Mama be well - Marma Me: Why getting my 'head read' at a day spa was the best thing I've done all year


I recently had a beautiful birthday treat Marma Massage also known as an Indian Head Massage at the glam Elderberry + Kate day spa in Wellington’s Willis St.

As an Ayurveda enthusiast, I’ve been dreaming about this treatment since the spa opened just over a year ago. I love how owner Kate Coles and her team are unashamedly focused on pampering mind, body and spirit ‘like nowhere else’.

The Marma Massage didn’t disappoint but before we get to that, let me take you through a bit of the history so you can get a feel for why you need this technique in your life.

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For centuries, practitioners have been mapping the human body and linking various limbs, organs, immune responses even emotions to specific energy points. 

There are said to be 108 Marma points in the body, which are junctures where two or more types of tissue meet, such as muscles, bones, veins, ligaments or joints. In Chinese Medicine, they are known as acupressure points.

Marma means hidden or secret in Sanskrit and it can also be translated as ‘a point that can kill’. 

The knowledge of this collection of points originates in Southern India around 1500BC when masters of Kalari, an ancient martial art, targeted Marma points to inflict injury or instant death on their enemies. Marma massage was also used to nurse soldiers back to health and surgeons have been trained to avoid damaging the Marma points of patients while in surgery.

Marma massage is said to be very powerful as a health preventative. Blockages can occur at these points, leading to a build-up of toxins, lowered immune system and a range of physical and emotional symptoms. 

Put simply, by stimulating or massaging the Marma points with warmed oil you can benefit the local area, support the lympth and improve the function of the connecting organs as well as the overall nervous system. This massage technique also tones the muscles surrounding the points to support greater drainage and flow.

Migraines, insomnia, writers block/mental clarity and energy can all be helped through Marma massage. Similarly, the muscular and neuromuscular, digestive, respiratory and immune systems can be stimulated.

With very few Ayurveda practitioners locally, it is great to see Elderberry + Kate embracing this technique and offering their interpretation of it in their downtown locale. 

My therapist Nicole told me of her knowledge of how the Marma head massage has become part of Indian culture, with grandparents practicing the massage on grandchildren until they are of age to return the favour to their elders. In modern-day India, it is a regular treatment for self-care at the barbershop.

Elderberry + Kate offer the 45-minute seated treatment using warmed Ginger & Me oil, covering the upper back, shoulders, neck, face, and head. The oil is optional for the head, but I highly recommend it. There is so much goodness that can come from leaving that oil on your scalp and in your hair for a while. And there would be time to pop back to work for a shower or whip it into a top knot on your lunch break. For executives experiencing high pressure, this is the treatment I would prioritise working into your weekly calendar. Ayurveda tells us that blockages occur more as we approach middle age and beyond (think stubborn thought patterns, emotions, and stiff joints) so whatever we can do to keep things moving will aid all facets of life (#abundance anybody?).

There is an option to book a series of four of these massages with E+K, which I think is a great idea. I felt a decent amount of un-stressing/detox after my massage. I began sipping hot water and lemon in their Living Room (an incredibly decadent and private, luxe green space) right after, which helped and I continued to sip away with lots of rest in the day following. I am sure a few more treatments would help infinitely to get all the good energy flowing again. 

Insomnia has been a bit of an issue for me and with little ones I often sleep with one eye open but I had the best sleep I have had all year after my head massage and interestingly, a few days after my massage I was in a fantastic place creatively.

I’ll be incorporating my Marma knowledge into my Abhyanga self-massage routine in between treats like this. Below is one technique you can try right now or to book in with the experts, head over to Elderberry+Kate. 

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Marma Phana 

Meaning ‘a serpent’s hood’ the Phana point is found at the sides of the nostrils

Each of these two points measures ½ anguli (half a finger unit) in size, and is located just outside the base of the nose, where the nostrils open out. 

These points are said to control the flow of prana through the subtle body, the sense of smell, and the sinuses. 

To massage these points, use a strong and circular motion for about five minutes simultaneously. When using the index finger for acupressure at this point, it is said to help relieve headache symptoms and sinus congestion, and can be even more effective when coupled with aromatic oils like peppermint or eucalyptus (I prefer the doTERRA brand). Choose an organic cold pressed massage oil such as sesame or coconut as your base and just a drop of your essential oil mixed in. Mustard or apricot oil has also been recommended although I haven’t tried these.