Volcanic activity leaves a trail of hot lava that, upon cooling, form into basalt stones. Rainfall and river currents smoothen and flatten it over time. Basalt, or river stones, have found their place as healing stones that can hold and generate heat, penetrating tired and sore muscles.
One can experience this at the Moevenpick Resort in Mactan, Cebu. Its Spa del Mar, a European concept spa, offers an ocean view room with a private garden that holds a Jacuzzi tub with a view of the Mactan channel. One can enjoy the Jacuzzi before the massage by advising the front desk upon booking the appointment at least two hours ahead. A tub brimming with bubbles with white flowers afloat, it is a sheer sensual experience that sets the mood for the treatment to come. A garden encased in glass and an open roof showcases tropical foliage that provides just enough privacy while allowing for an ocean view.
While one is enjoying the hot water massage, the basalt stones are immersed in a hot bath of water long enough for it to retain heat during the hour-and-a-half massage. As a lava rock full of iron, its heat-retaining properties provide a long lasting ‘hot’ therapy as opposed to other natural heat therapies like leaves momentarily heated over a flame then applied to the muscles.
The masseuse is especially trained to handle the hot stone as it will be held directly by hand to apply pressure on the muscles. The spa supervisor trains and re-trains the staff to make sure they are well versed in their trademark standards for all the treatments. Every week, a refresher course is provided for the staff for all treatments to ensure quality service.
Knowing this, clients will feel a certain confidence that they would literally be in good hands. Before the treatment begins, clients are asked to provide their medical history to make sure that the massage is appropriate to their condition and any telltale medical red flags (pregnancy, recent surgery, arthritis, open wounds, blood clots, etc.) be consulted with the in-house doctor for a go-ahead. If so, they can choose from different plants and fruit essences for the hot stone massage.
THE ESSENCE OF OIL
According to Geraldine Felizardo, the Spa Manager, lavender oil releases stress and headache and helps speed up recovery from colds and influenza; orange oil de-stresses and relieves headaches while decreasing appetite; so does apple essence, while also helping to lower high blood pressure; rosemary leaves improve alertness and help release fatigue; eucalyptus oil aids in stress reduction and headache treatments, relieves muscular pain and improves respiratory functions, and, jasmine is a stress, headache and insomnia buster while stimulating cells.
At the start of the treatment, the oil or essence of choice is applied liberally all over the body to aid in gliding the stones over the skin.
The therapist ensures that the stone is warm and asks the client if he or she can tolerate the heat level of the stone by placing it on his or her palms. Then, a thin towel is placed over the body to moderate the heat depending on the tolerance level of the client. The other stones are strategically placed on top of other back and leg muscles while a particular area is being massaged with the hot stone. The sensation is that of a blanket of heat that suffuses the body, coaxing one into absolute relaxation.
The heat from the stone offers a welcome reprieve from knotted muscles that restrict the nerves, allowing for the smooth passage of energy from one part of the body to the other.
The masseuse will move the stones from the upper part of the back to the lower, the buttocks area, thighs and legs and stomach using different stone sizes depending on the area to be warmed. Smaller stones can also be placed between the toes.
The smooth stones glide over the muscles with the degree of pressure preferred by the client, thus, delivering a more acute treatment than just bare hands. The masseuse can apply light to moderate, or moderate to strong pressure using the hot stones.
The “slow rhythmic massage movements using heated basalt stones elicit physical and mental relaxation as well as spiritual connections to the earth’s energy. The placement of the stones rebalances energy while working stones release tension and bring you to a state of calm and relaxation of mind and body,” adds Felizardo.
At the Spa del Mar, the hot stone massage has proven to be very popular among local and foreign guests because the “treatment provides a therapeutic effect as it helps relieve colds, muscle aches, improves blood circulation and calms the nervous system. Stones give the powerful pressure to release all tension as it helps the therapist apply deeper pressure. The warmth of the stones provides the client a relaxing experience since this is very different from other massages which use only the hand for direct pressure. The stones afford a smoother and soothing flow,” she emphasizes.
The Spa has other treatments designed for the needs of different clients. Aside from massages, facials, body scrubs, body wraps, hand and foot treatments, waxing and baths are part of their services. Spa del Mar also offers the Spa del Mar signature massage, a combination of different strokes from Swedish massage, shiatsu massage, and Hawaiian Lomilomi strokes.