If you ever walk into a London hair salon and hear someone exhaling soft sighs of pleasure, there is probably no need to be alarmed. They are most likely getting an Indian head massage as part of their overall treatment!
Western techniques such as classic Swedish and deep tissue massage have traditionally focussed on the rest of the body more than the head. Specific head massage techniques arrived in the United Kingdom from India around 50 years ago, during the late 1960s, when an increasing number of Indians began settling here, following the independence of India.
Prescribed scalp massage techniques originated in India as part of Ayurveda, an ancient medicinal system. Ayurvedic teachings describe internal energy flows within each of us made up of seven chakras which link our physiological aspects to mental wellness. Opening chakras to release blocked energy and achieving a balance is key to all Ayurvedic massage. Massage of the head is deemed especially important, as two of the seven chakras are located in this area.
Ayurvedic methods are still widespread throughout India and head massages form a very normal part of daily life. Indian mothers regularly massage their daughters’ hair with coconut oil, believed to help make it shinier, stronger and longer. Ayurvedic qualified medical professionals often perform scalp massage as part of an overall healthcare treatment programme.
This is mainly an acupressure style treatment, so it is performed using the tips of the therapist’s fingers and thumbs as well as the palms of each hand.
The masseuse usually starts at the top of your shoulders rather than your head, using a light rubbing motion to warm your skin and ensure you are accustomed to her touch. Next, she will steadily increase the depth of the treatment by applying a stronger touch over specific acupuncture type pressure points. This method can help relieve tension in knotty muscles directly beneath the area of application but often you may also feel sensations elsewhere in your body. This shifting effect is also known as Myofascial or trigger point therapy.
The treatment progresses steadily up from your shoulders towards your neck, before reaching your scalp and hair. Once at your scalp, your therapist will use her thumbs and the tips of her fingers to initially apply lighter, rotating movements to relax you. Periodically deeper force is also calmly applied to specific pressure points around the head for 5 to 10 seconds at each point. These points are based on a combination of acupuncture and chakra theories.
Head massages can be performed with or without oil. A dry massage is popular for people who are returning to work or other activities immediately after and may not have time for a shower. An oil based massage however can be even more luxurious. The oil provides lubrication ensuring that the movements, especially around your hair and scalp, are delivered smoothly. The scent of essential oils can also offer further benefits through their specific natural therapeutic qualities, so choosing the best oil for your treatment is important.
Headaches can affect us all from time to time for a variety of reasons. When that headache is acute and focused on one side of your head, it is called a migraine. As well as the throbbing pain in your head, migraines can make you feel dizzy. The chaos, bright lights or loud sounds of London can all further worsen the symptoms you may be suffering.
Women tend to suffer migraines more than men (25% vs 6%). Trigger point therapy and the tapotement techniques described above often bring almost immediate relief, whether you are male or female. Treating migraines through massage is about applying a soothing and calming touch rather than manipulating muscle tissues.
Whilst the increase in blood flow around your temples that massage induces has also been shown to help relieve headaches, it is not only the physical touch elements that help. Opting for a good quality head massage when you have a migraine has the valuable additional benefits of adjusting the ambience. Dimmed lights, soothing sounds and simply switching off from a frenzied environment all aid migraine recovery.
A properly performed scalp, neck and shoulder massage by a trained and experienced therapist is very safe and relaxing. However many of the techniques taught in Indian head massage are actually very natural and instinctive. Many of us, untrained, intuitively press exactly the same points on our scalp when we are suffering from a headache or stress related tension.
You can even buy a massaging rain showerhead which recreates a very basic form of acupressure therapy for your body whilst you are taking a shower.
Head massages feel good for several reasons. Our heads contains many of the most sensitive nerves of our bodies – and properly applied pressure in these areas can have an immediate calming affect on our mood. This in turn can help reduce tension caused by stress and help end headaches. It can also help with blocked noses and migraines. The combination of these benefits often means that we sleep better too - and we all know a good rest makes us feel great.
There should be no adverse side effects of receiving a high quality head massage other than possibly letting out an uncontrollable long sigh of pleasure. But don’t worry, if you are at home with a trained mobile masseuse, they will be completely accustomed to this kind of reaction!
You may have enjoyed a free scalp and hair massage when having your hair washed at a nearby local salon in London. These typically only last around 5 minutes and leave many of us yearning for more. A proper full Indian head massage can be effectively performed in around 20 to 30 minutes.
For mobile massage therapy, since the therapist is travelling to your home or hotel room, the minimum booking duration is one hour. We have therefore combined Indian head massage with our classic Swedish massage to create the popular Jet Lag and Hangover massages. The most popular booking duration for a Jet Lag massage is 90 minutes, which allows for a 60 minute classic massage followed by 30 minutes of blissful focus on your head, neck and shoulder areas.
There may well be a suitable massage specialist heading in your direction and near you right now – simply enter your location in the postcode checker to find out.