By Charu Suri


No one was born knowing what a hot stone massage feels like. In fact, I’m willing to bet that even seasoned athletes can only hazard a guess as to what such an exotic sounding treatment can do for their tired muscles.

Here’s fodder for the skeptic: I, a religious frequenter of spas and with a self-professed compulsion for a Swedish massage, hereby solemnly declare that once you’ve had a hot stone massage – there’s no turning back.

Sure, nimble fingers do wonders on wearied muscle and bone, but did you know that stones can prod deeper into the tissue without you feeling the pain that comes with a Sports Massage? Or that oil-coated stones are applied on chakra points (meridians) along the spine and on precise areas of the skin so that they ground the soul and soothe the mind?

I gathered a wealth of information when I visited the Oasis Day Spa in Manhattan (the Park Avenue location), where I had the good fortune to have a hot stone massage with the experienced and knowledgeable Chad Pilieri. Oasis is a personal favorite of mine: the prices are not intimidating; the staff is extremely friendly and experienced; and the amenities are top notch.

Before I began the experience, Pilieri gave me a synopsis of the treatment. He explained that the hot stones (which are soaked in water heated to a temperature of over 120 degrees Fahrenheit) are able to reach ten times deeper during the massage than through the use of mere fingers. “It’s definitely more intense than a regular Swedish massage,” he says. “It’s not for people who don’t like heat; and it represents the high end of ‘Western’ massages.” The hot stones are typically basalt (dark igneous rock from a lava flow), because they retain the heat well.

Oasis offers an atypical hot stone massage because they use both hot and cold stones to bring you to a relaxed equilibrium (the cold stones are marble). The use of extreme temperature variance brings your body to a state of homeostasis. The use of hot stones also flushes more toxins from your body than a typical Swedish massage. Swedish massages typically rely on the balance of temperature between the hot sauna and cold polar bear plunge, a process that promotes circulation, to try to achieve this state.

Initially, I lay face down until my back was thoroughly massaged by the hot stones, which Pilieri kept flipping so that even and consistent amounts of heat made its way to my aching muscles (you don’t really know he’s flipping the stones – it was done so seamlessly). This also serves to protect the masseur’s hands from getting burned. The best part of the massage was the balance of both hot and cold stones on the skin, which enabled my muscles to relax completely. I experienced a sense of weightlessness.

After an hour, I felt as though my body had stepped into ether. The stones on my spine, my palms, back and neck had been softly but thoroughly kneaded into every inch of tired muscle. I had never felt more relaxed and energized following a massage. Trust me, my next visit is just days away.

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Originally published October 2006



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