9 October 2020
I knew right away that I'd enjoy at least half of the treatment scheduled for me at Eclipze Hair Design & Day Spa in Camana Bay in September. I didn't know how an "Indian head massage" differed from a regular head massage, but I do enjoy having my scalp rubbed, so I wasn't worried about that part of the treatment. As for the other half — an ear candling treatment — I was ... a bit nervous. Still, the life of a journalist isn't always wining, fine dining and head massages; sometimes it ventures into the unknown.
Indian head massage
It turns out, the "Indian" part of an Indian head massage unsurprisingly refers to its origins in India, where it is part of the Ayurvedic healing system that has been practised for more than 4,000 years.
The Ayurvedic healing system maintains that the human body has 107 "marma points," which are energetic pathways for healing. Thirty-seven of those marma points are located in the upper torso and head, the foci of an Indian head massage, which is known as "champissage" in India. The Hindi root of that word — champo — means "to massage" and is the origin of the English word "shampoo."
The Indian head massage technique involves rubbing, squeezing, tapping and pressing areas around the "higher chakras" located on the head and torso. Soft, spa music and fragrant oils help enhance the relaxing nature of the massage.
In addition to being pleasurable and relaxing, an Indian head massage is also therapeutic. Like all massages, it stimulates blood and oxygen flow and can therefore help relieve pain and tension. Eclipze Senior Beauty Therapist Priyani Renukanthi, who provided my treatment, also massaged my sinus cavities and performed a gentle neck stretching technique. The latter involved placing a heated, damp towel behind the neck and then gently pulling the towel toward the top of my head.
One bit of advice I would offer to people getting an Indian head massage is to either get it done right before a regular hair appointment or to apply a hair styling product after the treatment. I did neither after my morning appointment and as a result, walked around work the rest of the day looking like I had just got out of bed.
First things first: On its website, Eclipze describes ear candling as a home remedy that "is not intended to be used for medical purposes or in place of proper medical attention."
The origins of the practice of ear candling are hazy, with some saying it dates back to ancient Egypt or China or even native North Americans, but there is no real proof of any claim. The basic idea, however, is this: A hollow tube — or candle — that consists of cotton muslin cloth covered with a special wax is pushed through a foil-covered cardboard disk and gently placed in a person's ear while they are lying down, ear facing upwards. A soft cloth is placed between the disk and the person's face. The purpose of the disk is to prevent hot wax from accidentally dripping on the client's face.
The top end of the 10-inch candle is then lit and allowed to burn for 10 to 15 minutes, until the candle is about three inches long. The procedure is then repeated with the other ear.
The theory is that the candle's heat will soften built-up ear wax and that a "chimney" effect will occur in the tube, creating negative pressure that will pull the ear wax and other debris out of the ear canal.
Scientists say it doesn't work. Proponents, which in the Cayman Islands include dive masters, according to Priyani, believe it does. Books have been written in favour of the practice and medical journals against it.
As for me, I found the treatment relaxing, or at least as relaxing as a treatment can be when there's a lit candle sticking out of my ear. What was most interesting to me was the sound of the flame. Because the candle is hollow and its tapered end was stuck down in my ear, I could hear fire like I never heard it before. There were some occasional soft crackles or pops, but the underlying sound was a monotone, but pleasant, hum. I liked it.
Some suggest that ear candling improves hearing, but it did nothing to help my selective hearing problem. Just ask my wife.
About the Author
Alan Markoff has worked with Dart as the editor for Camana Bay Times for three years and has been writing professionally since 1997. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Alan graduated from the State University of New York at Albany with a degree in English, and first moved to the Cayman Islands in 1982. He has 16 years of experience in the real estate industry and previously worked as a journalist for Cayman Compass before joining Dart to relaunch the Camana Bay Times monthly newspaper. An avid baseball fan, Alan loves travelling but also schedules trips back home around catching a summer game or two with his home team, Cleveland Indians. He is a movie buff who spends many an evening catching a film at Camana Bay Cinema. It was at one of these movies that he met his wife, Lynn!