Ayurveda is an alternative medicinal system from India that uses various herbs and oil to cure the various diseases. It also includes various massage therapies that promote self healing in our bodies. It is widely believed in Ayurveda that human body is comprised of three doshas namely vata, pitta and kapha.
All three doshas are present in every human body, however one of these doshas remain dominant on the other two. This is the one which defines your body type. Any imbalance in these doshas results in diseases and unwanted health conditions. So all ayurvedic treatments and therapies are focused on pacifying the aggravated doshas and achieving the perfect balance of the three, depending upon your body constitution.
One such ayurvedic massage therapy is the Shirodhara ayurvedic massage that is used to cure vitiated vata and pitta doshas.
Shirodhara Ayurvedic Massage
Ayurvedic massage therapies are not just means of rejuvenation but they also work as an effective cure to various body ailments. Different ayurvedic massages involve different types of massage movements, natural herbs, oils and target different areas/ organs of the human body. Shirodhara Ayurvedic Massage aims at calming our nervous system. The word “shirodhara” is formed by the combination of two Sanskrit words; “shir” which means head and “dhara” which means stream of a liquid. So, as the name suggests this ayurvedic massage therapy mainly involves applying pressure on the forehead through a continuous stream of a medicated fluid (mostly oils).
Traditionally in ayurveda, Shirodhara is practised as a part of Panchkarma cleansing process; however this massage is also very beneficial for calming, cleansing and relaxing your nervous system, on its own. Our forehead is the part of our body where nerves are highly concentrated. Continuous streaming of warm medicated liquid on this area exerts a gentle pressure on these nerves which not only calms down the nervous system but nourishes it as well.
As a result your body and mind descend into a deep meditative state and leave you revitalized. Many types of fluids (like milk, water, ghee, buttermilk, etc.), infused with various ayurvedic herbs, can be used as dravya (pouring liquid) in this massage therapy. The selection of the fluid and the herbs depends completely upon the needs, requirements and constitution of the body of individual undergoing this treatment. Accordingly, the shirodhara therapy can be further classified into 3 broad categories.
Different Types (Categories)
When milk is used as dravya, the shirodhara is known as Ksheerdhara. If buttermilk is used it is known as Takradhara and when oil/ ghee is used for streaming process the shirodhara is known as Snehdhara. The latter one is the most commonly used form of shirodhara massage therapy.
How it works
Let’s see how Shirodhara Ayurvedic Massage works.
The shirodhara massage therapy treats vata and pitta doshas imbalances that lead anyone to insecurity, anxiety, stress, irritability, mood swings, depression, hormonal imbalances and hypertension.
As mentioned above, this massage treatment primarily involves applying continuous pressure on the forehead by pouring a stream of oil in a rhythmic manner for a definite period of time. Such streaming of warm oil produces vibrations on the forehead, which get amplified through the hollow of the sinus and get transmitted into the brain. These vibrations stimulate and soothe the hypothalamus in brain. It also regulates the function of pituitary gland and induces sleep while liberating you from all your anxiety and stress.
This warm oil massage also improves blood circulation towards the brain by causing the vasodilatation of the brain channels. When ayurvedic oils (or any other prescribed liquid) are applied in large quantities they penetrate deeply into the nervous system and improve its functioning. At the end of it, leaves you with a very soothing and pleasant feeling, which is why now a days this ayurvedic massage therapy is also being widely used as a spa treatment.
How it is done
First of all it is important to know that this ayurvedic massage cannot be performed on your own and you need a trained therapist to get it done on you. Only an experienced ayurvedic practitioner can recommend the correct oil (or any other liquid) and herbs that should be used in this massage therapy depending on your body type and imbalance of the doshas. Once you book your appointment for shirodhara massage therapy the procedure is as follows:
- This therapy begins with abhyanga body massage. The therapist will give you an oil massage from head to toe, to prepare you for shirodhara The formulated oil used in this massage is also carefully chosen for every individual.
- Once you are done with abhyanga body massage, your massage therapist will make you lie down on the massage table and will tie a thick band on your eyebrows so that when oil is poured on your forehead it doesn’t drip down to your eyes, ears and nose causing discomfort.
- Next, the therapist will use a special vessel to pour the lukewarm formulated oil (or any other prescribed medicated fluid) on your forehead. He will also decide the duration of this streaming, which normally lasts in between 30-60 minutes.
- The oil is poured in an oscillating manner to create rhythmic vibrations and to save the patient from any discomfort which may arise due to continuous dripping at one point.
- The therapist will also give you a gentle massage on your scalp during this streaming process.
- Once the streaming of oil is done, they will wipe away the excess oil and give you a thorough massage on your head, this time covering the forehead and ears as well.
This completes the shirodhara ayurvedic massage therapy.
The lukewarm medicated oil along with gentle head massage will help you get rid of your stress and negativities, refuels your energy levels and recharge you with positivity.
As you may figure out by now that shirodhara is not a simple massage therapy and it involves many intricacies. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to get your massage therapist right. In addition, you also need to take few precautions before and after undergoing this ayurvedic massage treatment to reap all its benefits. We sum up the precautions for you in the section below:
- Observe complete silence during this massage therapy. Select a room which cuts you off from the outer world and is completely noise free. Do not talk in between the procedure and most importantly, switch off all your devices including your mobile phone. The basic idea is to provide rest to your mind and any kind of noise can disengage you from the procedure.
- During the shirodhara procedure your head will be completely drenched with oil (or other prescribed fluid) for quite a long duration. Hence, it is important that the room temperature remains a little warmer to avoid the risk of getting cold. Keeping yourself warm will also ensure good blood circulation which is vital for this therapy.
- Selection of the right liquid is the most crucial part of this treatment. So always consult a good and experienced ayurveda practitioner for shirodhara therapy. Generally sesame oil is prescribed to cure vata doshas while sunflower oil is used to cure pitta doshas. Your therapist can prescribe other liquids and herbs too, depending upon your body constitution, health condition and the climate you are in. In case you are using coconut oil, do remain cautious of its cooling effects. It should never be used on a vata body type.
Some More Precautions
- Taking rest after this ayurvedic massage therapy is essential. So schedule your appointment accordingly.
- Do not overload your tummy before going for shirodhara therapy. Taking light food is advisable.
- It would be best to leave the oil in your hair overnight. If not, let it stay there for a few hours before going for a head wash. You may cover your head with an old scarf or a shower cap in the interim.
- After so much oiling it becomes quite a task to get rid of the oil from your hair. Choose a good shampoo and rinse off thoroughly.
- The precautions will continue till a few more days following your shirodhara massage session. Take a healthy and balanced diet. Avoid refined products, junk foods and specially caffeine which can create an imbalance in your doshas. Go for a diet that includes lots of fresh fruits, vegetable, whole grains, dairy products and all rich sources of protein.
- These precautions following the shirodhara ayurvedic massage therapy are not limited to your diet only. You should also maintain a healthy lifestyle and balanced work routine for a few days, if not always. Be mindful of the circadian rhythm of your body. Wake up early, take your meals on time and take proper rest and sleep.
These simple do’s and don’ts will enrich the whole experience of shirodhara therapy for you and help you in enjoying the benefits of this massage treatment for a prolonged duration. Although the prime objective of this ayurvedic treatment is to calm your mind and improve the functioning of your nervous system; it also has a wide variety of positive effects on your physical and mental health. Let’s have a look at these below:
- The most distinct benefit of this ayurvedic massage is that it brings balance to your doshas by pacifying the vatta and pitta doshas. This way it serves as a good cure for diseases of vatta and pitta origin which include all degenerative and inflammatory diseases.
- It relieves your mind from all the anxiety and stress that has become a part and parcel of today’s lifestyle by reducing the levels of stress hormones namely Adrenaline & Noradrenalin. Further, it treats various mental ailments like depression, mood swings, memory loss, chronic headaches and insomnia.
- It is a good cure for various eye diseases, tinnitus, hearing impairment, greying of hair, hair fall, sinusitis, vertigo, dryness of scalp, allergies and certain types of skin diseases too.
- Another proven benefit of shirodhara ayurvedic massage therapy is its ability to cure sleep disorders. The vibrations generated through continuous streaming of liquid soothe and stimulate the hypothalamus which calms down your mind. The process also improves the functioning of pituitary gland and the pineal gland which produces melatonin (the hormone responsible for sleep and wakeup cycle). So whether it is jet lag, night shifts, stress or any other reason that is robbing you of your sleep, shirodhara therapy or oil massage therapy can help you in sleeping, better and longer.
- As vatta imbalance can also be a cause of hypertension, hence shirodhara ayurvedic massage therapy is also known to effectively lower your blood pressure.
- It improves blood circulation towards the brain and leaves a meditative effect on your mind.
- It is much recommended therapy to overcome the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.
- Lastly, For all the calmness, positivity, relaxation and rejuvenation this shirodhara ayurvedic massage therapy brings to your body and mind, you would love to go for it again and again.
Who should avoid
In general, shirodhara is a safe massage therapy, that can be enjoyed by anyone in any season yet you need to take note of the following conditions
- This ayurvedic massage is not recommended for those pregnant women who are into their third trimester.
- One must avoid this massage if affected by rashes, sunburn or allergy on the scalp or forehead.
- It should be avoided by people who are intolerant towards oils.
- If anyone has serious medical condition like brain tumour, fever, severe weakness, vomiting, excessive sweating then ayurvedic massage therapy should be avoided by them.
- Postpone your shirodhara appointment for a few days in case you have any neck injury or cuts/wounds on your forehead or scalp.
- Normally one doesn’t have any negative effects of this therapy, but in case you experience any discomfort then it is always better to check with your therapist before trying it again.
So don’t wait any longer to relish one of the best massage therapies from the hidden treasures of ayurveda. Fix your appointment at the earliest and pamper your body & mind with all the serenity, contentment and positivity that shirodhara massage therapy brings along. We would love to know about your experience in the comment section below.
A full time work from home mother, she utilises her spare time to contribute insightful articles around day to day lifestyle challenges and their remedies, that all can relate to. Trust Aafiya to provide apt advice on diet mechanism, nutritional facts and common home remedies.
Away from writing, Aafiya is statistics post graduate, has worked earlier in the field of Research & Education and loves travelling.
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