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The magic of hot stones

Shauna Farnell
Bret Hartman/Vail DailyTiana Nixon, a message therapist at Allegria Spa at the Park Hyatt in Beaver Creek, gives Inga Cox a hot stone massage. Incoporating the stones provides deep muscle penetration as well as energizing the body with something that embodies all of the elemental forces of nature: earth, water and fire.
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Placing rocks under one’s back might not seem like the first ingredient to relaxation. But things aren’t always what they seem.Stones have held a certain fascination with the human race from the beginning of time. They’ve been used to build walls and houses. They’ve been configured to predict the future and read the stars. People have found solace in stone gardens, stone soup and even pet rocks.Stones encompass all of the elemental forces of life. They are buried in and born from the earth. Water passes over and through them and they not only sustain all forces that destroy life-forms, but are transformed and beautified by them.The power embodied in stones can be absorbed by the body, and just about every spa in the Vail Valley knows it.

The techniques of hot stone massage vary with each one, but the general philosophy as to how stones serve to heal and comfort the body are basically the same.”The use of stone is very innate to us,” said Drew Musser, membership and sales director at Allegria Spa at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, whose hot stone massage is one of the most popular of its dozens of treatment offerings. “If you think about how people like putting stones in the house because of the tranquility they provide, they have an unexplained ability to draw toxins out of the body,” Musser said.The hot stone massage at the Park Hyatt begins with the strategic placement of four egg-sized stones under the back, under the muscles and away from the bones. The heat from each one soaks into the muscles until the rocks feel like part of the rib cage.

“It corresponds with the meridians,” said Allegria therapist Jenna Palmer. “The body has varying levels of energy points. The way a meridian works with Chinese medicine and acupuncture, they work on a belief that energy can get blocked or be too great in some areas. It’s this huge, interconnected system.”The heat from the rocks seeps into the body’s core.”For the meridians, the stones are there to energize the body,” Musser said. “They soothe certain pressure points with that nice, warm force.”The therapist then uses the hot, oiled stones in the heel of his or her palm, almost as an extension of the limb, to pass deeply along the legs and thighs, the heat and pressure providing a surprisingly deep muscular massage without the pain and uncomfortable weight application of a more traditional massage.

Small, warm pebbles are placed between the toes and hockey puck-sized stones are placed over the navel and along the center of the abdomen and chest before being applied to the back, neck and hamstrings when the client, who will be hard-pressed to stay awake, turns onto his or her stomach.When it is all finished, the muscles are almost trembling in relaxation.”The stones bear a special energy,” Musser said. “The rock itself absorbs bad energy and helps muscles re-energize. It’s a natural cleansing. It’s like a re-entrance into the ground. The heat really goes deeply into the muscles. And people barely know it’s happening.”Vail, Colorado


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