Nature’s Remedy

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Hot stone massages offer deep relaxation.  – By Jeanette Calo

The first sound you hear is the water quietly parting as a hand lifts out a smooth river stone. Drops trickle back into the pool of water as the stone cools ever so slightly. Then there’s a moment of peaceful silence before the warm stone—a small piece of nature—is massaged along your back, using its heat to relax the most tired muscles.

It’s hard to put into words the level of relaxation that accompanies a hot stone massage, although “bliss” comes to mind. In fact, the treatment has moved some to tears, says Erica Goodman, massage therapist and treatment coordinator for Spa Gregorie’s in Newport Beach.

“I’ve had people say they saw blue and imagined swimming with the dolphins—they just go to a different land,” Erica says. “It’s the most amazing treatment.”

A hot stone massage incorporates basalt rocks—or lava stones—that have been rendered completely smooth by the constant force of a river current. Heated in fresh water to about 200 degrees, the stones retain heat for greater periods due to their high iron content. For the treatment, a therapist will use these stones to gently massage the body, changing the stones out after they’ve cooled.  Unlike regular Swedish massages that may incorporate a hot towel, these hot stones retain their heat longer and are able to sooth a more targeted area, promoting tranquility and improving circulation.

“It’s strictly intended for relaxation. The heat from the stones soothes the muscle … but it’s not intended for deep tissue whatsoever,” says Erica, who adds that the treatment is not recommended for pregnant women.

During some hot stone massages—including the euphoric 75-minute treatment at Spa Gregorie’s—the therapist will place warm stones on key areas of the body known as chakras, energy points believed to affect harmony and balance. These areas include along the spine, the front center of the body and the palms of the hands. During the treatment, the therapist may even leave small stones between your toes and on your eyes to improve the flow of energy in your body.

Relax and Renew

In addition to helping to balance the chakras, there are also several physical benefits to stone massage, according to Vivian Henein, spa director at Newport Beach’s Island Hotel, which offers a 90-minute “Stone Therapy” session.“The heat from the stones radiates deeply into the muscle to provide stress reduction, deep relaxation and relief from physical pain,” Vivian says.

The use of hot stones originated with Native Americans, who used hot rock massages in purification and relaxation ceremonies. Hawaiians were the first to use lava stones for physical and spiritual healing, and therapeutic basalt stone massages were also prevalent in China. The treatment was not well known in the United States until Mary Hannigan, a renowned massage therapist developed a technique called “LaStone Therapy,” a trademarked treatment that incorporates both hot and cold stones.

Despite its ubiquitous presence, hot stone massages are not as in-demand as traditional ones.“They’re not as popular as normal massage, probably because people don’t know what it is,” Erica says. “They may not be educated on what the stone treatment can do and the benefits of it.”

Linnea Robertson, director of spa at The Balboa Bay Club & Resort in Newport, agrees. “They aren’t as popular as you would assume,” she says. “They are a fabulous treatment—however, most guests and members who are not familiar with the treatment, opt to stay with the ‘BBC Custom Massage.’ ”

The spa—which serves only resort members and guests—offers an 80-minute “Sea Stone Massage.” “It is not a massage that can be rushed,” Linnea explains. For an introduction to hot stones, the spa’s “Stone Spot Treatment” is ideal. It can be added into any 25-, 50- or 80-minute massage. “The therapist will use the stones in a particular area (such as) the back or the legs. It is not used on the entire body,” Linnea explains. “This is a great way to introduce someone to the Sea Stone Massage without the commitment of using the stones throughout the treatment.”

Lisa Esayian, the spa director for The Spa at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach, says the hot stone massage is ideal for a guest who is ready to try something new. “For people who are curious to go beyond the traditional Swedish or deep tissue massage, this seems to be the one treatment that interests them,” Lisa says. “We also suggest that our guests try the stone massage if they do not like the pressure of a deep tissue massage, but want a deeply relaxing and therapeutic experience.”

The “Terra Stone Massage” at Pelican Hill—available in 60- and 90-minute sessions—can be customized to reach the spa’s three intentions: relax, renew and invigorate, Lisa explains.“We have specifically-formulated oils to assist with deepening the guest’s preferred intention,” she says, “and our stones are engraved with the intention to further the journey into relaxing, renewing or invigorating their personalized experience.”


The following Newport Beach spas offer hot stone massages and other treatments:

Amadeus Spa
Fairmont Hotel 4500 MacArthur Blvd. 949-718-9588

Spa Gregorie’s Day Spa 200 Newport Center Dr. 949-644-6672

Bellagio Spa and Salon 21165 Newport Coast Dr. 949-720-9277

Body Design
210 Newport Center Dr.

359 San Miguel Dr.

Pure Blu
Newport Beach Marriott 900 Newport Center Dr. 949-720-7900

The Spa at The Balboa Bay Club & Resort
1221 W. Coast Hwy.

The Spa at Island Hotel
690 Newport Center Dr. 866-554-4618

The Spa at The Resort at Pelican Hill
22701 Pelican Hill Rd. S. 949-467-6800

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