Imagine after a looong, tiring day, you finally get to lie down on your bed and unwind the load of the day. As you close your eyes and let your body relax, you can feel your head, neck and shoulders bogged down under stress and tension!
Now, imagine a relaxing massage session that could help relieve the feeling of stress from the 3 most vulnerable zones – head, neck and shoulders – without a drop of chemicals, without using batteries or any complex electronic gadgets!
The 5000-year-old wellness system of Ayurveda puts immense importance on self-care, balance and rejuvenation and it focuses on the body even more than the face.
One such healthy, holistic and non-invasive ways of rejuvenating the body mentioned in the ancient Ayurvedic texts is Shiro Abhyanga or Head Massage. And you’ll be surprised to know that this traditional ritual of head massage not only helps the mind, body and soul, but is also an effective practice to rejuvenate the hair!
There are different procedures mentioned in the classical Ayurvedic texts for the head which are collectively known as Murdha Taila.
Murdha taila or the application of oil over the head is classified into 4 sub-types.
- Shiro Abhyanga – Head Massage
- Shiro Seka/Shiro Dhara – Pouring medicated oil over the head
- Shiro Pichu – Keeping cotton dipped in oil over the vertex (top of the head)
- Shiro Vasti– Pooling/ Oil is kept in a dam on the head
Each of these procedures has its own benefits but as per Ayurvedic scholar Vagbhata, they are more efficient when performed in the chronological order mentioned above.
Among the mentioned procedures, Shiro Abhyanga is THE hair care Ayurvedic answer that addresses not just 1 but 5 Hair & Scalp woes!
But before digging into the process and benefits of Shiro Abhyanga, first, let's understand the science behind hair growth!
Hair growth 101
Hair grows out of tiny pockets in your skin called ‘follicles’. These follicles grow from roots made up of cells of proteins. The blood from the scalp supplies oxygen and nutrients to the hair root, helping the hair grow.
As it grows, it passes the sebaceous glands that add oil to the hair keeping it shiny and lustrous.
Now, given how innate and natural the process of oiling is to the scalp and hair, you can imagine how beneficial the process of oiling with potent Ayurvedic oils can prove to be for your hair health!
On average, hair grows at a rate of half an inch a month, or 6 inches a year. Although, this rate can be affected by genetics, health, hormones, or hair damage.
Now, let's understand how Ayurveda sees the Science of Hair of Growth
Ayurveda presents the human body as an inverted tree, with roots at the top that is head, the thorax and abdomen are the trunk of the tree and branches pointing downwards are the limbs.
Just like the roots nourish and affect the tree’s functions, our head is the uthamanga, meaning the Operational Centre or the Predominant Part of the entire body!
Hence, taking care of our head with Shiro Abhyanga forwards so many benefits not just to the scalp and hair, but to the rest of the body too.
At this point you might ask, “what exactly is Shiro Abhyanga?”
Shiro Abhyanga (Shiro- head, Abhyanga- massage) is a rejuvenating Ayurvedic massage procedure that helps relax the entire upper body involving the head, neck and the shoulder regions.
It involves massaging the head with potent Ayurvedic herbs which are specific to each person’s Dosha.
This ancient Ayurvedic practice is a combination of two individual natural therapies, Shirodhara and Abhyanga.
Shirodhara is a relaxing practice of gently pouring a steady stream of herbal massage oils on the scalp, forehead and neck. Whereas, Abhyanga is gently massaging your body with light pressure to reap an amplified benefit of the oils.
Both these Ayurvedic processes are undertaken simultaneously in Shiro Abhyanga.
Ayurveda advises head massage or Shiro Abhyanga as a part of Dinacharya or daily regimen for best results. Weekly massages are advised for those who find doing it on a daily basis tedious.
Here are 5 unmissable benefits of Shiro Abhyanga for Hair and Scalp
- The application of oil on the scalp reduces dryness due to its snigdha or unctuous property, which helps pacify the Vata dosha.
- Massaging the scalp improves blood circulation, which increases the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the hair root, helping the hair grow. Use of nutritional and potent Ayurvedic herbs-infused oils during the massage also gifts the hair with benefits that stimulate hair growth and improve hair health.
- It helps in preventing the look of premature greying of the hair.
- This unique massage ritual calms the nerves and the mind, which helps reduce the feeling of stress, as well as hair loss induced by stress.
- Deeply moisturizes the scalp, which helps lessen the look of dandruff on the head.
Not just the hair and the scalp, Shiro Ahyanga is also extremely beneficial for the overall body too, as it:
- Helps prevent disease of Vata origin in the head
- Strengthens the neck and jaw muscles
- Relaxes and rejuvenates the body
- Reduces muscle stiffness
- Increases moisturization and improves the skin texture and its overall health
And if you thought that this was it, the qualities of the herbs infused in the oil have their own added benefits!
Take for example, Brahmi.
It is a small herb that grows in naturally muddy wetlands and shallow waters that bestows undeniable effects on the body. It is a brain tonic that is said to enhance memory, intelligence, and longevity and is very effective in managing anxiety.
The alkaloid content in Brahmi gets enhanced when it is prepared with oil. This helps the herb deeply penetrate through the highly vascular scalp region. Hence, it significantly improves sleep disturbances, restlessness, fear, and depression.
In addition, the pressure of the fingers on the scalp stimulates the Shiro Marmas, that when coupled with the temperature of the oil, further enhances the absorption of the oil.
With these many health and hair benefits you might be wondering, how can I perform Shiro Abhyanga at home?
Here are 7 simple steps to perform this uber-beneficial practice from the comfort of your home.
- The process begins by slightly heating the Ayurvedic oil, until it is of your body temperature. This helps create a soothing effect at the sight of application. The heat in the oil causes the blood vessels to dilate, which helps increase the blood circulation of the scalp. This promotes the healing and cleansing of the sebaceous glands’ passages, thereby further enhancing the absorption of the oil.
2 It is best advised to apply oils of your own body temperature on the scalp.
- Pour a small amount of an Ayurvedic herbs-infused oil in your hand and comb your fingers through your hair.
- Pour some oil on the crown of your head and gently massage your crown area.
- Bend your head forward, looking down at your chest. Pour some oil on the back of your head (exactly where the hairline ends). Massage the back of your head in circular motions with your fingers.
- Extend the circular motions to the back of your shoulders and neck.
- Now that you have your entire head, neck and shoulders covered with oil, apply firm pressure on the scalp and massage the entire area using circular strokes.
- Leave the oil on for 20-30 minutes before washing it off. You can also leave the oil on overnight for even better results. Just remember to wrap your hair in a towel to avoid an oily pillow.
Proven Clinical benefits of Shiro Abhyanga
- The treatment options for improving the balance in degenerative cerebellar ataxias are very few.
A preliminary open labelled study
3 was performed on 10 patients who were diagnosed with progressive cerebellar ataxia. There was a statistically significant improvement in the overall and anteroposterior balance indices of dynamic stability.
- A study
4 was undertaken to evaluate the role of Brahmi taila shiroabhyanga in reliving anxiety. The results showed that it was useful in tackling anxiety neurosis and other similar conditions.
- In Ayurveda, loss of hair is coined as khalitya under the broad heading of shiroroga (head diseases).
Khalitya is a disease with Vata-Pitta dominancy.
5 on khalitya was done where shamana nasya and shiro abhyanga was performed on a group of patients. The study showed significant improvement in thinning of hair and improving the dryness of hair.
The Ayurvedic chest of self-care – face, hair, body and mind – is vast and wide, full of therapies and practices that support good health.
Note: Consult your Ayurvedic practitioner before trying shiro abhyanga or any Ayurvedic hair oil.
Have you ever tried to perform a head massage on your own? What are the challenges that you faced?
1. Madhavika Prakash Chaudhari, KSR Prasad,Brahmi Thail Shiro abhyanga in Chittodwega ( Anxiety neurosis), pp 127-131
EVALUATION OF ROLE OF SHIROBHYANGA WITH REFERENCE TO KESHA SWASTHYA (HEALTH OF NORMAL HAIR)
Improvement of balance in progressive degenerative cerebellar ataxias after Ayurvedic therapy: a preliminary report
2. Brahmi Taila Shiroabhyanga in Chittodwega (Anxiety Neurosis)
3. Improvement of balance in progressive degenerative cerebellar ataxias after Ayurvedic therapy: a preliminary report. Neurol India. 2009 Mar-Apr;57(2):166-71. doi: 10.4103/0028-3886.51286.
4. Madhavika Prakash Chaudhari, KSR Prasad,Brahmi Thail Shiro abhyanga in Chittodwega ( Anxiety neurosis), pp 127-131
5. World Journal of Pharmaceutical Research 6(7) · July 2017