Shirodhara is, without a doubt, one of the most deeply relaxing and rejuvenating ayurvedic treatments that there is. But far from simply being a pampering treat to unwind and dissolve stress, Shirodhara has a whole range of health benefits.
What is Shirodhara?
Shiro means ‘head’, and dhara means ‘flow’. The Sanskrit word Shirodhara refers to a traditional ayurvedic treatment which involves pouring warm, herbally-infused oil onto the third eye point and allowing it to run across the forehead and scalp.
Ayurveda categorizes therapies according to their qualities. Shirodhara is considered a shodhana therapy — meaning that is has purifying qualities. It is also categorized as snehana, which refers to the application of oil for nurturing and nourishment. In fact, the word “sneha” not only means oil, but can also be translated as love and compassion. These qualities reflect the deeply healing effects of shirodhara treatment.
Shirodhara is most commonly prescribed for people experiencing vata aggravation and its associated symptoms, such as stress, headaches, tension and poor sleep. It is also often done for postpartum mothers to relax the body and mind after the trauma of childbirth. However, shirodhara can beneficial and rejuvenating for almost everybody. It is quite normal for people to fall asleep during the treatment, as the gentle flow of the warm oil across the scalp lowers the heart rate and blood pressure, inducing a state of total relaxation.
How Does it Work?
The skin is the body’s largest organ and has the capacity to absorb many substances. Ayurveda regularly uses the external application of herbally-infused oil as a means of sending medicine straight from the surface of the skin through the epidermis, dermis and into the bloodstream to the deeper tissues. The forehead and scalp have greater absorption than any other part of the body, with the exception of the pubic region. Therefore shirodhara targets an ideal area for the infusion of medicine.
Since the head / forehead is also the region of the brain and the primary sense organs, the primary effects of shirodhara are directed there. For this reason, it is also essential that only the highest quality oils and herbs are applied during shirodhara treatment.
During shirodhara, warm oil is poured directly onto ajna marma (synonymous with the Third Eye). Marma points are vital energy points located on the surface of the body. Ajna marma is most notably associated with consciousness. However it also relates to brain function and hormones. By applying warm oil to this marma point in particular, vata and pitta doshas that reside there are pacified.
In addition to the ajna marma point, the forehead and scalp are also home to multiple sensory nerve endings. Although there are many different types of sensory nerves that gather here, but the pain and temperature sensory nerves in particular have a very interesting connection to this area of the body. They travel into the limbic portions of the brain, which are responsible for how we process emotion, hold attention, grasp information, and maintain motivation, as well as many other important functions. The pacifying qualities of shirodhara reaches this often disturbed area in the brain, promoting ease, peace and clarity.
What Benefits Does it Have?
- Reduces stress hormone production
- Turns down the activity of the sympathetic nervous system (helping to combat stress)
- Decreases other symptoms of stress, such as high levels of cortisol, high blood pressure and an elevated heart-rate
- Soothes symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, mood swings, body aches and compromised sleep.
- Significantly reduces high levels of vata dosha
- Reduces anxiety, a symptom of aggravated vata dosha, through the nourishing and soothing nature of the oil application
- Increases attention and focus by soothing vata and stabilising the brain neurons
- Treats headaches and muscle tension
- Tackles insomnia and significantly improves sleep quality
If you get the opportunity to experience the deeply nurturing and restorative shirodhara treatment, do not miss it out! Even the busiest of minds will find peace during this hour long medicinal oil application.