Body massages have always been an important part of various traditional medicine systems. Massages are extensively used in parts of Asia for minor body aches and for relieving stress. Later these massage techniques were spread out throughout the world.

There are a variety of massages carried out in different parts of the world. Further, these massages are also divided on the basis of their techniques, tools used in them and the parts of the body they are conducted on.

Head massages (Shiro Abhyanga) are most often used by people to relieve stress. Traditionally there are various types of head massages. Head massages may include the neck, upper back and shoulders as the areas of action.

Shiro Abhanga

Types of Head Massages

There are basically two types of head massages depending upon the procedure involved. These two types of head massages are mentioned below:

  • Indian head massage (Shiro abhyanga): It is a stress relieving therapy which aims at multiple parts of body namely- head, neck, shoulders and upper back.
  • Shirodhara ayurvedic massage: a mild stream of warm oil is slowly poured on the forehead and head which helps in synchronizing the brain waves. It is often accompanied by a mild head massage.

Read More: Shirodhara Benefits

What is the Shiro Abhyanga (Indian head massage)?

Indian head massage or Champi massage or Shiro abhyanga (as called in Ayurveda) is a popular head massage carried out in India. It is commonly known as champi and often carried out in houses only by Indian mothers. It is a part of Indian ayurvedic system and helps in balancing three upper chakras- ajna (located between eyebrows), sahasrara (top of head) and vishuddha (located in throat), according to Yoga Science.

The massage is carried out in four stages:

  1. Head Massage.
  2. Neck Massage.
  3. Shoulder Massage.
  4. Forehead Massage.

The main aim of the Indian head massage is to release stress from muscles and tissues.

The procedure of Indian Head Massage

Prior to the therapy:

It is advisable to wear something loose clothing as the therapy may include massaging the shoulder and upper back, so you don’t feel restricted.

The procedure also involves pouring of oil on the scalp and gentle movements, so you may open your hair.  Make sure there is no hairpin as it may leave your hair tangled.

Shiro Abhyanga

During the therapy:

The client is made to sit on a reclined massage chair. The therapy is done with clothes on and the therapist may put on some soft music to create a perfect ambience. The massage is done in four steps with each step focusing on a specific part. Various types of hand movements are used to stimulate the pressure points of each part. The steps are given below:

  • Shoulder massage: In this step, the therapist stands behind the chair where the client sits and starts by squeezing the shoulder muscles slowly. After that, the hands are placed on the starting of the neck where the thumb is stretched below the collar bone on both sides of the backbone for circular movements. This movement is repeated for 3-5 times making it more intense every time. The final step in shoulder massage includes placing hands on the shoulders and rotating them towards the neck.
  • Neck massage: After that, the therapist places his one hand on the back side of the neck and the other hand on the forehead. This step is carried out very gently avoiding any kind of exertion of force on the area. The head is bowed down slowly simultaneously stretching the hand from the neck to the hairline. The head is then slightly moved back to its upward position and the hand goes back to the back of the end. This procedure is done for about 5 minutes. The movement should be slow and gentle so that it doesn’t cause any strain in the neck.
  • Head massage: The therapist places his hands on both sides of the head with fingers in an upward direction. The hands are then slightly moved upwards. After that finger of both the hands are used to form circular motions on the side of the head. The same motion is done on the centre of the head. The same is then done for all parts of the head for over 10 minutes. The rest of the therapy is usually done in lying down position to avoid neck tension.
  • Forehead massage: This step involves massage on the forehead in the same way by rubbing hands from the top of the forehead in downwards direction. After that both hands are placed on the sides of the forehead above the ears and are moved in up and down motion. This constant movement results in outflow of heat from that area and this marks the flow of energy in that region. Fingers are placed on the centre of the forehead (sthapani marma or ajna chakra) after these strokes. They are slowly and gently moved down from the centre to the brows for relaxation. This therapy may take 30-45 minutes.

Shiro Abhanga

Post-therapy:

The therapy lasts for 30 to 45 mins after which your body is left relaxed and tension free. After the therapy, you may be given extra 10-30 mins to close your eyes and relax.

Going in for regular head massages may help in improving one’s concentration and maintain healthy soul. This massage therapy may be accompanied by other body massages for more effective results.

The urge to shampoo your hair may overcome you at the end of the therapy due to excessive oil dripping from your hair. Apart from the oil, the strong fragrance of the medicated oils may make you uncomfortable.

Benefits of Shiro Abhyanga

Pain and stiffness

This massage can also be used for minor pains and muscle tensions in neck, shoulder and upper back. Multiple hand movements help in relieving stressed muscles and the use of various type of oils help in reducing pains.

Hair growth

Regular massage on the scalp helps in increasing the flow of blood and oxygen, which further ensures the flow of nutrients. This helps in keeping the scalp and the hair roots healthy. A variety of oils are also used in massages which nourish the hair and makes it stronger.

Stress-Related Issues

The massage focuses on the upper body chakras and hence helps in maintaining a calmer mind.  It not only helps in refreshing one’s brain but also in curing stress-related issues like depression, anxiety, tension and insomnia. On the other hand, massages help in opening any kinds of blockages, which results in a better supply of oxygen and blood to the brain making it more efficient.

Migraine

The multiple movements help in soothing migraine and other headaches. The smooth circular movements help in soothing tensed muscles in the head and forehead area and the upward and downward movements help in making you feel refreshed and relaxed.

Sinusitis

This massage therapy focuses on multiple areas of the body including the neck and the cheekbones. Mild movements on these areas help in removing blockages in nerves and hence helps in relieving sinusitis. It also may help in some respiratory conditions that are mostly caused due to poor breathing.

Necessary Precautions

Massage is very delighting and leave you stress-free, but some precautions are needed to be followed before going in. These precautions are as follows:

  • In case of allergies especially, skin allergies, you may talk to your practitioner about the various types of oils and ingredients used in them.
  • A pregnant woman should always go for light and mild massages.
  • If you had recent surgery or an injury in the neck, head and shoulder region, you must consult your doctor before this therapy.
  • Due to the use of oils in this therapy, make sure you don’t suffer from broken skin, boils and sores. The oil used may make the condition worse.

In effect of the above-given precautions, this massage therapy is completely safe and regular massages can help in refreshing the mind and body. Yet, this therapy is not an alternative to medical treatment. This therapy rather works as a supporting system but cannot be replaced as a permanent option in medical conditions. For better ayurvedic treatment of an illness, you require ayurvedic consultation with a good ayurvedic practitioner.

References

  1. Kim, I. H., Kim, T. Y., & Ko, Y. W. (2016). The effect of a scalp massage on stress hormone, blood pressure, and heart rate of healthy female. Journal of physical therapy science28(10), 2703-2707. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5088109/
  2. Koyama, T., Kobayashi, K., Hama, T., Murakami, K., & Ogawa, R. (2016). Standardized Scalp Massage Results in Increased Hair Thickness by Inducing Stretching Forces to Dermal Papilla Cells in the Subcutaneous Tissue. Eplasty16, e8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4740347/
  3. Fazeli MS, Pourrahmat MM, Liu M, Guan L, Collet JP. The Effect of Head Massage on the Regulation of the Cardiac Autonomic Nervous System: A Pilot Randomized Crossover Trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2016 Jan;22(1):75-80. doi: 10.1089/acm.2015.0141. Epub 2015 Nov 12. PubMed PMID: 26562003. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26562003
  4. Murota, M., Iwawaki, Y., Uebaba, K., Yamamoto, Y., Takishita, Y., Harada, K., Shibata, A., Narumoto, J., … Fukui, K. (2016). Physical and Psychological Effects of Head Treatment in the Supine Position Using Specialized Ayurveda-Based Techniques. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.)22(7), 526-32. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4939366/