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Hot stone massage paves the way to relief

I've spent a fair amount of time in operating rooms and doctor's offices this past year, and my wife, Judy, thought a little nontraditional healing was in order. After seeing hot stone massage on "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," she thought that might be my ticket (the massage, that is), so on a recent sunny afternoon she and I headed to the Abbott Center in Westwood to ease our pain.

 

While I was experiencing the laying of stones, Judy had a neuromuscular massage to ease sciatica that had been troubling her of late. (She declared her massage a complete success.)

Let's begin at the end. When I emerged from the massage room after my hot stone massage, still slick from the hot jojoba oil, I was mildly blissed out. I had never had a professional massage in my life (unless you count having a 9-year-old walk on your back) and really didn't know what to expect. While any adult with young children is likely to fall asleep quickly when laid out horizontally, the hot stone massage was much better than a nap.

There are many types of hot stone massage. The Abbott Center uses a technique known as Sacred Stone Healing. Like most such therapies, there's a philosophy behind it. According to an article by Sacred Stone Guru Karyn Chabot of Rhode Island, Sacred Stone Healing is "a harmonic collaboration between the client, the therapist, and the stones. The beauty of this therapy is manifested by the transference of deep compassion and trust between the therapist and the client. This compassion becomes imprinted in the matrix of each stone."

Come again? It's all a bit new-agey for my grounded sensibility, but the massage itself is otherworldly. Large and small stones are heated in water between 120 and 150 degrees, as is the jojoba oil. Terrie Grant, the massage therapist who worked me over, started placing large, heated stones under the small of my back, palms, and shoulder blades, and on my abdomen. She placed smaller stones between my toes.

Working one part of my body at a time, Grant delivered a luxurious relaxation massage using the jojoba to glide both her hands and hot stones over my half-century-old muscles. Then she had me flip over, lined hot stones along my spine, and repeated the relaxation massage on the back parts of my body. It took me a while to realize she was using stones to apply the massage; the occasional sound of two rocks tapping was the tipoff.

Now, a couple of practical suggestions. First, unless you work at Jiffy Lube, don't plan on going anywhere right after your hot stone massage, except home to shower. You will be sweaty and very greasy from the oil. Second, if a deeply relaxing massage puts you in the mood for a nap, don't (as we did) schedule your massage for just before school lets out.

Like most spas, the Abbott Center offers a range of services designed to alleviate muscle pain and stress and to promote healing. The Center's principal focus is neuromuscular therapy for pain relief, but personal fitness training, massage, aquatic therapies, yoga, and "transformational counseling" for those seeking to make major life changes are part of the repertoire.

We liked the casual, unpretentious feel of the Abbott Center, in founder Christina Abbott's comfortable Colonial-style home. If you want a hot stone massage in tonier surroundings, you could try Equinox at 85 Newbury St. or at the spa at the Boston Harbor Hotel. But expect to pay a bit more: A 75-minute session at the Abbott Center costs $85. At the Equinox, it's $125 for 90 minutes, and it's $110 for an hour at the Boston Harbor Hotel.

Jot down on the calendar An evening of terrific a cappella harmonies is on tap April 9 at 7:45 at the Unitarian Church, 309 Washington St. (Rte. 16), Wellesley. The show features Boston Uncommon, the Elements, Peking & the Mystics, and the Works. Suggested contribution is $10, $5 for children. Tickets available at the door. Contact: patrick@theworkssing.com or call 781-237-7858

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