An Indian Head Massage Deconstructed
Whenever I give a client an Indian Head Massage, I always find the experience more deeply spiritual than any other therapy I give. This has often perplexed me. Often, when I am giving the treatment I feel overwhelmingly calm and completely in the moment and totally transfixed by what I am doing. I don’t have to force myself to remember the different moves, it just flows in a natural and rhythmic way. I sometimes concern myself with worrying about how the client is feeling and are they experiencing something similar to what I am experiencing. I probably shouldn’t worry as most clients find it extremely relaxing but one client found the noise of her hair being rubbed disturbing and typically I always remember a negative comment!
But why does this therapy make me feel this way, and hopefully my clients too? My first thought is that of sitting in the playground as a little girl whilst my friend would play with my hair. Having someone brushing, or simply messing about with my hair made my scalp tingle and the tingling sensation flowed down my neck, into my shoulders and down my spine. I would become only aware of the sensations; deep feelings of calm and relaxation would come over me leaving me soporific and my eyelids would readily close. An Indian Head Massage does all of that and more.
Historically, Indian Head massage has been used in Asia for more than 5,000 years. In Europe the therapy has been adapted, incorporating modern Western techniques. It is based on the ancient Ayurvedic healing system in India. Ayurvedic medicine is a holistic healing system which combines natural therapies and encompasses the mind, body and spirit. It strives to restore balance and inner harmony. In Ayurveda, massage is highly valued as having excellent physical effects as well as giving affection. The Indian Head massage involves the use of hands to knead, rub and squeeze the body’s soft tissues such as the muscles.
The treatment can be given with or without the use of oils. The main oils used are sesame, mustard, olive, coconut, almond, sunflower, and jojoba. The oils help to moisturise the hair and scalp, which can promote hair growth and slow down hair loss. The oils also help to keep the hair strong, healthy, and lustrous.
An Indian Head Massage treatment is very beneficial for physical and emotional health. It has the following benefits:
- It promotes total relaxation as the massage helps to give a feeling of well-being and calm.
- The increased blood circulation to the head, neck, and shoulders bring oxygen and nutrients, thus helping to improve the condition of the skin and to stimulate hair growth.
- The increased blood circulation to the brain means that more oxygen is delivered; this will help mental fatigue and improve concentration.
- The increased blood circulation will help to relieve stiffness in the neck and shoulders as oxygen and nutrients are brought to the area and waste products that have built up in the affected muscles are removed.
- Massage relieves eye strain and tension headaches as muscular tension is relieved.
- The increased lymphatic flow helps to get rid of toxins and other waste products, so aiding detoxification of the body.
- Massage helps with irritability and promotes sleep as the client feels more relaxed and calm.
- It breaks down fibrocystic nodules, commonly known as ‘knots’, which develop from tension within the muscles.
- It triggers the release of the brain chemicals called endorphins which create a feeling of contentment and happiness.
But let’s get back to the tingling sensations. As humans are social beings, touch is incredibly important, and when touch is given in a loving, caring way the sensation is heightened. The bonding hormone oxytocin is released when touch is given in a loving way. Human contact can reduce cortisol levels which can lower blood pressure and reduce the heart rate resulting in reduced stress and improved well-being and mood. It is also possible that regular touch can strengthen our immune system. Touching of the hair, head and scalp are especially intoxicating as there are specialised sensory neurons located at the base of the hair follicles. These neurons can detect tiny movements and transmit a sensory message to the brain causing feel good chemicals to be released.
The head has many nerve endings, trigger points, and acupuncture points. Throughout every single day, our facial muscles are used for expressions, teeth grinding, talking, and chewing creating tension in the head and neck area without us even realising it. To receive a head and facial massage feels soothing and relaxing as we let go of the tension that has built up.
The Indian Head Massage that I offer in my therapy room is a personally tailored experience. I follow a basic procedure but I attempt to tune into my client and pay more attention to the areas that need it the most. I allow it to flow and let it see where it takes me. I trust that my inner therapist will guide me and become completely absorbed with providing the best experience that I can give. I recently renamed the treatment to Blissful Moments Crowning Glory, I did this primarily because it is not a carbon copy of an Indian Head Massage but an adaptation – I draw in elements of other therapies depending on the needs of my client at that moment in time.
I love to incorporate chakra balancing into the massage. As a Reiki practitioner, this comes naturally to me. It is so satisfying to bring balance to the treatment and visualise the energy centres of the head – the crown, the brow, and the throat. Chakras act as a link between the emotional and physical body. This is why working to balance the chakras during an Indian Head Massage treatment can have such positive effects on the mind and body.
Whilst at college training to be a complementary therapist, one tutor said that when she gave a head massage she found it impossible not to be in awe of her proximity to the brain of her client. Just beneath her fingertips was this incredible organ capable of amazing things. This observation has remained with me and l feel very privileged to have someone’s head in my hands and in my care. To give an Indian Head Massage is indeed an incredible honour.