What is Indian Head Massage?

Indian head massage is a therapy which both originated and developed in India more than four thousand years ago. It is based on Ayurvedic techniques (the ancient form of Indian medicine) and was originally practised among Indian women in an effort to maintain strength and lustre in long hair. Its calming benefits were soon obvious however and the massage therapy was extended to other areas of Indian life and eventually Europe and the western world. It enjoyed a revival of popularity here in Britain in the 1990s and remains widely-acclaimed today. Many hairdressers now perform a short head massage prior to washing hair in salons up and down the country.

Those who practise Ayurveda believe that the massage has a particular effect on the three higher chakras (energy vortexes) – those of the mind, body and spirit.

The technique of performing the Indian head massage involves manipulating the soft tissues in the recipient’s upper back area, shoulders, arms, neck, scalp and face. This is achieved by means of the therapist using different and varying massage pressures and rhythms to stimulate the area of the body she or he is working on at that particular time. The therapy is usually performed seated or when the recipient, who is fully-clothed, is half-lying on a couch.

Oils are not necessarily employed for Indian head massage which makes this non-invasive therapy convenient to fit into a busy day, for instance during lunchtime or between leaving work and heading off for a night out. It can also be performed in as little as 15 minutes, although some sessions can last up to 45 minutes or even an hour.

The theory behind the therapy is that the massage results in energy channels being unblocked. These channels, when blocked, are believed to hold the negative energies which lead to a variety of ailments such as stress, pains and hair loss itself. By unblocking them, the idea is that ailments are not only helped but avoided altogether in the case of headaches and muscle tension. The upper body massage is also believed to promote blood flow to the head and neck and in doing so allow nutrients to reach those areas and promote healing throughout the body.

The therapy is credited with working on both a physical and mental level and is lauded as safe to use and convenient. It’s also said to bring instant relief from tension and symptoms of stress, in turn inducing relaxation and a sense of well being as well as boosting alertness and concentration levels.

In India head massage is commonly performed at weddings and births. It is also customarily given by barbers there.

The therapy is said to be particularly good for individuals with mobility difficulties such as those in a wheel chair as it improves the blood flow and circulation. It is also believed to be similar to reflexology in that the organs of the body, in addition to being linked to nerves in the feet, are similarly linked to nerves in the head.

Individuals should avoid having a head massage if they have recently undergone surgery, received a head or neck injury or have a history of thrombosis and spondylosis. Those suffering from an inflammatory or infectious disease and people with either high or low blood pressure are also advised to avoid it. It is, however, particularly recommended for conditions such as diabetes and pregnancy in order to reduce the stress and tension these conditions can exacerbate.  Anyone considering a head massage is advised to avoid alcohol for up to five hours prior to a treatment.

What to expect

You will be asked to remove any jewellery such as earrings and necklaces together with hair clips or bands.

The therapist will then direct you to a massage chair where she or he will invite you to sit, fully clothed, and may lay a towel over your shoulders (particularly if they intend to use oils).

Some therapists will happily tailor your massage to promote relaxation or invigoration depending on your current state and you may be asked for a preference prior to the therapy commencing so it is wise to be prepared.

Using a series of alternating massage techniques such as deep kneading and compression, the therapist will first of all work on your upper back area then massage across the shoulders and upper arms before moving on slowly to the neck, head and scalp areas. He or she may finish the massage by gently stroking particular pressure points on the face. The actual massage techniques and controlled caresses differ greatly and can be referred to as, for example, the spider walk, root pull, and comb.

You can often choose whether you would like the therapist to use oils or not (oils aren’t recommended if you have to return to work as these can leave the hair looking greasy). The type of oils which may be applied to the head include almond, coconut, olive or more commonly – sesame. Often essential oils such as lavender (relaxing) and rosemary (invigorating) are added to the base oil for an additional therapeutic affect.

Following the therapy you will be asked to remain seated for ten minutes or so until you feel ready to rise.

Your therapist may ask you to return for another session as many believe that once the body is ‘balanced’ it makes sense to have regular treatments over a period of time to maintain this state for longer.

Effects and benefits

Receiving an Indian head massage is believed to literally calm the head (or mind). Many therapists believe that the upper body in particular is especially susceptible to stress and that head massage can induce a sense of deep relaxation. The therapy will relieve tension instantly as well as stress (muscular discomfort) so will therefore benefit the recipient on both a physical and psychological level.

In addition to promoting relaxation the therapy is also good for stimulating the mind by improving circulation to the scalp. This of course is also good for healthy hair as it allows more nutrients to reach the scalp. Some therapists believe it can help with hair loss (if caused by nutrient deficiency rather than alopecia).

There are a number of other benefits to Indian head massage. These include help with:

  • joint mobility and flexibility in the neck and shoulders
  • insomnia and poor sleep patterns
  • blood circulation and lymphatic flow
  • migraine and headaches
  • sinusitis
  • muscular tension
  • eliminating a build up of toxins and waste products in the body
  • promoting a general sense of well-being
  • hair growth
  • eye strain
  • healthier skin
  • asthma (by calming the respiratory system)
  • depression

Indian Head Massage and fascinating facts

  • Head massage originated in India more than 4000 thousand years ago
  • Massage therapy itself has been practised in the Far and Middle East for more than 5000 years
  • Indian head massage was brought over to the UK by Narendra Mehta during the 1970s
  • Narendra Mehta was responsible for the therapy being extended from just the head to the upper back, shoulders, neck, upper arms and face
  • The origin of shampoo comes from the Hindi word ‘champi’. Being ‘champi-ed’ means having your head massaged
  • Indian head massage was originally a grooming technique aimed at strengthening long hair, promoting growth and preventing the hair from turning grey
  • The treatment is now practised in pop-up stalls in shopping malls, book stores, coffee shops and even work stations

Professional Organisations

Indian Head Massage Associations

There is not and official associations specifically for Indian Head Massage

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