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indian head massage

Belinda Jeffery

Trish Utaboon

Indian Head Massage has its roots in the Ayurvedic tradition, which is 4,000 to 5,000 years old (depending on sources). Literally the “science (veda) of life (ayur)”, this is the oldest recorded medical system in existence. Massage is one aspect of this approach, and as such is an integral part of daily life in India. Women massage their babies daily from birth and then on a regular basis as they grow up. Children are taught massage from the age of 6 so they can participate in this family activity. Mothers massage their children who in turn massage the younger children in the family. Massage cleanses and maintains health, and head massage in particular promotes hair growth and shine and heals scalp conditions. The women use herbs, spices, and different oils depending on the season, for their healing properties; e.g. coconut, almond, carrot, olive, sesame or hazelnut. Men also have a role in massage as barbers offer this service; champi is the Sanskrit word for massage, hence the term “champissage” which also refers to Indian Head Massage in the West today. Today, champua in Hindi means to knead and massage the scalp and hair, whilst jaharar (the word for massage) literally means “remover of age”. Barbers’ head massages for men are designed to invigorate, stimulate and refresh.

The pioneer of Indian Head Massage in the UK is Narendra Mehta. Born in India, he travelled to the UK in the 1970’s to train as a physical therapist. He was dismayed not to be able to get a head massage either at the barber’s or from complementary therapists. He returned to India where he travelled extensively to learn all the different techniques practised across the country – being blind by birth, he was particularly sensitive to all the effects of massage on the body and the mind. He adapted the original Indian head massage for use in the West by making it a gentler technique, and incorporating work on the neck, shoulders, arms and back as well as the head. In these areas Westerners tend to store a lot of stress and tension, so covering them during the massage extends its benefits. He also included Ayurvedic energy balancing techniques. He launched this new therapy in 1981.

 
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