Done with compassion and love, external snehana promotes a softening of the impurities and the release of negative emotions embedded deep in the body's cellular structure. If the massage strokes are done properly and focused towards one or more of the five terminal ends of the body, then terminal clearance can be achieved. Another form of Ayurvedic massage is shila abyhanga. In Sanskrit, shila means stone, abhy means to rub and anga means limb. Together, they form the word for stone massage. Heated stone massage is a form of thermotherapy, otherwise known as a form of swedhana, one of the modalities used during pancha karma - the internal and external rejuvenation and detoxification of the body, mind and spirit. Shila abyhanga can be traced to the ancient healing traditions of almost every culture.
One of the most popular ways to use heated stones in India is to wrap them along with herbs in a warm, moist cloth, creating a poultice. This poultice can be applied locally for joint or muscle pain. Large, flat warm stones, used with warm oil, can be glided across tight muscles. Specially prepared ashes of diamonds, rubies, and emeralds were ingested exclusively by the royalty of India along ago as part of pancha karma treatments. Stone healing belongs to the earth element, as the stones of the earth are the bones of the great earth mother Gaia. While ether's qualities are subtle, earth's qualities are dense. Reiki and other ethereal, gentle forms of laying on of hands belong to the ether and air elements. By introducing stonework into these healing treatments we bring in the earth element as well.
Ayurveda recognizes there are five directional flows within the body. Stone healing is most effective when the downward flow called apana vayu in the Sanskrit language, is activated. Apana vayu is associated with the first (muladhara) and second (svadhisthana) grounding chakras. Since stones belong to the earth element, they are the perfect vehicle for helping us reconnect with the earth's grounding, stable force. Ayurveda also recognizes five terminal ends with the body: the crown of the head, the ears, the genitals, the hands and the soles of the feet. Terminal clearance is a term that describes the release of toxins and residue at and through each of the terminal ends. This can be achieved by using gentle wringing and squeezing strokes, virtually pulling and pushing the toxins out of the body in the direction of one or any of the terminal ends. After gently wringing and squeezing, glide heated, textured stones with a firm pressure along the muscles towards the terminal ends. Move the strokes in the direction of the feet when gliding stones on the legs. This will activate apana vayu (directional flow towards the earth) and help anchor and ground the recipient. After performing terminal clearance, one must transform any negativity to golden or white light with the mind's eye and shake it out through your hands.
Once the body is clear, send breath and light though your hands and into the recipient during your gentle exhales, because Nature dislikes a vacuum. If you “vacuum" the toxins, there will be clear space within the pranic body that will need to be filled with light and compassion to prevent more toxins from filling the space. Stone Compression and Deep Tissue Work Compression therapy, using stones and sandbags, has a two-fold benefit. First, the application of compression initiates the relaxation response. Then, after the compression is removed, the body experiences an amazing sense of weightlessness and an incredible lightness of being. Compression immobilizes the muscle, so there is a surrendering that must occur on the part of the one who is receiving the therapy when he or she feels safe.
When the body stops twitching and wiggling to find comfort, only then can we attain the inner stillness we all seek. Sandbags create a perfect amount of pressure and can be heated on an oil heater. They are used to help re-educate parts of the body that are too far forward or backward, causing misalignment. Laying sandbags on the top of the thighs will encourage the femurs to ground more deeply into the hips sockets. It also helps redirect the energy downward by simply increasing body awareness in the legs. Finer-shaped stones can be used for deep tissue work and are ideal for opening blocked marma points or releasing acupressure points.
The heat at the tip of the stone helps penetrate the blockages. “Edging" is a simple deep tissue stone technique using the edge of the stone as a tool which glides along the muscle sheath with deep, slow pressure for myo-facial release. When the flat side of a stone is used in a continuous motion along muscles using copious amounts of oil and strong pressure, we simply call it “gliding. " In this case, the stone is used as an extension of the hand rather than a tool, which means the hands are held flat against the stone.
"Flushing" involves using the flat side of the stone as an extension of the hand. The heat, wide surface, and pressure will help flush out what was dislodged from edging. Flushing in the direction toward the feet affirms and activates the apana vayu (downward flow. ) The feet are considered one of the terminal ends of the body where excess and residual debris are stored and released into the earth.
"Cocooning" is another stone technique involving cryo-therapy and thermotherapy. During cryo-therapy cocooning, white quartzite stones are chilled and a stone cocoon is built around an over-heated, inflamed or swollen area of the body. Thermo-therapy cocooning involves building a cocoon of heated stones around a site or injury that is swollen or painful from stiffness or coldness within the body. Cocoons are applied at the beginning of each treatment and removed midway through for assessment and specific injury-related protocol.
The texture of the stone is crucial for deep bodywork. Basalt stones are often too smooth and spherical for deep, flat flushing or for intense edging. They are ideal for layouts supporting the neck and for light gliding on those who are sensitive to deep massage. New England sea stones consisting of mineral composites have the most texture and the best shapes for edging. Textured sea stones are velvety smooth, not slippery smooth. They are more porous, thereby giving them a high grip factor, enabling more control.
The integration of heated and chilled stones in massage therapy has become widely appreciated and accepted as an enduring, effective modality within the bodywork industry. The ancient form of healing has not resurfaced to replace the healing hand, but instead, to be used as an adjunct to enhance alternative and mainstream bodywork systems. Stones can be used as extensions of the hand or as tools, depending on the client and the desired effect. There is no right or wrong way to heal with stones because your intention transcends technique and protocol.
Trust yourself first. Lifestyle Recommendations There are specific bodywork techniques and lifestyle choices that pacify and calm the vata dosha, which is the wind (ether and air) element within the body. Since vata is the dosha responsible for motion within the body and the universe, care should be taken not to accumulate too much vata. Here are some vata soothing activities: Plan your meals to avoid becoming anxious, cranky and hungry. Eat at least one meal at the same time each day. Walk slowly, unless you are exercising. Walking more than 2 hours will irritate vata. Think positive thoughts and read daily affirmations. Avoid chatty people and long phone calls. Eat warm, unctuous foods, especially on cold, windy, dry days. Avoid scary movies. Go to bed at or before 10pm. Avoid being late or rushed. Avoid carbonated beverages. Surround yourself with soft things, i. e. , pillows, and friends who make you laugh.
Karyn Brower is a licensed massage therapist and a facilitator at Spa College . Over the last 10 years of using heated and chilled sea stones & crystals to heal her clients, she created a unique sequence and theory that integrates the beautiful science of Ayurveda and the art of heated stone massage (Shila Abyhanga) called Sacred Stone Therapy. She has presented this therapy on national TV, in many international and national spas and healing centers, and at the National Ayurvedic Medical Association annual conferences.