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The Big Skill - Karen learns Indian head massage, by Karen Buchanan

BBC Radio Norfolk Morning Show co-presenter Karen Buchanan finds there's more to the art of massage than simply having the right touch.

There are few areas in life in which I could be said to have the gentle touch. I am frequently a soft touch, but for years I remained blissfully unaware that subtlety had a 'b' in the middle.

So my choosing to learn Indian Head Massage as my Big Skill came as a shock to some of my mates. "You? Learning head massage? You'll be the Queen Of Hearts of the massage world - off with their heads!" they laughed.

I told them they'd be laughing on the other side of their faces once I'd finished with them... Yes, I'd soon be looking for volunteers to practise on...

The gentle touch

Jackie Hamilton runs the eponymously-titled School Of Therapies in Norwich, which offers courses in holistic massage, aromatherapy, sports massage and reflexology. A sunny, warm woman, she immediately put me at my ease and I started to relax.

Until she told me just what I was letting myself in for... I realised I'd been a tad naïve in thinking that learning massage was the easiest way to learn a new skill.

I was shocked to discover there's a lot more to it than just rubbing. Jackie outlined my homework: physiology, anatomy, biology - I was never good at the 'ologies' at school.

Then there'd be the three case studies, the health and safety exam, the business studies, the properties of different oils, client care... Oh, not forgetting the 'rubbing'!

We get down to basics quite quickly, Jackie demonstrating the first part of the moves on our willing guinea-pig Richard, while I studied her technique. Then it was my turn. For an Indian head massage, which takes about 30 minutes, the client sits in a chair, with the masseuse behind them.

Won't hurt, did it?

I start to copy the moves Jackie has just shown me, but I'm worried I'm applying too much pressure and will hurt Richard. He reassures me that he's fine and that actually he's quite enjoying having two women fuss over him!

The moves are quite complicated, but Jackie tells me I'm picking them up quickly and she (and Richard) are pleased with my first attempt.

In fact Richard's so comatose he can barely speak.

He looks like he's just woken up after 100 years asleep and smiles a sleepy "Thanks" at us, before mustering up the energy to add: "Wow! That was great. I feel completely chilled."

Back to the future?

So am I enjoying learning a new skill? Well, my popularity has soared among my friends as they've realised I need case studies in order to qualify.

I'm finding it quite tiring though – giving a massage is very physical and you have to be careful to protect your back – and learning biology for the first time since school is proving demanding!

But it's a lovely feeling to be able to make somebody else utterly stress-free and I'm enjoying challenging myself with the more technical aspects of the course.

The only problem is remembering to do all the moves in the right order and not being too enthusiastic – there's a danger you can get carried away and pull someone's hair out!


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