Ultimate Guide for Using Essential Oils for Massage Therapy

For suppliers of Ayurvedic blends see ‘Useful products’.

Lesley reports on how oils have benefited her hair:

‘My hair is fine and straight and I have it highlighted regularly. It is prone to be dry, flat and flyaway and can look dull and lifeless, even after using commercial conditioners. My Indian Head Massage training was a lifeline for my hair as it introduced me to the benefits of using oils. I use an Ayurvedic blend containing coconut oil, henna, amla and lemon – it has a fantastic aroma. I warm the oil and massage it well into my scalp, run it through the ends and leave it for on for an hour, or sometimes overnight. After use my hair looks thicker, bouncy, shiny and smooth and feels fabulous to touch.

I thoroughly recommend using oils to promote healthy hair.’

Applying oils to the scalp

‘Shiro Abhyanga’ is the name given to Ayurvedic head massage and includes the application of oils according to constitutional type as well as working on marma points of the head.

Ultimate Guide for Using Essential Oils for Massage Therapy Photo Gallery




Oils like sesame, almond and olive are beneficial for treating the hyperactivity and dryness of excess vata. Spicy oils such as mustard are heating in nature and help balance kapha; sesame oil is also beneficial in small amounts. Oils that are cooling in nature, such as coconut, balance excess pitta.

Oil is normally applied to three spots on the head and then spread over the scalp using various massage strokes.

1 The fontanelle (adhipati marma – the soft spot on an infant’s head), located eight finger-widths (of person being treated) above the third-eye, is the first spot. This is a most important marma point, governing prana of the entire body. Oil is poured here while making small circular movements with fingertips of the other hand.

2 The circular area on the crown is the second spot. A most important nadi (energy channel) called ‘sushumna’ which originates in the first chakra terminates

First spot on scalp where oil is applied

Second spot on scalp where oil is applied here. Even Hindus who shave their heads don’t shave this area but twist and knot the hairs to stimulate fine capillaries in the roots and improve the flow of prana.

Third spot on scalp where oil is applied

3 The third spot is where the neck meets the skull, either side of the last two palpable vertebrae, between two important marmas called ‘krikatika’. With the head forward, oil is applied here using small circular movements.

Once the oil has been applied, ‘shampoo’ the scalp thoroughly and then apply a range of scalp massage movements of your (or your client’s) choice. (See also Chapter 6 for an explanation of the terms and a detailed routine.) Use tabla, light hacking or champi to stimulate the circulatory and nervous systems. Take the head between your palms and apply pressure all around. Finish by laying your hands lightly on top of the head, taking three deep breaths and sweeping down the sides of the head.

Remember to use a towel around the shoulders to avoid staining clothing

Start with a teaspoon of oil on each spot -you may need a little more if the hair is long and very thick.

Leave oil on for a couple of hours or overnight if possible – place a towel over the pillow to avoid staining.

To remove oil easily, massage a small amount of shampoo through the hair before adding water. This emulsifies the oil, which then washes out with ease.

You can provide oil for clients to use at home.

You can also massage your own scalp using oils to suit your skin type. Apply the oil as above and massage thoroughly, using your favourite Indian Head Massage strokes.

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