The name Indian Head Massage is misleading, as in Western training and practice it includes massage of the upper back, upper arms, neck and head. These are the areas where tension caused by stress is often felt. Indian Head Massage as practiced in the West was developed by Narendra Metha and first made it’s appearance in the UK in 1981. The recipient remains clothed throughout. I don’t use any oils. During an Indian Head Massage, clients sit on a chair or lie face down on a massage couch.
Different therapists have different ways of giving Indian Head Massage. Some are able to go deeper than others. My Indian Head Massage is a gentle massage that helps bring the body back into balance. The body has been through a lot to show the effects of stress. I believe that a gentle massage activates the body’s relaxation response and parasympathetic nervous system, bringing peace into the body and mind.
Traditional Indian Head Massage
Indian Head Massage is a treatment that developed from head massage practiced in India in the home and in barber shops.
Massage has always played an important part in Indian life, featuring in the earliest Ayurvedic texts, which date back nearly 4000 years. When used in conjunction with herbs, spices and aromatic oils, massage had an important medical function and could not only “strengthen muscles and firm the skin”, but also encourage the body’s natural healing abilities.
Indian infants often receive a daily massage from birth until they are 3 years old to keep them in good health and then from 3‑6 they are massaged once or twice a week. After 6, they are then taught to share a massage with family members and massage then occurs across the generations as an integral part of family life.
Indian Head Massage comes from this rich massage tradition of family grooming. Originally developed by women who used different oils according to the season (coconut, sesame, almond, olive oil, herbal oils, buttermilk, mustard oil and henna) to keep their hair strong, lustrous and in beautiful condition.
Barbers practiced many of these same skills. They would mostly practice their trade by going to individual’s houses, cutting hair and often offering Champi (head massage) as part of the treatment. This became quite a normal custom so that most people from the king down would have someone come to tend to them. Treatments would differ from the massages performed by women in that they were mainly invigorating scalp massages designed to stimulate and refresh the individual, not as part of a beauty treatment.
These skills have evolved through the ages and have been handed down from barber father to barber son in much the same way that the females in the family have kept the tradition of hair massage and grooming by passing it down from mother to daughter.
Narendra Mehta, a blind massage therapist, had grown up with head massage as an integral part of his daily life, something to be automatically experienced every time he visited a barber.
When he came to England to train as a physical therapist in the 1970’s, he was dismayed to find that head massage was not generally available but that the head seemed to be a completely neglected area even in a full body massage.
He missed the therapeutic value of regular head massage and decided to develop a massage system that would focus on the head. He knew by experience that working on the head could bring relaxation and relief from aches and pains in the head. By helping to dispel tension, head massage can become an excellent hair conditioner as well as a means of removing stress‑linked troubles.
In 1978, he returned to India to study with leading practitioners of this ancient art, studying it wherever it was practised: barber shops, street corners, beaches, and in family homes. Although he enjoyed being worked on, he felt that there was something missing in the massage. There was a slight improvement in well being, the effects were too short‑lived to be of any therapeutic benefit. The barbers would focus on the scalp and the women on treating the hair.
Also, everyone who worked with him had his or her own individual technique which had been handed down through the generations. Narendra decided that he would formalise what he experienced and use his heightened sensitivity as a blind person to discover which part of his body reacted most positively to various moves.
His research led him to two conclusions:
1. The treatment could benefit by being extended from just the hair and scalp to the face, neck and shoulders which are vulnerable areas for the accumulation of stress and tension.
2. By introducing an Ayurvedic element into the massage by working on the highest three Chakras, the whole energy system in the body and consequently the whole person could be brought back into balance.
When these two elements were added to traditional Head Massage, Narendra found he had a new holistic therapy which could be used effectively to treat the whole person.
This new therapy was introduced at the 1981 Mind, Body and Spirit exhibition in England where 179 clients came to the stand suffering from headaches and exhibition exhaustion and left recharged and relaxed. Treating clients at his clinic and at 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 since its introduction in the UK and has led to its current popularity amongst health practitioners and the general public.
To try an Indian Head Massage, find out more at http://www.relaxfromstress.ie