I look back a bit in disbelief. I know that ‘hair fall’ here means hair loss, that much I have cleverly deduced from products and adverts I’ve seen around. And I know it’s not taken lightly. But although the therpist has come away with both hands full of hair having combed through my thick, frizzy mane using oil and her fingers, I am not worried.
I haven’t brushed my hair today. If I had, all that hair would be on the brush. That’s all thats happening here. That’s why we don’t use our fingers to brush our hair.
“Have you told the doctor about your hair fall?”
Clearly she thinks I have a problem. “Err no, I just thought it was normal”, I laugh. How naive of me. Despite the therapists’ concern I’m not really phased by all this. Instead it’s a little bit exciting. Finally I have something wrong with me other than the niggling back ‘pain’ that got a lot better the minute I stopped my Ashtanga yoga practise. However, now I feel I have a legitimate reason to be here – I’m in a hospital after all. This proves that I am not a self-indulgent lay about under the guise of self-improvement who essentially just likes massages. Even if my problem is aesthetically based.
“Did here used to be more hair before?”
“I don’t think so but I had been thinking my forehead is looking bigger these days, now you mention it, maybe my hair is receding.” Oh no, I knew I took after my dad. I have a genetic disorder. This is getting to be quite serious. Ok maybe a bit dramatic, but this is the most exciting thing to happen yet today so I’m running with it…Do I have bald patches? No, I’m sure I don’t. My hair was definitely thicker when I was younger but I always put that down to it being frizzier and to stupidly brushing it when it was dry; a big mistake that I think I got away with in the nineties and learned to stop by the time I had a social life.
“Ok I will tell the doctor and maybe he can suggest some herbs and oils.”
Ok good. I have a well experienced doctor on the case of my hair. I am in safe hands.
I then proceed to lie down for my Shirodhara treatment. Here is a rough photo of the set up as I was rushing before the therapist came back:
Your head is positioned under the clay bowl through which the liquid pours and is collected again in a bowl which it runs into. I have had this done with oil once before in London but this is my first experience of it here in India and this time they will be using butter milk as it’s more cooling and they have caught me walking about in a sticky mess, dripping from the humidity.
“Try to relax by thinking about your breathe or about thoughts that you find relaxing or you can pray”.
Praying sounds like a nice option and for a minute I wish I knew some Hindi prayers as I’m not sure why but the prayers I know from my Christian upbringing always make me feel a little anxious. However I don’t pray, I can relax easily. T’his is going to be fine. I know the other female patient hated it but my lasting memory of my only other experience of this was of just drifting off and coming to about an hour later wondering where I’d been. It is a bit different here as there’s no background chanting music and the lighting is quite bright but I close my eyes and it begins.
The butter milk starts flowing across my forehead, back and forth rhythmically, over and over again, getting topped up by warmer liquid so there’s a constant stream of buttery goodness stroking my forehead. It’s nice. It smells delicious and I’m now really thankful for the two coconut cookies I sneakily ate earlier because otherwise, considering the sugar cravings I’ve been having, this would have been torture. It’s like my head’s a cake bowl and they are pouring in the yummy butter mixture.
Every now and then the therapist rubs it into my scalp which feels nice and gradually I feel myself float away. I think I’m sleeping but then again I might just be having strange dreams whilst still awake. I’m not sure but the time just escapes me and I come to after what must have been about 30 mins. Suddenly I’m not feeling relaxed but I really what to dodge the buttermilk and move my head into a more comfortable position. It’s like being in a hairdresser’s sink – there’s only so long you can stand it before the back of your head and neck hurt. Next time I will pay more attention to my position.
Thankfully we were coming to the end, just in the nick of time. As with previous treatments, the therapist then washed my hair, using my Garnier Fructis shampoo which I had been really embarrassed about before due to it’s artificial smell and chemical content, but was now thankful of because the buttermilk, having been churned over my head now smelt like off milk or cheese. After drying my scalp she dabs some brown powder onto my crown. It’s called Rasnadi Chooznam from what I can make out on the label and is used to help prevent colds and infections.
After she leaves I suddenly remember a natural, Ayurvedic hair conditioner pack I had bought. The description makes it sound like it was designed for me-it strengthens the roots and helps prevent ‘hair fall’. Not knowing how to use it, I pour some of the powder in a dish and add some water as I’ve seen them do previously with the powder they use to wash the oil off me. I apply this to my now almost dry hair and it goes in like grainy powder would do on drying hair; not well. I try to wash it out but grains kind of spray everywhere and it has clearly clumped into my scalp. Now sitting here writing this as greeny brown gravy stock granules fall over my screen and stick to my shoulders, my paranoia about hair loss seems insignificant to the mess I’ve made. With our limited communication I dread explaining this one to the therapist – green dandruff is only going to convince them more of my need to be here. I feel like a teenager who’s dyed her hair, the bath and all the family towels green.
I know hair loss is a serious issue and if I was worried about it I wouldn’t be taking it lightly. I don’t consider myself to have anxiety but I can, like everyone at times, be a bit anxious. When this happens I nervously scratch/massage/pick at (whatever you want to call it) my scalp. My other half and I conclude than rather than relying on the green powder I will endeavour to stop this bad habit; it drives him nuts. I mention my hair condition to the doctor who dismisses it instantly saying the oils used are good for the scalp; clearly he has bigger fish to fry. And when lunch arrives I quickly forget about my locks or lack of and all is well again. 🙂