Ayurveda, the ancient and holistic science of well-being and longevity, is a unique tradition of India that has been with us for thousands of years. Noted in various Vedic scriptures, Ayurvedic treatments have a long legacy of promoting physical health, emotional well-being, and soul connection. These practices bring forth the use of various preparations of herbs, spices, oils and other natural components that comes together to assist an individual to overcome various health anomalies and guide towards absolute health and well-being through an intricate system of healing.
What Is Shirodhara Scalp Massage?
Shirodhara is a traditional ayurvedic method of healing, that has been in use since ancient times to bring the mind, body and soul to a harmonious level. Touted as one of the most purifying and rejuvenating treatments, this therapy is designed in such a way that it not only eliminates the harmful AMA toxins from the body but also relieves stress, gets rid of mental exhaustion and treat a host of disorders.
The term ‘Shirodhara’ comes from two Sanskrit words, where ‘Shiro’ means ‘head’ and ‘dhara’ implies to ‘pouring or sprinkling something’, together it infers to dripping or pouring of warm herbal ayurvedic oils on the forehead from a specific height, for a specific time period in a continuous stream, allowing the oil to run through the scalp and down into the hair. While there are different types of massage techniques that work only on the external surface and help in relieving muscle pain and stress, Shirodhara, on the other hand, works on multiple layers of the being. Be it exfoliating dead skin cells, transporting lymphatic fluids, mitigating stress, expunging muscular tension, balancing doshic elements, or obliterating toxins, this divine process does it all. It even enhances the function of the central nervous system, treats diseases like anxiety, depression, and mental fatigue and bestows a whole new experience to the mind and body.
What Are The Various Names Of Shirodhara?
Classical ayurvedic scriptures of Charak Samhita and Susruta Samhita denotes Shirodhara by various vernacular names such as: Shiro Sheka, Sirothara, Parisheka, Shiro Parisheka, Dhara, and Shirashek.
What Are The Different Types of Shirodhara Massage?
Shirodhara therapy generally uses different types of herbal oils or infusions to bring about a soothing sensation to the mind and body. Depending upon the type of liquid used, it is categorized into the following types:
Taila Dhara (Thaila Dhara):
A single type of oil or a mixture of several ayurvedic oils are used in Taila dhara type of massage.
Dugadha Dhara (Ksheerdhara):
The main ingredient used in dugadha dhara is milk.
Takra Dhara (Thakradhara):
Takra dhara mostly uses buttermilk as the main ingredient.
Kwatha Dhara (Decoction):
Depending upon the diagnosed condition or dosha imbalance, the main ingredient in kwatha dhara consists of decoctions made by using various herbs.
Jala Dhara (Aqueous formulation):
Generally used in case of Pitta imbalance in the body. This type mostly uses coconut water as the main ingredient for the treatment.
How Does Shirodhara Work?
The infusion of oils or other liquids when poured onto the head and scalp produces a soothing and calming sensation on the muscles of the head, which in turn passes via the superficial peripheral nerves of the forehead to the brain. By soothing the hypothalamus, it regulates the activity of the pituitary gland and treats conditions like insomnia by inducing sleep. Shirodhara also stimulates the various vital points all around the head and improves blood circulation. The warm herbal oils used for this process causes vasodilatation of all the blood vessels and thus improves the blood circulation in the brain.
The massage brings down the elevated serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. Shirodhara also reduces the level of stress hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenaline and thus relaxes the mind and thereby helps in relieving stress and tension. It also helps in alleviating different types of psychosomatic ailments like stress, tension, depression, anxiety.
What Are The Shirodhara Oil Ingredients?
The choice of liquid for Shirodhara treatment depends upon the person’s condition and Vatic imbalance. Commonly used fluids include various oils, coconut water, buttermilk, decoctions especially those containing licorice and milk processed with herbs and other herbal ingredients. Generally, 2-3 litres of these massage liquids are used for the 1-hour long session.
The umpteen therapeutic benefits of these herbal fluids used for the massage helps in treating a host of health conditions including neurological disorders, memory loss, insomnia, eye diseases, allergic rhinitis, sinusitis, greying of hair, hearing damage, tinnitus, vertigo, Meniere’s disease and certain types of skin diseases like psoriasis.
Which Oil Is Best For Shirodhara?
In most cases, Ksheer bala tailam (a mixture of Bala herb paste, sesame oil, and cow’s milk) is used for Shirodhara. Other varieties include Chandanadi tailam, Karpasasthyadi tailam, Narayana tailam and Dhanwantharam tailam. Also Read: 5 Must-have Essential Oils for Monsoons
If neither of the above mentioned herbal oils are available, one can just use sesame oil for the Shirodhara massage. Enriched with antioxidants and active ingredients like sesamin, sesaminol and sesamol, this oil manages the serotonin activity in the brain. It not only soothes and calms the head but also helps relieve stressful conditions and induce sleep. The Shirodhara oils mixed with nervine herbs are also beneficial for treating people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Procedure Of Shirodhara Massage
Massage the head and scalp properly using an adequate quantity of oil 5 to 10 minutes before starting the procedure.
Lie on your back in the supine position on the Shirodhara table.
Keep a small pillow or towel under your neck for proper support.
Fine-tune the Shirodhara pot or equipment in such a way, so that the oil from the pot falls directly onto the forehead. Usually, the specific distance here, between the Shirodhara pot and the forehead should be about 10 cm.
Put the specific type of oil, you want to use in the Shirodhara pot and start pouring oil or the herbal liquids over the head and forehead of the patient.
Ask the patient to relax and relish the feeling coming from the oil being sprinkled onto the head.
The oil coming out of the Shirodhara pot should be in continuous motion.
Oscillate or waver the pot from one side to another side of the forehead, so that the stream of oil goes from left to right, lateral part of the forehead and vice versa.
Recollect the extra oil that has fallen from the forehead, on the table, reheat it to maintain the specific temperature of the Shirodhara oil.
Put the recollected oil back into the Shirodhara pot and again allow the oil to fall from the Shirodhara pot onto the forehead.
Continue this process for 20 to 30 minutes.
Give a light head massage to the patient throughout the process.
After the Shirodhara massage is completed, wipe off the oil or liquids from the forehead of the patient.
Allow the patient to relax for 30 to 60 minutes and allow the oil to seep deep inside the head.
Points To Note:
- The treatment is usually done either in the morning or in the evening to get the maximum results.
- In some particular health conditions, apart from the head and scalp, a whole-body massage i.e. Abhayanga is done using the herb-infused oils.
- The patient should take bath using medicated water or warm water after 30 minutes, once the procedure reaches completion.
- Use medicated shampoos to remove the oil from the hair.
- Avoid intake of caffeinated products for a few days as this may negate the benefits of the treatment.
- Go for a Vata pacifying diet.
Why Is The Shirodhara Oil Poured Onto The Forehead?
The oils infused with various herbs or herbal ingredients are generally sprinkled onto the forehead and head since this is the only part of the body that has numerous sensitive nerve endings or vital points that are directly connected to the brain. According to several spiritual texts, the centre of the forehead is said to be the ‘third eye’, which is connected to the pineal gland via several blood vessels and capillaries.
Yogic tradition refers to this third eye as the ‘Agnya Chakra’. Focussing on the Agnya chakra during meditation with closed eyes leads to psychosomatic harmony. As the oil drips on the agnya chakra, it begets a meditation-like effect, which is a consequence of stillness of mind leading to the adaptive response to the basal stress. The oil infiltrates into the nervous system after dousing the forehead and scalp. The entire procedure empowers the mind and body to experience a state of deep rest, similar to the state, a person attains right after meditation. Also Read: Modern Meditation Techniques For Mental And Emotional Well-Being
Benefits Of A Shirodhara Treatment
Stress is the body’s reaction in the form of physical or emotional change that comes from any event or thought that makes one feel angry, frustrated, or nervous. Shirodhara treatment holds high significance in alleviating stress from the mind and body. The steady pour of warm oil along with slight massage begets calmness, facilitates relaxation and promotes tranquillity. As the body enters into a deep relaxation state, it turns on the parasympathetic nervous system mode, i.e. the stress hormones are subdued since the hyper-alert brain waves (bets waves) transition into relaxed-alert ones (alpha waves). Due to this transition, the body conserves energy, relaxes muscles, dilates blood vessels and slows down the heart rate. The treatment is pivotal in the case of arrhythmia and hypertension.
Several ayurvedic scriptures mention the point between the eyebrows as the ‘Third Eye’. While Buddhist tradition refers to this third eye as a point of spiritual awakening, Hindus believe it to be the ‘Sixth Chakra’ which is the home of intuition or awareness. Shirodhara is one such practice, where the healer helps open one’s third eye which leads to the free flow of ‘prana’ or ‘life force’. When the prana drifts through the energy channels, also known as ‘srotas’, they help remove the blockages in the mind and help recall events buried deep in their past and see them from a vantage point which was previously inaccessible. Through the downpour of the warm oils, patients receive immense mental clarity which helps them move past unresolved pains, traumas, and emotional experiences.
Enhances Sleep Quality
Be it an approaching deadline at your workplace or some kind of stress in your life, sleeplessness is common in quite a few individuals in today’s fast-paced life. Loss of sleep can be extremely debilitating and can lead to exhaustion, lethargy and can also disturb your physical and emotional being. Shirodhara treatment helps reduce the levels of cortisol which is a stress hormone and thereby attenuates stress and improves the quality, duration and provides a peaceful sleep.
The therapy acts as a natural stress-booster. Accompanied by the herbal oils, this head massage clears brain toxins and improves cognitive abilities like memory, concentration, etc. It also normalises the vata and pitta doshas in the body which in turn regulates the serotonin hormone and helps to reduce various symptoms of anxiety which include restlessness, uneasiness, cold hands, and feet, etc. Also Read: Anxiety Attacks? Here’s How You Deal With It
Pacifies Vata Doshas
Vata Dosha is a combination of the air and space elements. An excessive accumulation of this dosha within the body can lead to chaotic thoughts, physical restlessness, forgetfulness and scattered attention. According to Ayurveda, Shirodhara is by far the ultimate remedy of pacifying the abnormal Vata doshas. The herbal oils used in this treatment balances the cool, light, and fluctuating nature of the Vata dosha and hence provides relief from the various underlying symptoms of the Vata imbalance. Also Read: Introduction To Ayurveda: Learn About Vata, Pitta And Kapha Doshas
What Is Shirodhara Good For?
Shirodhara For Headache And Migraine
The oils used for Shirodhara have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which potently help in relaxing the throbbing blood vessels in the head. The therapy also improves the mood of an individual and provides relief from stress-related headaches and chronic migraines.
Shirodhara For Vision Problems
This classical procedure is extremely advantageous in case of vision problems. Although not applied directly into the eye, the massage with warm herbal oils improves the eye muscles, boosts clarity and helps a person see better without any glasses. A prescribed Shirodhara therapy using eyesight improving oils if done for a fortnight shows effective results. Also Read: Eat These Foods To Beat Vision Problems-Infographic
Shirodhara For Depression
Shirodhara therapy holds great value for treating different types of psychotic problems like depression, dementia, restlessness, etc. Thanks to the potent anti-stress, anti-depressive and anti-anxiety properties of the herbal oils at use, the therapy balances the brain chemicals i.e. neurotransmitters and ups the secretion of dopamine which in turn keeps the serotonin level under control and helps to reduce various symptoms of anxiety and depression. Also Read: Depression: How To Recognise The Signs & Deal With It
Shirodhara For Hypertension
The Shirodhara treatment induces potent vasodilatory effects on the body. When the oil drops on the center of the forehead, it activates the agnya chakra, which in turn helps dilate the blood vessels and improves blood circulation throughout the body. By normalising the blood flow, it not only improves the heart functions but also enhances cardiovascular endurance which brings the blood pressure to a stable level and hence treats hypertension and abnormal pressure readings.
Shirodhara For Cognitive Abilities
The oils used in this traditional therapy have potent brain-boosting properties. Enriched with powerful antioxidants and flavonoids, they effectively improve the concentration, memory capacity, focus, calmness, and alertness of an individual. The use of Medhya Rasayana herbs in the Shirodhara oils are imbibed with neuroprotective elements that relieve the mind from stress and tension and reduces the risk of memory loss.
How Long Does It Take For Shirodhara Treatment?
The divine relaxation therapy stretches for 45-60 minutes per sitting. On the basis of the type of ailment or health concern, Shirodhara can be done for a minimum of 7 days to a maximum of 28 days.
Who Should Not Go For Shirodhara?
Shirodhara should not be done in the following conditions:
- Women at the last stage of pregnancy
- People having allergic reaction towards oil
- People suffering from nausea, vomiting, fever, fatigue or excessive sweating conditions.
- People suffering from a neck injury, brain tumour, or have cuts or abrasions on the forehead.
What Are The Side Effects Of Shirodhara?
Although Shirodhara being the ultimate restorative and regenerative therapy, has no recorded side effects, one must take proper precautions so that the oil does not enter the eyes or ears during the process. In certain extreme cases, it might cause contraindications like dizziness, conjunctivitis, glaucoma, inflammatory diseases, allergy or fever. So, it is strictly advised to get the procedure done in a certified Ayurvedic clinic from a professional therapist.
The divine Shirodhara therapy provides the greatest experience of relaxation and induces calming effects on the mind. The various herbal oils used in this treatment not only soothes, nourishes and pacifies the doshas but also extensively used for treating a myriad of health anomalies including stress, depression, insomnia, hypertension, migraine, etc. Go for this classical ayurvedic therapy, that not only increases spiritual awareness but also helps create a newfound connection to the inner soul.