Skepticism

Crystal Power

A post by tkingdoll! What’s it been? A year? Too long, anyway. I will blog more, I promise. Starting with this.

Being one of those busy executive types, I like to indulge my stresses by going for regular massages. Once a month I let the expert fingers of Chantelle pummel my muscles into submission, and she and I have developed an excellent rapport. She knows just how much pressure to apply, and I don’t freak her out by making any soft moans or freaky squeaking noises. I tip her well and in return she doesn’t annoy me with small talk about where I’m going on holiday.

The beauty salon I attend is called, appropriately enough, Ego. They offer a full range of beauty treatments, many of which I’ve tried, and have so far been entirely woo-free. Until now.

I called last week to schedule an appointment, and Chantelle informed me that they had a new Hot Stone Massage which, she assured me, was amazing. I trust her, so took the recommendation without asking any questions. Plus, I figured it would be fun to try something new and frankly a bit scary-sounding.

Off I went for my Hot Stone Massage. At this point I will mention, for the benefit of curious male readers, that I do shave my legs and armpits for my masseuse but I don’t wear my best underwear. Normally I go straight in, strip off to naught but my knickers, and wait. This time, though, Chantelle asked me to complete a card of questions. They started well enough, a checklist of potential skin problems which could be aggravated by the hot stones. Then the next checklist was lifestyle-related. Do you suffer from anxiety, stress, anger, depression, sleeplessness, etc. A tiny alarm bell goes off at this point. Surely some of these require medical intervention, not oily rubbing? But I was then distracted by the hilarious combination of the next two questions:

Like your job? YES/NO

Dislike your job? YES/NO

I circled ‘NO’ for both, just for fun, handed back the card and went into the candlelit massage room.

The massage itself, which lasted for nearly 90 minutes, was indeed amazing. After being slathered in oil, I was massaged with large, smooth stones. Quite a sensation. Towards the end, Chantelle turned me over (under a towel, guys) and placed stones on my hips, stomach and forehead. I had my eyes closed so didn’t see exactly what she was doing, but after she put a pebble between each of my toes (I didn’t giggle), she said gently “I’m now going to realign your chakras with crystal healing. I’ve chosen amythest and topaz based on your questionnaire”.

OK, so I’ve been a skeptic for a good long while now. Long enough, you’d think, for a gut reaction to such a statement to kick in. I would expect my brain to make me leap up, stones flying everywhere, to cry “YOU’RE GOING TO DO WHAT?”. But…how could I? I would have embarrassed Chantelle horribly, undone all the great relaxation work, and spoilt my rather pricey massage. Plus, I was mildly curious. So I said “OK!” and let her do it.

The chakra realigning was about three minutes of the ninety. She took the stones from my body, one at a time, held them over me and tapped them twice each against the crystals. She told me that many people feel ‘zombified’ after this process. I wanted to point out that the combination of euphoria, dehydration and relaxation, plus a large dose of ‘I want to believe’, will produce the same effect with a dried dog turd as with the crystals. But I held my tongue because I was having a good time.

Chantelle was disappointed that I didn’t feel ‘zombified’. But I couldn’t lie to her when she asked me one thing: yes, I did feel fantastic, thanks. I attribute that to the massage, not the crystal healing, but would be very happy to volunteer as a massage subject should anyone wish to test the theory. I’ll even bring the pebbles.

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26 Comments

  1. For the record, the whole thing was £55 which is about four million dollars. Well, $110 actually. A regular massage is £45 so it cost me an extra ten pounds for the hot stones and the chaktastic healing.

  2. Meh, I would treat it as I do when Christians ask, "May I pray for you tonight?" with that look of "genuine" concern. I smile and tell them, "Knock yourself out!" I would have rolled my closed eyes, but I wouldn't have openly scoffed. It's harmless.

    I have a friend who is a masseuse and the spa for which she works has recently added the hot stone massage to their menu. She really hates doing it because she doesn't feel like she's giving any therapeutic benefit to her client. She'll be glad to know that at least one customer enjoyed it. It's always sounded a little silly to me.

    So why don't you go fully nude for your massage? You're covered anyway. I find it much more relaxing.

  3. Expatria, now that I'm over 40, they always find that my belts have stretched and need to be replaced :(

    I've had the hot rocks thing and it's quite nice.

    I've also had a masseuse tell me she would do some therapeutic healing–and wave her hands down each side of my body without touching me.

    Erm, I'm paying to be touched!!

  4. Well, I don't hold with all of this paying good money to have strangers fondle me. Bleah! Especially Woo-Woo Strangers!

    It all started when I complained to a friend that I'd had a lot of dirty breaks in life. Well, he promised he could clean and tighten my breaks, but that I'd have to stay in the garage all night. –Unfortunately for me, it was the garage of a Quantum Mechanic. All he did was align my quarks, recharge my electrons, and change my oil.

    …Though to be fair, he offered me a lovely dish of quantum pears as a snack….

  5. I love a massage and get one every month. They are great. The person that does mine is sort of a hippy but we have some good discussions (I'm a moderate) Do most massage therapist talk allot? We are always talking. Just wondering. I only striped down to my underwear I don't want to get out of her comfort zone.

  6. Well, if you wanna "zombify" ME, You'd better use 1 part white rum, 1 part golden rum, 1 part dark rum, 1 part apricot brandy, 1 part pineapple juice, 1 part papaya juice, ½ part 151-proof rum, and a dash of Grenadine syrup!

    –And lots of ice.

  7. I'm not sure about Chakra alignment but I'm pretty sure for $110 you could have a hell of a lot of fun at a good strip club. Something will be re-aligned, thought I doubt Chakra's will have anything to do with it.

    Sorry couldn't resist, this post was entirely to far out of the gutter. I felt someone ought to bring it back down.

  8. I don't argue with my beauty therapist about all the crazy things she believes but less out of a desire not to embarrass her than out of fear. This is a woman pouring hot wax on my body! I am not going to poke holes in her world view!

    Of course I am talking waxing not massage so it's not quite the same.

    I think in a massage situation speaking up would depend on my enjoyment levels. Waving hands above me isn't going to do anything but hot rocks sounds pretty good.

  9. It's SO hard to find a good massage – erm, excuse me, I mean "bodywork" – without woo. I've shopped around, but there isn't a place in my town that hasn't glommed onto that market trend. So I try to be terrifically clear, telling the "reservation specialist" that I want a good, solid BACK RUB, no aroma therapy, no crystals, etc. The person doing the "bodywork" must actually touch my body, preferably with as little chatting as possible. (I've found that the best way to avoid discussing my energy fields during the session is to tell them that I'm meditating.)

    Simply asking for this (instead of being "open") gets me categorized as "stressed" (not entirely untrue), for which the recommended treatment is either multiple short sessions with "light touch" (so as not to add pressure), or a long session alternating whirlpool, steam, and a seriously strong (if not pounding) massage. The first time I had the former treatment, I asked for my money back. As to the latter, well, THAT treatment I love. If I lived in LA, I'd go back to that place all the time…

    I once found a really great massage therapist, but she ran off with a rock band. The next best person "fired" me as a client, explaining (through the receptionist) that she thought we'd never make progress because I was "hostile" and "too resistant" to make a breakthrough. My resistance had showed itself when she tried to sell me something completely silly – a crystal pendant or a mojo bag or something that required belief in order to work. I responded with a fairly polite "no, thanks, that's not really for me." (Apparently, "hostile" means something new these days. ~sigh~)

    The last person spent 20 minutes of our hour long session standing me in front of a mirror and pushing down on my shoulder. (Silent, head tilted, humming.) Then she mimed an exercise – arm above head, palm high and flat, side of body fingertips to ankle bone pressed hard against the wall – and twitched her head "no" when I tried to imitate and failed. Finally, I asked when she would actually massage my back. She explained that I was "much too far out of balance" and that massaging my back would only cause further damage. So I turned around to leave, whereupon she decided we could risk it.

    ~fam, aka, Quasimodo

  10. Well, as a massage therapist who does NO woo woo bullshit at all, I tend to get the sports injury clients, the post surgery recovery folks and the people who like deep tissue stuff. I do get a lot of people asking me about stupid shit like reiki and crystals and reflexology, and I tell them, in nice explanatory terms, that it's useless flummery.

    I totally agree that if some "therapist" tells you that you need some weirdyass fluffy woo woo done to you, just leave and find someone who knows what they're doing.

  11. Ray, you are SO right. Alas, all I have is the dark rum and the grenadine. (But hot buttered rum sounds good right now…)

    BigHeathenMike, yet another reason to consider a trip up Nort'. Woo-free massage – woo hoo!

  12. 'Ere– I have a question, gang; I have seen Chiropractic villified by much of the skeptical/rational community. But I'm not entirely certain why.

    Many years ago, I used to see a chiropractor who simply dealt with back pain and joint problems. He also did a damn good massage. He never claimed to be able to cure colds or cancer or sexual dysfunction. And, when dealing with spinal problems, he was of the firm opinion that no more than 1kg of pressure per square inch was ever necessary. –Thus avoiding aggravating a person's injuries.

    Am I to understand that this person was unusual for a chioropractor?

  13. Basically yes, Rav. But not unheard of. The SGU interview with the chiropractor was pretty good at explaining the divisions within the field. Seems like the vast majority of chiropractors serve up some variety of woo, either buying completely into the innate intelligence stuff or at least the less metaphysical but equally wrong "nerve blockage" theory or else they offer up additional, unrelated forms of woo alongside the chirocpractic manipulation.

    However, there are chiropractors who dispense with the woo and offer chiropractic basically as a form of physical therapy. They're in the minority, probably less than 30% or so. (That's me quoting my half-remembered recollection of the number that the chiropractor gave on SGU, which was something of an educated guess on his part anyway rather than the product of a survey or something.)

  14. Rav,

    Yes. Yes you are. Many chiropractors are unable to escape the woo-filled foundations of their field. Your chiropractor sounds like a "straight", or one who is essentially a massage/physical therapist with a touch of a couple other fields.

    But, for instance, my father's chiropractor believes in all sorts of wacky connections between what he does with the back and what it can cure/fix. He's also really big into other woo-or-borderline-woo concepts like accupuncture, nutritional supplements, and "natural" medicine. And he isn't even as bad as many I've heard about.

  15. For the record, I'm enjoying my hot buttered rum right now!

    Is it a requirement that one must be into "sport" to make use of a "sports therapist"? Because I have my limits as to what I'm willing to do here.

    And as to the chiropractor (suggested by the waggish tkingdoll), I did try that once, through my HMO "complimentary medicine" branch. He quizzed me about why I was there, told me he couldn't help b/c my issues were muscular, and sent me on my way.

    Very odd for a chiro, I thought.

    (unrelated note – my first issue of my Skeptic gift subscription just arrived! Yippee!)

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