Paul Pritchford bring to light in his book Healing with Whole Foods that in Chinese medicine, a major functional concept is qi, also known as chi. A vital essence found in all things, qi has aspects of both matter and energy. The qi concept gives a measure for the vitality of a person, object, or state. In a person, good qi is manifested as an ability to accomplish all things, lack of obstruction in the body, better functioning of the internal organs, and so on. Qi exists in the body through 1) food; 2) our environment; and 3) the essence of the kidneys.
Basically, it’s our vitally and what we put in and put on our bodies affect our day to day levels of energy, mood, and health. Our daily goal, then, is to clear obstructions in order to maximize qi flow. With that in mind, know much of Chinese medicine uses the Five Elements to attune and harmonize the body. These are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water.
I wanted to touch on that so you know where I am headed as I talk a little about Hot Stone Therapy. I bring that up because, man, is it the season for it! Crazy, right? I wouldn’t think so either, but I feel will this cooler summer, cold is more prevalent and people are experienceing coldness and dampness and doing their best to get their fill of heat. Pritchford says that coldness is a associated with the Water Element. In the body it resembles ice: hard and motionless. Coldness causes contraction, so a cold person bends back or moves around with difficulty. Pain from cold can be intense and fixed in one place. Some symptoms of cold include chill sensations, dislike of cold, and an attraction to warmth. A person with signs of coldness will usually be overdressed and attracted to warm foods and drinks. Older people tend to be cold, and people who are transitioning to a vegetarian diet also show signs of coldness. It takes longer for a cold person to build warmth than for a hot person to lose excess heat. This may explain the desire for hot stones during our not-so-hot summer!
Hot stone massage is a natural therapy in which warmed stones are positioned on parts of the client’s body of to maximize the therapeutic benefit. The stones used are typically river rocks or other smooth-surfaced stones made of basalt. These stones are heated before use. Hot stone massages are beneficial on both physical and psychological levels. Check with your doctor before getting a hot stone massage though; pregnant women and people with high blood pressure are advised to avoid this type of therapy.
Muscle relaxation is one more added benefit of Hot Stone Therapy. The heat from the stones helps your muscles relax, allowing the massage therapist to manipulate your deeper tissues more effectively. Overly tense muscles can hinder the massage procedure, so if your muscles are extremely tight or stiff, the heated stones may provide the extra relaxation you need for the massage to be beneficial in releasing tension and easing sore muscles.
While all types of massage can help relieve pain caused by tense muscles, stiff joints or injuries, a hot stone massage may provide greater relief due to the intense nature of the massage. Because the hot stones allow the massage therapist to work deeper, you may find that a hot stone massage leaves you feeling so much better.
Typically, a massage therapist allows the heated stones to rest on trigger points in your body before beginning the actual massage. As the heat from the stones penetrates into your deeper body tissues, your blood vessels open, resulting in improved circulation. Poor circulation can lead to fatigue, which tenses the muscles, and a buildup of fluid and lactic acid in the muscles. Increased circulation delivers more oxygen to the muscles, which can help ease aches and pains, as well as move the beneficial qi.
Massage therapy can result in mental benefits as well as physical ones in many people. You may find that the relaxation afforded to you through a hot stone massage helps ease some of your mental stress and tension. A hot stone massage may also help you combat some of the symptoms of anxiety disorders and depression. While massage therapy is not a substitute for traditional medical or psychiatric care, it can be an integral part of your treatment plan for summer
Look here for more information on Paul Pritchford’s Healing with Whole Foods