Ayurvedic (Abhyanga) Stone Massage

Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word meaning the ‘science of life’ and the ‘art of being’ or living in harmony with nature. What does the term shila abyhanga mean? In Sanskrit, ‘shila’ means stone, ‘abhy’ means to rub and ‘anga’ means limb. Together, they form the word for stone massage. Heated stone massage is a form of thermotherapy, otherwise known as a form of swedhana, a modality used during pancha karma (internal and external rejuvenation and detoxification of the body, mind and spirit). Shila abyhanga dates back thousands of years and can be traced to the ancient healing traditions of almost every culture. One of the most popular ways to use heated stones in India is to wrap them, along with herbs, in a warm, moist cloth, creating a poultice. This poultice can be applied locally for joint or muscle pain. Large, flat warm stones, used with warm oil, can be glided across tight muscles. The ingestion of specially prepared ashes of specific gemstones can be used for healing and reducing all three doshas. Diamonds, rubies, and emeralds were crushed, heated, prepared, and ingested exclusively by the royalty of India long ago as part of pancha karma.

During an interview with of Dr. Naina Marballi, BSAM, DAC, I discovered “Shila Abyhanga” was part of the doctoral curriculum at Bombay University in India. As a Ayurvedacharya graduate of Bombay University, Dr. Naina runs Ayurveda’s Beauty Care in NYC along with her gifted partner Amita Banjeree. When Dr. Naina visited Sacred Stone in Rhode Island and saw all the heated massage stones lined up in my 18 quart turkey roaster, she smiled and said, “I recognize this stone for the belly, and this stone for the….” and so on! 

Dr. Naina explains, “Stones push the oil deeper into the tissue, opening the pores and relaxing the tissue, making it more receptive. The heat from the stones is detoxifying and the snehan (oil massage) is rejuvenating.” 

The purpose of heated stone massage can be for cleansing, toning, conditioning, moisturizing, hydrating, detoxifying, rejuvenating, exfoliating and beautifying. Medically, heated stones can help burst and relieve boils and abscesses, reduce vata-type of pain in the body, nervine disorders, gas and bloating, sciatica and spondlylitis. 

"Every ingredient in the cosmos has a healing effect…every plant, flower, stone, leaf, bark, aroma and even vastu shastra….we just need to learn how to use them properly. Ayurveda simply uses natural ingredients from the kitchen and the garden for healing. Pills are not always the only remedy. Breath, sleep, diet and yoga are the four pillars of nourishment for the body, mind and soul. Ayurveda gives importance to beauty because the body is a sacred temple of the soul. Heated and chilled stones can be used on the face to impart a radiant glow and the marmas can be activated by firm pressure with small stones and crystals.” Dr. Naina

Why spin a warm stone on the body? "Energy travels more intensely as it spins." Richard Gordon, founder of Quantum Touch.

Velocity and intensity of energy is heightened when a stone is spun firmly on a body part, such as a chakra, which is a spinning wheel of light and energy center within the body. Spun slowly and with meaningful intention, a vortex can be created and healing can be activated within the physical and pranic body. Depending on the intention of the therapist and the direction of the spin, energy, thought, prayer, color or emotion can be delivered and/or released from the body more intensely. Knots in the muscles can be released effortlessly. Electricity spins as it travels. Bullets spin as they travel. Frisbees spin as they travel.

"Everything that exists has Being, has God-essence, has some degree of consciousness. Even a stone has rudimentary consciousness; otherwise, it would not be and its atoms and molecules would disperse. Everything is alive." Eckhart Tolle