Indian Champissage

by Annet King

Physical and psychological stressors alike assail the head, including the scalp, the muscles of the face and the neck and shoulders, threatening to turn the upper body into a minefield of tension, congestion and constriction. But here’s a surprising modern-day solution with a 4,000 year history: Indian Champissage™, a unique therapy developed and taught by osteopath and massage therapist Narendra Mehta and his wife Kundan Mehta. Together, the Mehtas’ established the London Centre of Indian Champissage in 1995, and since fall 2003, The International Dermal Institute has offered workshops with Mr. Mehta around the world as part of our industry expert offerings.

What is Indian Champissage™?

Champissage, meaning head massage, in spite of its Gallic ring, comes from the Hindi term “champi,” from which the English word “shampoo” is derived. According to Mr. Mehta, massage has been part of Ayurvedic tradition in India for more than 40 centuries, with intergenerational family massage playing a social role for a thousand years or more. Massage of the head and incorporating the use of oils was of particular interest to women as part of their grooming routine for maintaining the health and luster of their hair, which was (and still is today) classically worn very long. Barbers also offered “champi” to men, ostensibly as a refreshing, tonic experience versus a beauty treatment.

Narendra Mehta’s concept of Champissage expands to include massage of the shoulders and upper arms, and it incorporates energy work focused upon the three upper chakras, which is typically not part of the champi practiced today on the street corners of large Indian cities. The objectives of his practice are to relieve pain and tension, improve both concentration and relaxation, and dramatically improve chakric balance for greater well-being. Mehta explains that he was inspired to create this form of therapy after experiencing massages in a variety of places with a variety of professionals – not one of which included the “champi” with which he was so familiar! In 1978, he went to India to research the traditional techniques, and developed his new hybrid Champissage therapy soon thereafter.

The Benefits of Champissage™

Even in the friendliest of workplaces, many of us spend 8-10 hours a day staring into computer monitors. Add to this the ergonomic nightmare of sitting for prolonged periods, typically with a less than ideal seating arrangement, cradling a phone between ear and shoulder. And, most of us unconsciously push our chins slightly forward when concentrating on our work, making eye, head and neck strain inevitable.

Champissage’s beneficial effects are varied and interrelated. Increased circulation, which results from the therapy, disperses toxins from previously congested muscles and stimulates the lymphatic system. This is always necessary through light, though focused, massage, since the lymphatic fluid is not driven by the heart or any equivalent pump. This improved circulation also increases oxygen uptake in the tissues, and, with the clearing of congestion from the muscles of the upper back, shoulders, neck and face, allows more oxygen to reach the brain, thus promoting mental alertness and clarity.

Champissage™ for the Face

Touching of the face and head is a highly intimate act. The face of the skin is thin, so much that we can perceive changes in light through our closed eyelids. The entirety of the facial skin is laced with thousands of nerve-endings, muscles and capillaries, allowing for the exquisite range of perceptions and expression that are so critical to human communication. Also, we each possess an innate instinct to protect our face, especially our eyes, as well as our head in general, from impact or harm of any kind.

For these related reasons, allowing another person to explore and examine your face is in some ways the ultimate gesture of trust. Little girls spend hours playing with each other’s hair and “coiffing” the hair of their dolls. Ruffling the hair of another person may be interpreted as an act of acceptance or reassurance, sometimes with a parental quality. Mammals, primates in particular, use facial contact, whether it be a “head-bump,” nuzzling, stroking, grooming, petting, rubbing, etc., as a powerful form of social bonding and communication. Perhaps some ancestral memory is stirred when the practitioner uses finger pad friction, whole hand friction and light plucking and ruffling motions across the scalp.

The Champissage™ Experience

The Champissage treatment is blissful. There is none of the heavy manipulation or snap crackle, pop associated with chiropractics, and the approach is far more gossamer in feel than conventional sacro-cranial work. As you sit with your eyes closed, the practitioner’s fingertips ruffle your hair both gently and wildly, patter across your eyelids like cool raindrops and scratch delicately behind your ears. Fifteen or twenty minutes passes in one sweep of a butterfly’s wing.

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alternative therapies
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Indian Champissage