I spotted my first grey hair when I was a teenager.
It stood long, proud and almost menacing, which made me feel rather defeated. It appeared as though tragedy had struck me at a very young age. My mother blamed it on the lack of oiling my hair, my diet, hormones, stresses at school, and a million other things.
That’s when my grandmother, with years of wisdom under her belt, asked me to try Balayam or rubbing nails against each other to enjoy the benefits for my hair.
Like me, if you have faced hair-related issues then I am pretty sure that someone may have definitely suggested nail rubbing to counter these issues. Alternative reflexology medicine has been highlighting the benefits of rubbing nails for a while. On the surface, it appears like a miracle remedy for dealing with a number of issues. However, the real question continues to stand tall – is nail rubbing merely a hyped up myth or a reality? Let’s find out!
What is Nail Rubbing?
The name is quite self-explanatory: nail rubbing refers to the practice of rubbing your nails against each other. The ancient Indian practice of Yoga refers to nail rubbing as “Balayam.” The composite word Balayam is derived from two words – bal, which means hair, and vyayam, which means exercise. So basically Balayam, or nail rubbing, is an exercise for the hair.
A number of Ayurveda, Acupressure doctors, and Yoga masters recommend Balayam for treating hair problems including hair fall, premature greying, baldness, alopecia areata, and even insomnia! It has been observed that nail rubbing exercise results gradually takes time for full effect. Normally, it takes at least 3 to 4 months for the nail rubbing exercise benefits to show.
Nail Rubbing – Science or Old Wives’ Tale?
Before you try out Balayam, you would be curious about the scientific reason that supports the nail rubbing technique. Here are the various thoughts, ideologies, hypothesis, and theories, that I have found out which tries to prove the working of nail rubbing:
Rubbing Nails: Science-based Theories
Nail Rubbing Benefits Theory Based on Adult Stem Cells
Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that bear the unique capacity to develop into specialised cells. They are responsible for replacing or regenerating the cells and tissues that are either lost or damaged. In a nutshell, they are responsible for repair and restoration. How does a cut or a wound heal? Through stem cells!
Stem cells are primarily of three types – Embryonic, Umbilical cord, and Adult stem cells. Each of these stem cell types is capable of self-renewal. On completion of the embryonic development, adult stem cells are present in the body.
Now, we all know that hair emerges from a hair follicle. The bulge of the hair follicle also contains adult stem cells, which help in nourishment, growth, regrowth, and health of your hair. Think of the hair follicle like a womb and the bulge with adult stem cells as the umbilical cord while your hair is the embryo.
Now according to the Adult Stem Cell Theory, rubbing your nails sends a message to the brain, which in turn signals the adult stem cells present in the hair follicles. On receiving the chemical neurotransmitters from the brain, the adult stem cells initiate the process of producing new hair follicles or begin rejuvenation of the damaged hair follicle. Thus, nail rubbing benefits include growth/regrowth of hair along with improvement in hair quality.
Nail Rubbing Benefits Theory Based on Reflexology
Reflexology involves the application of pressure to specific parts of hands, ears, and feet, commonly referred to as ‘reflex areas,’ to provide relief in certain glands, organs, or parts of the body. Does acupressure ring a bell?
Reflexology is pretty much the same. According to reflexology, the reflex areas are directly connected to the body part, organ, or gland and applying varying pressure will alleviate pain, stress, and discomfort.
As per Reflexology charts, the hair follicles present in the scalp are directly connected to the nerve endings present in the nail beds and beneath the fingernails. So, rubbing nails will stimulate and encourage blood flow to the scalp.
If anything, we all know about a universally true fact, the more blood supply a certain part of the body receives, the healthier it will be. The enhanced blood flow to the scalp will make it healthier. A healthy scalp can effectively nourish the hair follicles, thereby strengthening the hair, preventing hair loss, and boosting the hair quality.
The Yogic and Ayurvedic Theory Behind Nail Rubbing
Despite the obscurity of conventional science on the efficacy of rubbing nails, Ayurveda is quite vocal on how the technique works. This just goes to prove that our ancestors were well ahead of their time.
According to Ayurveda, hair and nails are considered to be malas, which basically are vestigial byproducts of metabolic activities responsible for the formation of the skeletal system (asthi dhatu).
Imagine your hair and nails like weeds that grow when you are taking care of a garden, which is your skeletal system. Now think, if you are caring for the plans in your garden, that is, fertilising it, watering it, giving it enough sunshine etc. even the weeds will develop accordingly. Neglect your garden and the plants along with the weeds will die out.
On the same pattern, much like the skeletal system, the nails and hair also react to the three humors (or doshas), namely Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. The imbalance of these doshas reflects on the human body. In this case, the influence of Vata and Pitta leads to hair thinning, greying, hair loss, and dandruff. Suppose you concentrate too much on watering the plants without paying much heed to fertilisers or sunshine. Naturally, the way to fix this problem would be to hit the right balance between the three doshas.
Practicing Balayam helps in balancing the doshas and in process revives the hair and strengthens the entire skeletal system. This is similar to nurturing for your garden in a balanced manner. Your plants are healthy and even the weeds turn out healthy. Additionally, Balayam also evenly distributes the healing power of energy. It is believed that the tingling sensation experienced in the scalp while nail rubbing is felt since the energy of the chakras are promoting health in the scalp and stimulating hair growth.
Best Nail Rubbing Technique
Before I start discussing the benefits of nail rubbing, it is essential for me to explain the correct technique to rub nails. Complementary medicine is only effective after you have mastered the art of practicing the technique perfectly. So, allow me to break it down into simple steps for you:
- Step 1: Place your hands at chest level. Form a half-fist by curling your fingers inwards. Stick your thumb out.
- Step 2: Allow your fingers’ nails to touch each other by facing your palms against each other.
- Step 3: Now, using swift up-down movement, rub the nails of one hand against each other. Remember, you only need to rub the nails of your fingers and not the thumb.
- Step 4: Continue for at least 5 to 10 minutes. That’s it! That’s all it takes for you to have thick, lustrous hair!
Who Should Stay Away From Rubbing Nails?
I have always believed that one man’s meat could be another man’s poison. Something that may prove effective for someone may not necessarily have the same effect on another person. Some of us are more prone to the side effects of rubbing nails than good. So I would suggest that if you belong to that category of individuals (as mentioned below), you should skip it altogether.
The following persons can show pronounced side effects, due to which they should avoid rubbing nails at any cost:
- Pregnant ladies (as rubbing nails may cause uterine contractions)
- Those having a history of high blood pressure and hypertension (since it elevates blood pressure)
- Those suffering from skin or nail infections, lesions, or sore and/or diseased or brittle fingernails (as it may make your condition worse)
- Those dealing with surgical conditions such as angiography, appendicitis, etc. (the elevation in blood pressure may cause health complications)
Advantages of Rubbing Nails:
- Nail rubbing helps people of all genders, irrespective of their age group. Plus, it is a relaxing exercise.
- Rather than offering a superficial resolution to your hair-related problems, nail rubbing tries to target the underlying problems that result in these issues.
- One does not need to make any special arrangements to try out nail rubbing.
- Rubbing nails is an inexpensive reflexology therapy for a number of gains.
- It can be done at any time of the day and at any place! You could rub nails while commuting or even at work. Thus, the convenience offered by nail rubbing is tremendously advantageous.
Rubbing Nails Disadvantage:
- Undoubtedly, rubbing your nails together benefits the hair but the process is quite long, drawn out, and slow. Thus, you really need to have patience since the effects are not instantaneous.
- Much like any other activity, too much of anything could also prove to be disastrous. Even though the side effects are minimal, rubbing nails excessively and forcefully could potentially damage your nails.
Major Nail Rubbing Benefits
Naturally, you would only want to practice something if it affects you in a positive manner. The same goes for nail rubbing. As per claims, here are the major nail rubbing benefits granted to those practicing Balayam diligently:
- Nail rubbing improves the blood flow to the hair follicle, which strengthens it. Stronger hair follicles drastically reduce hair loss.
- Those battling patterned baldness claim to have reversed the balding effects by rubbing their nails. In fact, after a span of 8 to 12 months, hair regrowth is highly possible.
- In addition to improving hair quality, rubbing nails to prevent grey hair is also a common practice. Furthermore, rubbing your nails can help in the restoration and retention of the natural hair colour. This is a natural dye for your hair!
- If you wish to give your facial hair a growth boost, then you can try nail rubbing for beard growth. It is said that if you rub the nails of your thumb, you can have a denser beard with an accelerated growth.
- Having a headache that you want to treat through natural methods? Try Balayam! Nail rubbing will soothe your headache almost instantly.
Things to Remember While Rubbing Nails:
Overdoing anything is harmful, even if the main motive is to positively affect the body. Thus, one needs to follow caution to prevent any nail rubbing side effects. Here are some things to bear in mind while practicing nail rubbing:
- Ideally, to enjoy all the advantages of rubbing nails it should be done for at least 20 to 30 minutes in a day. This duration can be split into durations of 5-10 minutes each.
- Practice nail rubbing at least once every morning and evening daily. However, do not exceed the limit of a total of 30 minutes of nail rubbing per day.
- As per ancient texts, Balayam or rubbing of nails should be done either on an empty stomach or 2 hours after having food.
- Before rubbing nails, you can apply some almond or castor oil on your nails as lubrication. This will not only reduce the excessive friction between the nails but will also make your nails stronger and lustrous.
- Ensure that the broadest part of your nails rubs against each other. Also, try to rub your nails as vigorously as possible so that the nails and the nail beds are adequately stimulated.
- Along with nail rubbing, apply onion juice to areas where you are experiencing thinning of hair or baldness to trigger hair regrowth.
- In addition to Balayam, try out other supplementary Yoga exercises such as shirsh asana, matsya asana, pranayama, and adho mukha svanasana. These poses and breathing techniques also contribute towards lustrous, thick hair.
Hair-related problems are a result of various factors, which can be internal or external. Triggers in the loss of hair quality include side effects caused by medication, illness, stress, aging, hormonal imbalance, pollution, chemical hair treatment, and most importantly, genetic and hereditary composition. So having unrealistic expectations with nail rubbing benefits could be impractical. You need to have a more integrated approach to tackle your hair woes, try including traditional medicines, proper diet and exercise, and alternate medication for wholesome wellness.
Even though it may not have received concrete scientific backing, a number of anecdotal claims serve as proponents of Balayam. However, there is no concrete data, large sample survey, or research that I can cite while strongly suggesting that you may try out Balayam yoga. But it is true that this holistic therapy does not cost a thing and can be done at any time and anywhere, so what’s the harm? Most importantly, when practiced in moderation, it has no side effects either! Trying out nail rubbing is a win-win situation for you.
Finally, as a side note, I would suggest that you try nail rubbing complemented with oil scalp massages and keratin and protein-rich diet amongst other home remedies, hair masks, etc. to actually observe a noticeable effect. And who knows? A combination of certain things might actually turn the tables in your favour!
What has your experience with nail rubbing been like? Let me know in the comments below.