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The Art of Indian Head Massage

Indian Head Massage

Indian head massage is said to be both a science and an art. It offers many benefits such as keeping hair strong, lustrous and healthy and provides relief for conditions such as tension and migraine headaches, insomnia and disturbed sleep, stress and related illnesses and tense back, shoulder and neck muscles. Indian head massage is a wonderfully relaxing therapy which leaves you feeling peaceful, calm, refreshed and rejuvenated restoring natural harmony and balance to mind, body and spirit.

What is Indian Head Massage and where did it come from?

Indian head massage is a combination of massage strokes and techniques which will vary from therapist to therapist, hence the reference to it being both a science and an art. Each stroke or touch affects the mind, body and spirit in some way and balanced with the way in which the stroke or touch is applied creates the art. Every therapist will bring their own energy to it.

Indian head massage comes from the Vedic wisdom of Ayurveda; the ancient system of healing which originated in India thousands of years ago. Traditionally, in India, a head massage is given from birth using oil. As well as increasing circulation the gentle touch of a mother massaging her baby is both soothing and comforting. Their energy will intertwine; resonate.

Most people are familiar with the ‘soft spot’ located at the top of a baby’s head. Known as the fontanelle this membrane covered opening is the space between the two bones of the skull which do not fully join until the infant is around 9 months old. During this first stage of a baby’s life because of the fontanelle, head massage with nourishing oils can directly affect the nervous system, which in turn benefits the development and functioning of both the brain and the eyesight. Indian mothers will also often place an oil soaked piece of cotton on their baby’s head to provide as much nourishment to their brain as possible. Traditionally sesame, mustard, coconut, almond and olive oils were used. In the present day therapists utilise the healing properties of essential oils which bring many other benefits to the head massage treatment.

Around 80% of the population of India live in small rural villages where the tradition of Indian head massage is very much a part of every day life. Head massage is an enjoyable family and social activity and its skilful art is passed down from generation to generation. It is not just limited to family life and indeed in India barbers used to offer ‘champi’ which means head massage as well as a hair cut. Interestingly the English term ‘shampoo’ derives from the Hindu term ‘champi’.

What are the other benefits of Indian Head Massage?

Regular Indian Head Massage Treatment will:-

  • strengthen the central nervous system and assist all the systems of the body restore and renew themselves;
  • increase energy levels;
  • provide relief from tension and migraine headaches;
  • lower blood pressure;
  • bring about immediate feelings of peace, relaxation and calm;
  • provide relief from stress, anxiety, depression and other stress related conditions;
  • increase oxygen and glucose supplies to the brain resulting in optimum brain functioning and higher levels of clarity and concentration;
  • increase blood flow resulting in dissolution of accumulated toxins within the body;
  • provide immediate relief to aching, stiff and tense deep and superficial muscles located in the upper back, shoulder and neck areas;
  • enable energy cleansing and balancing of specific marmas (pressure points) located in the head;
  • stimulate the three major head chakras helping to restore and balance mind, body and spirit;
  • promote hair growth and hair lustre;
  • reduce premature balding and greying;
  • promote calm and relaxed sleep encouraging a natural sleep pattern;
  • maintain electro-chemical balance which provides rejuvenation and longevity;
  • increase the secretion of hormones necessary for the growth and development of the brain

The stresses and strains that our modern day living puts on us means there is little time for complete relaxation. Many people don’t allow themselves the time or space to rejuvenate and to restore the natural and harmonious balance that is essential for a healthy mind, body and spirit.

A shocking 75% of all visits to the GP are stress related and ailments such as digestive disorders (IBS, diarrhoea, constipation), ulcers, insomnia, high blood pressure, mood swings, hypochondria, disturbed sleep, loss of appetite and headaches to name but a few can all be attributed to stress.

In seeking relief for stress related conditions people become more aware of the underlying causes of their stress and so in addition to being a highly effective therapy for relieving stress, head massage also enables people to become more self aware and thus healing can take place from within resulting in good personal energy.

Indian head massage can be provided with or without oils. Using essential oils will:-

  • strengthen hair
  • remove dryness which causes brittle hair
  • soften the skin/scalp
  • delay hair loss and greying
  • encourage healthy hair growth
  • nourish the scalp
  • condition hair leaving it soft and shiny
  • manage dandruff
  • eliminate (sometimes instantly) itchy and flaky scalp
  • reduce brittleness caused by colouring, perming and treating
  • help relieve insomnia, eye strain and tension and migraine headaches.

Each individual essential oil brings its own unique healing properties to the head massage treatment.

Marjoram is particularly effective in treating both migraine and tension headaches.

Lavender is very calming and soothing, perfect for insomnia, aches and pains.

Frankincense has the ability to slow the breath and so is the ideal choice for anxiety and stress related conditions.

The therapeutic properties of Clary Sage are antidepressant and calming making it good oil for Indian head massage.

The choice of oil will be dependent on the conditions and symptoms of the individual. Often a massage blend can be used containing many essential oils which will not only enhance physical and emotional benefits but add to the health of the hair.

How is Indian Head Massage performed?

The beauty of Indian head massage is that it can be performed at anytime and anywhere!

Whilst some therapists provide Indian head massage in a salon setting often lying down or using a massage chair, providing the space is clean, relaxing and peaceful all that is required is a comfortable chair with a low back (the head massage begins in the middle of the back). This makes it the perfect ‘lunch break’ therapy or alternatively in the comfort of your own home. Traditionally Indian head massage is performed with the person receiving the massage sitting upright on a chair fully clothed but this will vary from therapist to therapist.

Whether the room for head massage is in a salon, a therapist’s home or the client’s home, the therapist will prepare the room with relaxing music, dim lights, candles and a burner with relaxing Aromatherapy oils which usually compliment those used in the head massage.

The massage begins at the 10th thoracic vertebra and using a combination of massage strokes such as petrissage (finger tip pressure), effleurage (thumb sweeping), kneading and hacking clears the flow of energy to the head making it more susceptible to the massage. By rubbing, squeezing, manipulating, kneading, massaging and tapping the muscles and marmas, which as previously mentioned, are pressure points located throughout the body, in this case in the upper back, shoulder, neck and head, the central nervous system is strengthened. The central nervous system impacts on all the other systems of the body and so an Indian head massage gives the effects of a full body massage.

Therapists have their own massage sequence, techniques and strokes. As a rule of thumb this begins with the back, moving to the shoulders, upper arms, neck, head, ears and face finishing with a cleansing and balancing of the subtle energy system known as the chakras.

Although not all therapists practice chakra/energy cleansing and balancing, this is a huge aspect and major benefit of head massage and certainly what brought me to this wonderful therapy.

Can I perform Indian Head Massage myself or do I need a therapist?

My own recommendation is to balance the two. I would encourage you to seek a good therapist and have at least one head massage a month, two if you are able. In between perform head massage yourself once or twice a week. There is a specific book I recommend for this purpose at the end of this section.

Do check that your therapist has a recognised qualification in Indian head massage.

Do tell your therapist any conditions and/or symptoms you have.

Do ask about the use of oils and their properties to find the one or blend which is right for you.

My own introduction to Indian Head Massage

My daughter had an accident on her bicycle badly injuring her hand and breaking one of her fingers. The doctor said it would take around 8-12 weeks for her finger to heal completely and we had to attend the hospital weekly for the finger to be redressed and examined.

I have for most of my life been aware of my ability to tap into what I to that point could only describe as ‘energy’. I would perhaps feel something in a particular house or environment, know distinctly when something wasn’t right or be able to pick up on the feelings and thoughts of others without them actually communicating this to me.

Up until the point my daughter injured her hand however I had often been quite afraid of this ‘energy’ and most of the time had shied away from it.

My little girl was in such pain with her hand that without thinking much about it I said I would heal her finger for her. From the day the accident happened I would regularly sit and hold her broken finger focusing my ‘energy’ on healing it. I would visualise this healing energy pouring from my heart, down through my arm and out of my fingers to heal her finger.

She was discharged from the hospital after just four weeks. The more occasions I spent ‘healing’ her finger, the better it seemed to look on the outside and then as we visited the hospital we would be told it had got better. After just three weeks we were told that it had healed completely but we visited again on the fourth week to double check everything was ok.

I felt like I had magic fingers. We kept this experience to ourselves because I don’t think I was totally convinced that it was my ‘healing hands’ that had healed my daughter’s finger so rapidly. My daughter however had no doubt in the fact that mummy’s magic hands had indeed done the trick!

Following this I experimented a little. My mum had been experiencing tension headaches and she would often come over complaining of another headache and I would sit her down on one of my kitchen chairs and simply place my hands on her head and focus my energy to heal her headache. On most occasions her headache would go completely.

In Autumn 2006 I came across Indian head massage and felt that with my new found ability to utilise my energy it was the perfect next step. To this point in my life I had always worked in busy office environments and so taking this course changed the direction of what I now consider ‘work’

I have found that during the massage, particularly around the back, shoulder and neck area I can feel the tension in particular muscle groups and so effectively work on these areas to eliminate the build up of toxins which cause sore, stiff and aching muscles.

Tension is often released when I am massaging the upper arms and the neck area.

Stress is felt when massaging the scalp and generally the less freely the scalp moves the more stress the person is usually feeling.

Energy is passed from therapist to client and vice versa. Before I begin a head massage I always centre myself and focus entirely on the person in front of me and on the massage itself.

When I work with the subtle energy system at the very end of the head massage I can feel which energy centre is most imbalanced. I allow myself to be open to receiving this energy so that I am able to cleanse, heal and help restore balance. The massage closes with a throwing away of this energy, although subtle it is an important aspect and thus completes the therapy providing a refreshing feeling of peace, calm and relaxation.

I feel privileged to be able to do this; to help others in such a simple and yet highly effective way.

Recommended Reading

Narendra Mehta… Indian Head Massage, Discover the Power of Touch

Shelley Costello BSYA (I.H. Yoga Teach. Med. Teach) MASC (Life Coach)

Shelley Costello is a freelance writer and author of Holiday Road and Champagne Friday. She has also published several articles with the international Yoga Magazine and is currently writing her third book. Shelley has a diverse career history in management and marketing and has a passion for creating websites which is part of her freelance services. She is a qualified life coach, yoga and meditation teacher, Indian head masseuse and has studied Buddhism, nutrition and many other areas of self development.
Shelley’s life path is to help others overcome challenge and change.

Visit words by Shelley Costello at http://www.shelleycostello.net

  • Selena Speers

    Essential oils are generally extracted by distillation. Steam distillation is often used. Other processes include expression or solvent extraction. They are used in perfumes, cosmetics, soaps and other products, for flavoring food and drink, and for adding scents to incense and household cleaning products.^”

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