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Heavenly Head Massage Certification
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Patricia Crossley
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September 19, 2021 - 12:42 am
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Module 1

This is my third course with Shama and I hesitated doing this one because I am certified in Japanese Head Massage and I thought there would be a lot of overlap. But the introduction to this course reassured me. How to touch people with grace, awareness, intention and energy... this holistic approach fits with mine, but was missing in my Japanese Head Massage, which I’m not very comfortable giving compared to my other massages.

I do all my work on a massage table, usually at knuckle height when standing with arms down and fist closed.

I lowered the table as suggested, but found knee height too low, and settled for 3 or 4 fingers above the knee.

My volunteer for Section 1 was my husband, Daniel. He’s a tough one to please (the only massage he enjoys is a back massage) and a difficult body for me because he is heavy/overweight.

I am used to palming the shoulders, but the positioning here was different, doing the distal pushing on the soft spot rather than on the upper traps. Leaning forward on the soft spot was fine, as was marrying movement with my breathing, but I found shifting my hands from the soft spot to point down the arms when leaning back a bit artificial and was not sure what it contributed.

Will need to practice this more for it to feel smoother.

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Shama Kern
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September 19, 2021 - 7:51 am
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Welcome back, Patricia. You probably remember how it works, but I always post a reference to our certification checklist at the beginning of all threads to make sure that it is all correctly organized:

Certification Checklist

The Heavenly Head Massage course is very different from the Japanese head massage or the Indian head massage. One big reason is that it is not just a head massage course but covers chest, shoulders, neck, head, and face. You will see that the neck work by itself is like an entire massage system all by itself.

Also it focuses on much more than on techniques. It is a holistic healing approach that incorporates feeling, energy, breath, and sensitivity.

Some elements in the course might take some time to grasp. They will only feel really good and make sense when some degree of flow has developed with practice and time. Make sure to re-watch the videos after a while, and you will see that some things suddenly make sense that didn't seem to do so the first time around.

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Patricia Crossley
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September 19, 2021 - 3:00 pm
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Module 2 – The Sternum

I battled a bit locating the outside edges of the sternum (not a problem on my female clients with less flesh!).

The second pass with thumbs seemed easier, with clearer space between the ribs.

For the circling Daniel wanted medium pressure.

I have rocked and vibrated the sternum in my full body massages, but hadn’t thought of using the karate chop side of the hand if the space is narrow, and it’s a nice way to wiggle the sternum.

I enjoyed the tapping part, whether with loose fist or fingertips, but none of this took my dear one to heaven - “I can’t say it does anything for me” ... so I look forward to practising on someone more receptive. By the way, tapping all over the body is a technique that works nicely to give some relief to people with chronic pain, probably releasing tension in the tissue just under the skin before you go deeper, like doing very light skin stretches does.

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Patricia Crossley
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September 19, 2021 - 5:48 pm
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Module 3 – The Chest

I was late posting Module 2 as I had to be with a colicking horse. The right colon had moved to the left, which is serious, but he is out of trouble now.

Working under the collar bone:

My husband has a very slow heart beat as he was a good sportsman before putting on weight. This makes it hard to follow his breathing, unless he exaggerates it, which would be counterproductive, so I concentrated on making mine slow and even, and harmonious with my work.

I found it quite hard to flatten the hand and roll in. I’m used to using a flat thumb to take the skin a little medially gently and then give a small tug laterally, all along the collar bone, then I do the same above and below the collarbone simultaneously, using two knuckles. It's nice to add a new technique, needs some practice.

For the left pectoralis work, Daniel complained of too much pressure. He has had a heart attack and we both wondered if that made him more sensitive to pressure in this area. Also because he is overweight, I found it hard to wrap my fingers on the side to pull upward, they slipped easily. He wasn’t ticklish, but it didn’t flow.

I was able to practice the circling on the pectoralis because he is fleshy. This flowed better.

He was more receptive to the elephant walk down the torso with fingers pointing outward. I practised a little as if on a woman, with fingers pointing medially, which was less satisfying for both of us.

Working the thumb on the collarbone was straightforward, I’m just surprised to be on the bone rather than above or below it. There isn’t much sensation here...

Working towards the neck parallel to the table, then toward C6, posed no problem, though dear hubby was indifferent to it.

Next came elephant walking the traps, and herein lies a tale.

Daniel has a hip and back problem (which is why he is overweight as he can’t exercise) and often has a pain in the front of the tibia, probably a neural pain referred from above. He had it for this session. While I was doing the elephant walk on the traps, he said he could feel the pain progressively shifting lower, to his foot. And he LOVED the elephant walk on the traps “you can do that for longer”. Half an hour later, the pain in the foot had gone too. How do you explain that Shama?

Finally the spinal twist.

The spinal twist on Daniel didn’t work, he was just too heavy for me to lift, only the shoulder moved. I tried different angles and approaches. Then I thought well maybe with a big client I should do the spinal twist with the client sitting on the massage table, before lying down. I put my knee in his back to stabilize him, asked him to place his hands behind his head with elbows up, and then held his elbows to swivel his torso to both sides. That worked well for both of us.

I should say that I did Modules 1 to 3 standing, not sitting. I feel looser working this way than sitting and feel I can engage the whole body better as long as bend the knees.

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Shama Kern
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September 20, 2021 - 9:38 am
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How do I explain your husband's pain disappearing? Well, I have had many such seemingly miraculous experiences in my work with clients. I don't actually try to explain it scientifically, but I attribute it to the holistic nature of the body and of Thai Massage. There is a network of energy paths in the body which are called 'sen lines' in Thailand, and you can affect the body along those lines without necessarily having to work on the specific spot where the symptoms occur. 

Sometimes it is better to learn through such experiences rather than trying to find a logical and scientific explanation. The body is not purely anatomical and scientific. It is also energetic and holistic and interconnected, and it has its own ways of dealing with problems.

I have experienced quite a few apparently miraculous results in my practice, and I have just been grateful that they happened without trying to explain them. Look at it this way: If we try to explain things scientifically, and it doesn't fit into a scientific framework, what do we do then? Do we deny it? Do we try to force a square peg into a round hole by attempting to match what happened with a logical and rational explanation?

I don't see the need for such an approach. Sometimes we just have to acknowledge that we can't always know exactly why things are happening, but we can still be the facilitators and accelerators for such events. There will always be some mystery and magic in the world, and seeing this is what makes someone a good healer. Sometimes all we have to do is get out of the way and let things flow.

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Patricia Crossley
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September 23, 2021 - 10:30 pm
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The Neck Module 1 - The Wave and neck warm-up

I did a first run on my husband on the massage table. I tried doing the Wave, obviously omitting lifting the shoulders. It didn’t deliver. Well, you warned us this might be so and not to bother. So I moved on. But when I went through the 4 warm up techniques, I realised that I need a different person to practice on. My husband has a very short, thick neck and when I slip my hand down his neck, my palm is already above the occiput. No sliding up the neck is possible. Plus he grumbles ‘I don’t see why anyone would want this’.

So I practiced on a female client with a normal neck and weight. What a difference!

I first went through the sternum and shoulders work on her. The sternum part was okay, but not ‘wow I enjoyed that’. I think it’s important to explain at the outset why we work the sternum and chest. Also there was little room in her soft spot for my palms. She did enjoy the circling on the pectoralis, though less the distal pushing. And she loved the elephant walk on the traps ‘I was falling asleep’.

I zoned into matching my moves with her breathing, but need more practice matching my breathing to her breathing.

The 4 warming techniques worked well and she found them relaxing. I would say the fourth technique (press, pull sideways and release) felt less satisfying to me. More practice. Her neck felt free of tension and she confirmed she had no problem currently.

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Shama Kern
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September 24, 2021 - 8:14 am
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People with short and thick necks are very difficult to work on with neck massage. However, there is a module coming up later on in the course which gives you some techniques which are specifically designed for this type of neck.

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Patricia Crossley
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September 24, 2021 - 7:03 pm
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The neck Module 2

Well again I did a dry run on my husband to get it into my head, but with no room for manoeuvre it was very frustrating for both of us. Which led me to wonder: if a new client books for a full hour of neck work, and turns out to have a very short, podgy, fat neck, it could be a problem delivering a heavenly session! So Shama I look forward to the later module you mention that covers this problem.

My practice run on a client went well on the whole. She has a tricky neck due to arthritis and forward head posture, and told me afterwards that she is always a bit wary of having her neck done, and found it enjoyable.

The hair out of neck slides with the head stable was nice, I found I could keep it stable comfortably.

Doing the 2 hand neck lift, I felt I was getting less tilt back than you seemed to get with your model, but the client said she liked the feeling.

The neck squeezes with the head turned, and then with circling, went well. She found it relaxing and I enjoyed the very soft transition I was able to make turning the head and releasing the head at the end. Very zen.

It’s interesting this softness topic. Clients love my back massages which deliver light and intense work with a softness that lets the mind float and the body melt. They often ask if I don’t find it tiring, and on the contrary, I find it extremely relaxing and energising, as if I’m floating with them. But I wasn’t getting this effect when working on the head or on limbs, and I think I was too focused on technique and not enough on quality of touch and what you transfer energy wise. Just slowing down willl help me get that "communion of spirits" feeling that was missing.Thank you Shama for this valuable insight.  

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Shama Kern
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September 25, 2021 - 8:29 am
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Regarding working on clients with short and thick necks - this can be a frustrating feeling for the therapist and a less satisfactory experience for the client. However the fact is that such people are a very small minority, and there really is not much that you can do about it.

As mentioned, there will be a module with some techniques that work on people with short and thick necks, but it is still not ideal. You can also put such clients in the side position and use your forearm and heel of hand to work on the neck. It is best to use oil for that. I did not include this way of working in the course since it only applies to very few clients that you will encounter, but you could experiment with it when working on your husband.

The fact is that not every technique works for everyone, and that's just something we have to live with. We can experiment with work-arounds, and even come up with new techniques. But still there are some limitations in some cases. Luckily they only apply to very few clients.

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Patricia Crossley
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September 25, 2021 - 11:41 am
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Thank you Shama for the tip regarding lying on the side, I shall try it. Have a good day.

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Patricia Crossley
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September 28, 2021 - 9:34 pm
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The neck Module 3

I decided not to work on my husband for this as I knew I wouldn’t be able to get his neck to lift. I worked on a client with a normal neck. It was six days ago and I have already forgotten some of the reactions (mine and hers!). Will have to do my write ups more promptly.

I found the big and small neck rolls a bit awkward getting a proper tilt back. Will need more practice.  

My client enjoyed the neck sweeps with index on the spine, that flowed nicely and she found it relaxing.

Lifting the lower neck with fingertips while lowering the palms to tilt the chin went well and the transition back down was ok.

The occipital sandwich around the index was ok, though I think I prefer the effect you get giving proper traction leaning back with fingertips.  

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Patricia Crossley
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September 28, 2021 - 10:21 pm
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The neck Module 4

I ran through this Module and Module 5 twice on a same client, a first time to get the mechanics sorted out and a second time to improve the flow and tempo.

Again I found I prefer to stand to engage my body harmoniously.

The sideways stretch with head lift went fine, though it worked better with my right arm under the neck. This difference was more marked with the 360° circling, my circle was broader and rounder with my right arm under the neck than using my left arm. But she  liked it.   

The vertical lift went ok, with her shoulders lifting off a little, but then the head tilts back a lot. It didn’t bother her, but could that not be a problem for certain people?

The backward stretch via the occiput she enjoyed and it married well with my leaning forward and backward.

The 90° stretch wasn’t a success. I made sure the neck stayed straight, but she found that on the right, it pulled in her back, and she didn’t particularly enjoy either side. I shall see how others respond.

The sideways neck stretches I am used to doing in my Japanese face massage (we call it ‘dog pawing’). I used a little oil. On a table you can’t block the face, but I don’t find it a problem. She enjoyed it.

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Patricia Crossley
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September 28, 2021 - 10:24 pm
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The neck Module 5

The sideways ondulation was hardly a reed swaying in a breeze the way yours was Shama, but to my surprise she enjoyed my beginner attempts and I look forward to perfecting this.

I enjoyed discovering this figure of 8 stretch. I’m used to doing a figure of 8 move without any stretching, holding the head up and taking it into a smooth infinity symbol just for relaxation. The client commented that she enjoyed it because she trusted me, but that a new client might feel a bit apprehensive. It seems to me that this won’t feel like a manipulation if done really slowly and gently.

The sideways nod was fine, it gives a nice stretch, and she loved the neck wiggles.

I found the half moons not easy, specifically the transition between the thumb work and the finger work at the occiput. No doubt because of this she didn’t get much out of it either. I then changed the method: I used my middle finger to sweep the collarbone, which gave a much smoother transition to the occiput, and she enjoyed it more.

The circling below the occiput went well. (I usually do circles with three fingers up the side of the neck with the head turned, then back and forth along half the occipital ridge, then I change sides.)

The final hook and pull back on the occipital ridge we both enjoyed, I got into flow with my body movement, and when I finished the three sweeps up to below the earlobes she was sorry it was over as she felt very relaxed. She commented that the neck often doesn’t get the attention it deserves in massages and even though it was a practice session she had benefited.

So that’s the last neck module. That’s a great ‘buffet’ of neck options you have offered us Shama, I look forward to practising them to get more flow and a better feel of which to use at different moments, thank you!

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Shama Kern
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September 29, 2021 - 7:13 am
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Make sure to re-watch the neck modules again. Most likely you will find some nuances that you had missed before. The big neck roll, for example, is something that feels really great once you get the hang of it.

You had a question about a technique in module 4: "The vertical lift went ok, with her shoulders lifting off a little, but then the head tilts back a lot. It didn’t bother her, but could that not be a problem for certain people?"

I am not sure which technique you are referring to. I don't see a vertical neck lift technique in module 4. Could you clarifiy?

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Patricia Crossley
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September 29, 2021 - 11:25 am
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Hi Shama,

Referring to your question, it comes straight after the 360° rotation, on page 4 of the transcript. You call it neck stretch with vertical head lift. Maybe I shouldn't be letting the head roll back each time? Yes I intend to rewatch all the videos and will also need to practice on different bodies to make it a 'heavenly' experience. Your courses are of such a high standard in all aspects, it's a role model in a time when many people are thinking of offering digital courses - myself included, though not on massage.

Have a good day.

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Shama Kern
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September 30, 2021 - 8:10 am
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Now I finally figured out why I could not find the technique with the head lift you were referring to. I didn't realize that you are not numbering the modules sequentially, but started from #1 again with the neck modules. Smile

So now I found the technique in question. When you lift the head, it should not tilt back at all. You only drop it back in the counter-move. Normally dropping the head back should feel fine after a strong forward stretch, but if you get people who don't like the counter-dropping-back move, first try the technique on someone else and see if you get the same reaction.

If you do get the same reaction, then maybe the positioning of your fingers in the occiput is not quite right and causes discomfort, or maybe you do not apply the traction element sufficiently. I don't really think that you drop the head too far back, since your partner had no issues. But with this particular techniques there can be issues if the finger placement is not spot-on.

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Patricia Crossley
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October 17, 2021 - 4:59 pm
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Module 9 The Ears

I return after a break to see my family abroad, whom I hadn’t seen for nearly three years.

I am used to doing the ears when doing Japanese head massage, so nothing new to report.

I agree it offers a good transition from neck work to head work.

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Patricia Crossley
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October 17, 2021 - 5:01 pm
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Module 10 The Head 1

I was looking forward to the head modules as I needed to improve my head massages.

I already had the technique, but not the delivery. Harmonising the techniques with body movement and breathing makes a big difference to head massage, which I had underestimated. I comment on my practice in the next module.

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Patricia Crossley
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October 17, 2021 - 5:08 pm
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Module 11 The Head 2

A few things here were new to me:

  • The circling with heels of hands, and the slow friction moves toward the midline and back with palms (I love that, I call it heart beat moves).
  • Grabbing the hair and pulling it slightly. I think it needs to be done very slowly to be pleasant. Rotating the hand out sideways is a good tip.
  • I’m used to doing downstrokes from the midline with my hands turned toward each other, rather than inverted. Will have to do more of each to see which clients prefer. They always like the gentle lifting and combing through hair.

The gentle pressure points down the midline and along the bladder meridians I also knew, but without enough attention to body movement.

When on holiday I practised two head massages, one with the person seated (my brother) and one with the person lying down (my niece). Doing it to someone seated is way easier!

My brother. He is a regular adept of Thai massage, so I welcomed his input. The setting wasn’t great, sitting at table with a couple of people chatting beside him. I made a point of varying the techniques and their intensity, as recommended. At the end he said ‘Wow, I feel really relaxed now’. To which I answered: ‘Are you just being nice?’ ‘Not at all, I feel like I’m floating, that was great’, he answered.

So that really encouraged me. I also added a head massage to a full body massage for my niece, and she enjoyed it. So I look forward to practising some more.

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Shama Kern
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October 18, 2021 - 5:29 am
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I am happy to hear that you got good feedback. I am sure a lot more of that will be forthcoming. Smile

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