The thinking is this: smooth basalt stones, used for their heat-retaining properties, are placed along the spine and manipulated by the massage therapist to follow the contours of your muscles. As well as offering the recipient soothing pressure on a work-weary body, the penetrating warmth helps to relax the muscles, making them more pliable and receptive to deep tissue massage.
I put myself in the hands of Tommi Sliiden at the Joshi Clinic, within an elegant London townhouse. With white rose oil burning, chandeliers, wood-panelled doors and an air of hushed calm, I wasn’t surprised to learn that Joshi is the guru of choice for a host of celebs including Gwyneth Paltrow, Patsy Kensit and Ralph Fiennes.
My blissed-out hour-long treatment combined hot stones, cupping and conventional massage – Tommi always tailors the massage to focus on specific areas of the body that need more attention.
A former professional dancer, Tommi trained as an osteopath, Pilates instructor and masseur after arriving in London from his native Sweden (where, interestingly, Swedish massage doesn’t exist). Tommi treats a lot of dancers, acrobats and other performers, and with a background in dance he can relate exactly to their needs.
As an osteopath and pilates instructor, Tommi has good knowledge of the body’s anatomy and musculo-skeletal makeup, which meant he was super adept at isolating which of my muscle groups needed work.
Long sweeps of the deliciously hot basalt stones across my back, shoulders and legs were followed by localised massage where needed. Some areas were very tense, but using the stones first allowed Tommi to massage them very deeply without (too much!) discomfort.
He also offers cupping, a massage technique that involves placing glass cups over various areas of the body then lifting them – the suction helps to ‘unlock’ areas that may be congested.
He used the analogy of lasagne – layers of fat, muscle, bone, blood vessels, veins in the body which can become stuck together. Cupping separates the layers. My left hip was particularly congested and felt very tender during the cupping bit, but I could feel the beneficial effects immediately.
Why not go for a straightforward massage? Of course, you can, but if you are arthritic or have backache or just feel that your body needs some TLC, the stones and cupping add that extra bit of oomph to the experience.
One hour with Tommi costs £120.
The Joshi Clinic
57 Wimpole Street
Tel: 020 7487 5456
Image by Witches Falls Cottages courtesy of Flickr