 range anyway - I think I'd just go for the electric chaffing dish if I wanted to upgrade. Your local supplier might have different equipment.
The chaffing dish operates in the same manner as what is sold as professional stone heaters. These are what "turkey roasters" look like, often with a more clinical stainless steel exterior. The advantage of a chafer over a stone heater is that a chafer is designed to work at a much lower temperature - than a turkey roaster. The turkey roasters do have more control over low temperatures than a rice cooker/electric frypan/crock pot/etc BUT the chafer has even more control - they are specifically designed to keep food WARM, not to cook it. I recommend an appliance that is designed to function around 50-60degC reliably rather than heating to a higher temp and hoping you can cool the stone down to the correct temp when you want it with bowls of water/leaving it sitting on the counter top/etc. The "stone heaters" all seem to have non-stick interiors, but their inserts can be changed. (as mentioned above this is old info left here for historical purposes, the Firm 'n' Fold 18 Litre Massage Stone Heater ioes not have a non-stick interior end of concern)
Another alternative I use when I just need a few stones for a facial or pedicure, is a paraffin heater. Paraffin needs to be heated to the same temp as hot stones, perfectly controlled. Points to consider:
And I will just make a few comments about fry pans/rice cookers/
crock pots as heaters - I think it ends up looking a
bit like a home kitchen. Do you really want your clients thinking "I've got that fry pan"
when they enter the treatment room? But they
are a cheap option, easy to obtain, easy to clean, easy to handle, easy to replace,
but they are designed to keep food above the temp used for heating
stones, their thermostats don't function really well at lower
temperatures. You may find a particular brand that does work well around the 60deg mark, but most of them seem
to like being 80deg or more for "warm" - TOO HOT for stone massage.
Other supplies to consider:
You're not going to find stones out in nature around Sydney, Australia - we're in the middle of a sandstone basin, almost anything you pick up with start dissolving in hot water. If you are in a sandstone area you'll have the same problem. You want basalt or granite. From Sydney it means a road trip, and I don't really know where. Or it means you purchase stones.
The stones I use are not hand collected by me, reportedly hand collected by the suppliers. Most of my stones comes from AML and LaPolar Stones in US. Both provide hot and cold stones. There are a LOT of other suppliers, and a lot cheaper. Best to find out where someone else got their stones and if they are happy (I'm happy with AML and La Polar).
Shipping from the US is silly. It is very expensive, you can't get round it, but there is a cheaper expensive option rather than the expensive expensive option (FedEx, UPS, DHL etc are EXPENSIVE). USPS (US Postal Service) have always been less than half what an international courier charges. Not all suppliers will deal with USPS (after all they have to visit the post office rather than have the courier pick it up), and some will give you UPS prices when you ask for USPS (that first S makes a huge difference in the price). I now include the link http://ircalc.usps.gov/default.aspx?Mode=Intl_Single&CID=10013 so they know exactly what I mean. With the rising cost of petrol, shipping from the US seems to have gone up even MORE!!!!! Airfreight shipping is now a LOT cheaper (April 07) Basically, from America (where most natural stone sets come from), there is a 20lb (9kg) standard box that will ship for $60 US, 9kg means the stones are small, you can get a lot of small stones for 9kg, you can't get many stones a decent size to work with for 9kg, so if a set of stones air-freighted from America to Australia has shipping of around $60US, the stones will be small. (eg LaStone sets are about 12-15kg for 54 stones, I've had 66 piece stone sets from elsewhere that weigh 7kg , 58 stone set weighing 8kg ) Decent sized stones, mean more weight, mean hefty shipping.
You can get very smooth stones (most of the ones on the market),
and you can get very rough
ones. Smooth stones are usually basalt, and they often have had a bit of machine tumbling.
A fairly smooth stone with a bit of texture can make it easier for the
therapist to hold the stones, which is particularly important when you
get into deeper work on the muscles, you don't want a glass smooth stone
that will pop out of your hand when you are working a trigger point. Rougher stones may be found as
is. There's smooth as silk smooth and slightly textured smooth,
either smooth with some natural cracks, or a bit more texture. By
rough I mean something almost approaching a pumice stone, if you rub the
stone on your arm and a cloud of white dead skin cells comes off, THAT'S
what I mean by
rough. They can be good for exfoliating and dragging stuff out on an energetic level too.
The problem with rough stones is that you definitely get a lot more skin cells stuck in the rough
surface of the stones. You need more oil because you get a lot more oil stuck in
the rough surface. There is no way you could go from using a rough stone on one client to using it on
another client without a scrubbing brush being involved with the stone in-between, regardless of how much
"kill nasty organisms" you put in the heater water. Smooth stones you can, if you're comfortable with it.
Almost all the stones I use are smooth, but I have a couple of really rough ones which I
sometimes use - but I tend to only use the rough ones if I have no other stone bookings that day, so they get
the good scrub at the end of the day. A set with a variety of textures allows you to work with
the right stone for the job.
Bit of self promotion - we now have stone sets available to purchase, hot stones, some cold stones, and crystals :) Click here for details
eBay - yes there are lots of stone sets available on eBay, are they any good? Some are, some are not, you've got to be lucky, I've heard more disaster stories than positive ones. There are just too many sellers to be able to keep up with the good ones and the bad ones, some of the good ones over the last few years have stopped selling on eBay, most of the bad ones seem to be still doing it, and there are always new sellers that think they can put a few stones from the garden centre together and sell them to someone as a hot stone massage kit. Only buy from someone with good feedback from BUYERS - you will find a lot of eBay profiles with high feedback, and most of that is from purchases they have made, they haven't sold to many people. Buying from America, you will have expensive shipping.
Phenomenal Touch US site
Hahana Stone Massage based in Queensland. They also provide training
LaStone based in the US but with trainers out here, in Sydney, NSW (me!), will travel. Stones are more expensive than other suppliers in Australia, but are exactly what you need. They've been working with hot stone massage since 1993, they know what works.
Firm'n'Fold Massageequip and Yogastore the stones are carved, and cheap, I think these are the Rub Rocks carved sets. I'm not fond on the cut up coffee table with smoothed out edges aspect of the stones, I like a bit more variety in the shapes and sizes I work with, but they're cheap enough to be a good starter set. They do have cold stone sets at a very reasonable price
Stone Eagle Massage Stones carved sets, as said above, I like a bit more variety in shapes and texture. These are EXPENSIVE, but they are hand carved in Australia, rather than overseas, support Australian made?
Advance Massage Australasia in Queensland look very similar to Stone Eagle now.
Stone Journey US company these actually look pretty reasonable, never seen them
Stone Temple Institute US company. Stone sets look quite good. No sign of shipping as I type this, though it may get added soon. They have a student forum where you can get questions answered, you don't need to be a student. The Student Forum has a lot of answers to stone questions - a lot of nuts and bolt questions.
Rub Rocks US company again. Will only use FedEx, ridiculously expensive shipping to Australia)
AhhhMuse US company suppliers of crystals for Crystal Light Therapy, one of the LaStone courses.
Hot Stone Hut US company, mixed reports on service but the stones seem to be good, supply stones fro Sacred Stone in the US
DON'T let people send you oiled stones!!!! They are absolutely revolting, and oiling your own stones is part of getting to know the stones, plus, every single pre-oiled stone I've seen has had some really cheap nasty rancid oil on it and it was horrible - felt sticky and smelt rotten. It is a LOT of work getting rancid oil off stones.
How to Learn
There are a lot of bad and mediocre stone therapists, and there are some good ones. Go get treatments and figure out what you think works or not. Once you find one that you think is truly outstanding - find out their training. They might be prepared to share similar information to what I've got on this page. By receiving treatments you can figure out what can go wrong and avoid it. Stone massage is such a new modality to Australia, personal experience counts for a lot.
This is not a technique you can pick up off a video or a book - working with the stones feels very very strange to start off with, without either an experienced mentor to work you through it or formal courses, you won't believe how hot or how cold the stones can actually be. Getting treatments is one way to get a bit of an idea, working on someone that knows what it should feel like and can give you honest feedback is another. Practicing on friends and family, or even other therapists you aren't going to get good feedback, because they don't know how good it should feel. The stones are tools in your hands, you can expect to pick up a piece of equipment and be able to use it without a bit of hands on guidance. Have a read of this article for another view.
From another article "It does not matter how long one has been a therapist, the stone will be an equalizer in class because the student therapist has to massage with that stone as though it is an extension of his hand. This process will take time before the stone can be one with the therapist's hand. The therapist will need time to adapt the stone into the flow of his work. When this time is not taken, the therapist will not develop the technique properly."
So get to a course! I've done training with LaStone and Sacred Stone Australia Sacred Stone has more of an Ayurvedic slant, teaching how to handle the stones, stone placement, and a massage routine; LaStone teaches you how to handle the stones, stone placement and works with you to incorporate stones into your existing massage technique that you are already comfortable with. If you are already a massage therapist, you may prefer to spend more time working with the stones than having to worry about a new massage routine as well. The LaStone basic body training is directed at experienced bodyworkers, familiar with massage. Sacred Stone does accept healers with no hands-on bodywork experience into their massage classes, so there are lots of different levels of experience. This also applies to some of the other courses - make sure they are directed at the level you are expecting.
I don't think you can walk away from a 2 day workshop and be comfortable with working with stones - they feel soooooo strange to start off with, you're used to feeling the soft tissue through your hands and someone says put a 5cm thick stone in your hand and work that same soft tissue? You've got to unlearn some of what you think you need. You need either a longer course and/or commit to do a few practice sessions afterwards - it is not a technique you can do a one or 2 day course finishing on Monday and be comfortable charging clients on Tuesday, regardless of what anyone says Like any technique, once you've mastered using the tools, you will be able to go off and get videos and books and learn more ways to differentiate yourself.
LaStone are now running 2 day courses, Simply Stones, You learn a short version of a LaStone Original Body treatment. If you later do Simply Stones Extended it takes you to the same level as the 4 day Original Body course. A 2 day course is an introduction to stones, just be aware you there is a lot more to learn than can be covered in 2 days, but 2 days will give you a start. if you plan on doing a 2 day course, make sure they offer a next level so if you decide you want/need more info you can get it.
I'd say one of the most important things you should do before getting training is go get a treatment from a few practitioners (best not the actual trainer, you want someone they have taught) - from the one you're thinking of using and someone else. Compare the treatments. If you don't like the practitioner that trained with the company you are considering, go to another one (practitioner or trainer). Pretty much all the trainers will try to sell stones/heaters which will almost always cost more than the training. Add training and stones and heaters and it is a BIG investment. It is worth the expense of getting a few treatments beforehand. Most people working with stones, outside of a 5 star resort where it can all be a bit of a production line, will be happy to talk stones.
There is other hot stone education in Australia, but a lot of it is a standalone complete 2 day workshop - I'm not comfortable with learn everything you'll ever need to learn in 1 or 2 days, but here are some links to some sites, do your own investigation....
LaStone Therapy based in US but has a trainer in Sydney (me). international guest lecturers also come out occasionally (stone therapy reflexology , stone therapy lomi lomi, stone therapy manicure and pedicures, stone therapy facials, etc) but do run classes elsewhere in Australia 4 day course, highly recommended They also run courses through the International Dermal Institute at various locations around the world. More shameless self promotion :) I'm the Sydney LaStone trainer.... Click here for details. Currently I'm the only LaStone trainer in Australia, I am prepared to travel. I would also like to say that all of this info on this page is available for free here, think of the level of info available on a course I offer..... this page is pretty much written in the style of how I teach, if you're still reading this page, you're probably ok with my presentation style :) There are not many instructors prepared to let you see so many 'secrets' before you even sign up for a course.
ili ili stones I've not heard anything about them, but they are loosely associated with Mette's Institute of ka huna bodywork and they are good, so I'm assuming these are good by association. If anyone wants to expand on that, let me know....
Advance Massage Australasia Gold Coast 3-4 day
Hahana Stone Massage Queensland again, but offers training Australia wide, 2 day course, good reports from course trained by Phil. Trainers in Sydney/Melbourne elsewhere soon (I'd be looking for someone with experience performing the treatment to actually teach me rather than someone who doesn't .)
Lithos Therapy based in Queensland! but training all over the place - they don't actually use stones, they use carved marble, which they call 'rock instruments', annual fees to stay a registered practitioner (may not be required any longer), rock instrument sets now priced in a more affordable price bracket (they used to be VERY expensive when there was minimal competition).
Central Springs School of Massage and Holistic Therapies Based in Guilford in Victoria, halfway between Castlemaine and Daylesford. Closest major city is Melbourne. 2 day course
Touch In-Massage courses are run at Byron Bay, NSW. The training page says 'coming soon', but that page was last updated in 2005......
Blue Mountains TAFE is now running a 1 day hot stone massage class called Hot Stone Therapy, either over one day or 2 evenings.
Art of Touch Melbourne, one day course, training may not be what you are after but the food is good (this is feedback from multiple students) uses crock pots.
Genisis Bodywork Brisbane, 1 day course
I'll update as I find more. If you know of any links for where to learn hot stone massage in Australia, schools, training, details on courses etc, please let me know (email that is info at melmassage.com) and I'll add them here.
Books Videos etc
Here are some easy links to books you might find interesting. The Amazon prices are in US dollars.
Sacred Stone Heated Stone Massage videoes (NTSC) these are good, I've got a copy, contact me, email , might be able to lend it to you or something.
Australian Bush Flower Essences home of the White Light essences
Stone Temple Institute includes stones and videos, the first video is not a bad place to start to give you an idea of what happens in a stone massage (the videos DVDs can be found in the Amazon links above). It's 80minutes long, so covers quite a bit compared to some of the available 24minute videos! They use frypans to heat the stones with. I've got a copy, contact me, email , might be able to lend it to you or something. As said before, I think you need either a good mentor or a good class to really get an understanding of working with the stones. A video is just not going to give you enough info. BUT it is a good refresher, and may have some new ideas you like. The second video has some interesting techniques for using stones, nothing about how to heat/clean/etc as that's all in the first video. The presenter speaks VERY slowly.
A review of a Bruce Baltz video - recommended as something to get AFTER you have done some training. Finally got this - it is the best video I've seen on hot stone massage, but I will go along with the 'get it AFTER you've had some training' line. The subtleties that he is sharing won't sink in if you're trying to learn hot stone massage from this video (and it doesn't cover the basics anyway). Very, very, very informative. Pricey to get hold of in Australia (RRP is $60US, add the shipping....) I think he was still associated with LaStone when this was made, it sort of will give you an idea of the level of knowledge in LaStone training (and why a one day course isn't enough). I've got a copy, contact me, email , might be able to lend it to you or something. Other than my LaStone training and my stones :) , this video is the best investment I've made in hot and cold rock massage, so far. The information is presented in a very factual way, still with the utmost respect for the energies of the stones, treatment and client.
Stone Pages BIG stones, well not THAT big, but guide to European megalithic sites, something a bit different :)
I know this is the internet, and as such most people think they can take bits of info from anywhere, put it together and claim it as their own. I'd appreciate it if you let me know if you're "borrowing" some of what I've presented here, not worried about credit for it, I just would like to know it's been recognised as that useful. (email )
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