History Of Champissage™

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Massage has always played an important part in Indian life. It features in the earliest Ayurvedic texts, which date back over 4000 years. These ancient texts describe that, when used in conjunction with herbs, spices and aromatic oils, massage had an important medical function and could not only “strengthen muscles and firm skin”, but also encourage the body’s innate healing energy.

Today, Indian infants often receive a daily massage from birth until they are three years old to keep them supple and in good health. From three to six years of age, they are massaged once or twice a week. After six years of age, they are taught to share a massage with family members. Massage occurs across the generations in India as an integral part of family life. Indian Champissage™ springs from this rich tradition of family grooming.

Head massage has been practiced for over a thousand years. The concept was originally developed by women who used different oils according to the season (coconut, sesame, almond, olive oil, herbal oils, buttermilk, mustard oil and henna) and individual needs to keep their long hair strong, lustrous and in beautiful condition.

Barbers practiced many of the same skills with their male clients. They used to visit individual homes, cutting hair and often offering champi (head massage) as part of the treatment. It was customary for most people from the king down to have someone attend to them in this manner.

Treatments offered by barbers differed from the massages performed by women. A champi was an invigorating scalp massage designed to stimulate and refresh the individual and was not considered part of a beauty regime. The word ‘shampoo’ comes from the Hindi word ‘champi,’ meaning ‘massage of the head.’ Regular head massage, as practiced by woman to beautify their hair, was soothing and relaxing. They would use natural oils to keep their long hair strong and healthy.

The barbers’ skills evolved through the ages. They were handed down from father to son in much the same way that women kept alive the tradition of hair massage and grooming by passing the techniques from mother to daughter.

Nowadays, it is very common to go to a barber’s shop, receive a wet shave and have a head massage thrown in as part of the treatment. Head massage can be seen in many locations in India from Calcutta to Bombay: on street corners, in markets and, of course, on the beach.

Like most of his compatriots, Narendra Mehta had grown up with head massage as an integral part of his daily life. It was something to be automatically experienced every time he visited a barber.

However, when Narendra came to England in the 1973 to train as a Physical Therapist, he was dismayed to find that head massage was not generally available. He was also disappointed to discover that the head seemed to be completely neglected even in a full body massage.

Narendra began to miss the therapeutic value of regular head massage. In 1978, he decided to return to India to research the ancient art of head massage. He studied it wherever it was practiced: in barber’s shops, on street corners, at the beach and in family homes. He enjoyed being worked on but he couldn’t help feeling that there was something missing.

Although he experienced a slight improvement in well being, the effects were too short lived to be of any therapeutic benefit. Barbers focused on the scalp and women focused on the hair. In addition, everyone who worked with Narendra had his or her own individual technique, which had been handed down and developed through the generations. He decided that he would begin to formalise what he was experiencing and apply his heightened sensitivity as a blind person to discover which part of his body reacted most positively to specific moves.

Soon he arrived at two conclusions:

1. The therapy could benefit by being extended to include the face, neck, upper arms and shoulders ­ areas that accumulate high levels of stress and tension.

2. By introducing an Ayurvedic element into the massage to include work on the three higher Chakras (energy vortices) ­ Visuddha, Ajna and Sahasrara ­ the body’s entire energy system could be rebalanced.

When these two elements were added to traditional head massage, Narendra found he had a holistic therapy, which could be used effectively to treat the whole person. Experience had shown him that working on the head brings tremendous relaxation and relief from stress-related symptoms. In addition, he knew that head massage with oil serves as an excellent hair conditioner. Thus, Indian Champissage™ was developed from an ancient practice to become an excellent contemporary therapy.

This new therapy was introduced at the 1981 ‘Mind, Body and Spirit’ exhibition at Olympia, England, where a total of 179 clients came to Narendra’s stand suffering from headaches and many other stress-related symptoms. They left recharged and relaxed. Exposure to these and countless other clients during the next few years at his clinic and at various exhibitions allowed Narendra to study the effects of his techniques in depth and to revise and expand them.

Indian Head Massage (Indian Champissage™) has received a lot of positive exposure through numerous articles, magazine features, and radio and television interviews since its introduction in the UK. This, together with the obvious efficacy of the treatment, has undoubtedly led to its current popularity amongst health practitioners and the general public as one of the leading complementary therapies in Great Britain. The future of traditional Head Massage (Indian Champissage™) in the twenty-first century is exciting.

‘Indian head massage under the expert hands is an experience not to be missed’
– The Entertainer

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