Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Rock Love

I will admit it: I have a deep and insatiable love for rocks. My favorite place to commune with rocks is in the Naches River, which runs through the Wenatchee National Forest here in Washington State. My family has a cabin near the Naches and my favorite time to visit is in the summer when I can immerse my sun-heated body into the glacial-cold waters of the river. I spend hours (yes, literally hours) making rock pools in the river. My arms and legs become numb from the cold, but I don’t mind this. (This is great for shin splints and tendinitis, by the way!)

A friend once remarked to me as I was building, “I’ve never seen anyone take so much pleasure in stacking rocks.” It’s true! The rocks feel smooth and supple in my hands and I feel so strong lifting them in order to build the walls of my pool--even as the current threatens to knock my creation over. That’s the beauty of it, though: my pools are not stagnant entities, but rather art pieces for nature to do with as she pleases.

So, why all of this talk of rock love? Well, as it so happens, I have added rocks to my practice, but this time they are not as cold as glacial waters or as heavy as those from the Naches. These rocks are basalt stones, heated to about 120 degrees and used in massage. This healing modality is most often called Hot Stone Massage, but is sometimes also called Healing Stone Massage. In either case, the purpose is the same: to warm the body, to soothe the nervous system, and to aid in relaxation and healing.

Basalt is a “fine-grained rock of volcanic origin, dark gray, dark green, brown, reddish, or black in color. Basalt is an igneous rock, i.e., one that has congealed from a molten state.” Due to their high iron content, basalt stones retain heat for long periods of time, penetrating your muscles deeply and evenly, and helping to soften your tissues and to calm your nervous system. These stones have been smoothed naturally by the waters from which they came, so the shape, consistency, and texture of each stone is unique. I have small, thin stones to place in between your toes, as well larger stones for your back, which can retain their heat for the length of a massage. And I have many more sizes in between for the legs, arms, chest, stomach, shoulders and face.

Hot stones may be used to provide deep, soothing heat to your tired or tense muscles. The treatment is a combination of using stones stationary on the body to promote relaxation and to soften muscle tissue as well as used as part of the massage itself, providing warmth and aiding in the release of tight muscles by using the contours of the stones for some deeper work. Heated stones may also be used for energetic healing by placing hot stones on the seven major chakras.

When my own massage practitioner uses hot stones during my massage treatments, I always seem to go to a deeper level in my relaxation. The penetrating heat softens my muscles, and I am able to let my guard down. The weight of the stones is comforting to me, rather like the nurturing feeling I get when my cat sleeps on my belly or chest.

So, it pleases me to be able to “stack rocks” in my practice now, even if I am not immersed in 40-degree water, listening to that soothing rush of the river. My nature CD with the sound of rushing water will have to do until next summer when I can start building my rock pools all over again.

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