Indian head massage (or "Champi" in Hindi) is a practice that originated over a thousand years ago in India, where it stemmed from a tradition of family grooming. Indian mothers used to massage their daughters' hair with different oils to encourage long, lustrous locks.
Narendra Metha, a blind man who grew up in an Indian community where Champi was an important part of life, was the first person to develop and formalise Indian head massage into an actual therapy.
Today, one of the most popular forms of head massage is Champissage – a trademarked sequence of massage movements.
Metha arrived in England in the 1970s where he trained as a physiotherapist. In 1978 he returned to India where he studied the benefits and practice of Champi. Metha soon included the neck, shoulders and face in the massage and employed modern knowledge of shiatsu and acupressure to relax tense areas, rebalance the energy and clear any areas of concentrated negativity.
Massage session: what to expect
The therapist will strive to restore balance and harmony by working on the three higher chakras. In Sanskrit these areas are called Vissuddha (the base of the throat), Ajna (the forehead) and Sahasrara (the crown).
A chakra ("wheel" or "disk") is a centre of vital energy in the form of a lotus flower. The head of the "flower" is found at the front of the body and the stem is thought to go through the central spinal column.
There are seven chakras situated throughout the body, starting with the root chakra at the base of the spine and ending with the crown chakra – just above the head. When the therapist balances the top three chakras, the rest will vibrate in balance and the belief is that perfect health and well-being will result.
A professional Indian head massage should in fact feel almost like a reflexology massage, which is performed on the feet, but is felt throughout the entire body. This is because there are several important acupressure points on the head.
Indian head massage may be dry, or oils may be used. The oils not only nourish the hair, but also calm the nervous system, as the roots of one's hair are connected to nerve fibres.
Important areas targeted
Indian head massage works on areas affected by mental and emotional stress and its proponents say that it can bring immediate relief. It is also said to improve circulation in the head, enhance the senses, improve memory and promote clear thinking.
People who suffer from headaches, migraines, insomnia, tinnitis, vertigo and depression may benefit from Indian head massage. It is also said that the head massage addresses the harmful effects of cellphone radiation.
Many different medical practitioners and corporate companies are discovering the benefits of this ancient practice. Dentists, for example, are using it to ease their patients' discomfort, while businesses are offering their employees free in-office massages in the quest to increase productivity and reduce absenteeism.
Air-conditioning and artificial lighting of the office environment often cause headaches, as can sitting slouched in front of the computer all day or the steering wheel, which may result in the formation of stress nodules in the neck and shoulders.
Because Indian head massage can be performed anywhere and is just as effective if done dry, it seems to be a good way to relieve office-related stress.
Other proposed benefits
It is believed that Indian head massage:
increases oxygen and glucose supply to the brain;
improves circulation of cerebrospinal fluid;
dissipates accumulated toxins in the head;
increases the brain's pranic energy level;
helps reduce hair loss, premature balding and greying;
growth and lustre of hair is improved;
massage of the temples, eyebrows and forehead improves eyesight and concentration;
good for the sinuses;
helps in the development of a six- to nine-month-old baby's eyesight and brain.
People with degenerative spinal disorders such as osteoporosis and arthritis require a more gentle massage.
Pressure should be moderated according to the individual's needs and characteristics, including age.
Allow five to ten days between treatments to give the body a chance to get rid of the toxins liberated by the treatment.