Massage, as you know, induces muscle relaxation and has a calming effect. Shirodhara, the pouring of a liquid over the forehead, induces a deep relaxation on the level of the mind. When shirodhara is done after Ayurvedic massage or abhyanga (shirodhara massage), there is a deep enhancement of the relaxing effects which occurs due to the sequential use of both these body therapies.1
The head is the substratum for life (Prana). All the sense organs (Indriyas) are situated on the head. The head occupies the first place amongst the vital organs of the body.2
The process of shirodhara provides strength to one’s vitality (Prana) and all the sense organs (Indriyas). The sense organs are in close contact with the mind so when they remain healthy, the mind automatically remains healthy. In this way shirodhara keeps the body and mind healthy.
Shirodhara mainly works on the mental sheath (manomaya kosha). It effectively purifies the mental sheath, where patterns of behavior (vasanas) and emotional traumas can distract the mind from its role in supporting good health and spiritual growth.
Once the mental sheath is cleared, the individual mind can choose, without distraction, to move into the bliss sheath (anandamaya kosha). Once the bliss sheath is activated, the flow of energy (Shakti) and consciousness can freely move through each and every sheath (kosha) creating better health, peace of mind, and spiritual progress through one’s life.
If the subtle bodies, doshas, Vata, energy channels (nadis), center of activity (chakras), and channels (srotas) are blocked, then there is physical imbalance, emotional disturbance, and mental unrest3 which is very prevalent in our current society.
During the shirodhara procedure, after the Ayurvedic massage, the goal is to have a pure experience of consciousness in every cell of the body, from the bliss sheath (anandamaya kosha) to the physical sheath (annamaya kosha). When this happens, the center of activity receives, assimilates and expresses prana or life force energy (chakras).
The subtle energy channels of the body (nadis) then carry the cosmic life force that keeps us alive (kundalini shakti) up to the spine to its goal, the seventh chakra. Sahaswara which is the highest point on the body, located at the crown of the head, is your source of enlightenment and spiritual connection to your higher self.
Between both eyebrows is one of the seven chakras, the third eye chakra or Anja chakra. It controls the function of the other chakras. When the client receives shirodhara and meditates on the Dhara, the point where the oil meets the forehead, it enhances the power of the Ajna chakra and thereby regulates the function of the other chakras.
The brain is considered the seat of consciousness (Chetana) which is vitiated by the Raja Tama Guna, the qualities of rajas and tamas. Shirodhara restores consciousness (Chetana) by giving strength to the brain.
Shirodhara brings the sense organs into a peaceful state of rest which helps in inducing sleep. It produces almost similar effects as that of Yoga Nidra.
Shirodhara is administered by gently and methodically pouring warm herbal oil over the forehead. Focusing on Ajna chakra with closed eyes during meditation leads to psychosomatic harmony. As the oil drips onto the Ajna chakra, it is proposed that the meditation-like effect is a consequence of stilling the mind leading to adaptive response to basal stress.
During shirodhara the metabolic rate drops, and the brain waves become slow and coherent. The process brings the nervous system into the depths of inner silence and calms the mind, body, and spirit.
The neurophysiological mechanism of the effects of shirodhara on the psycho-physiological changes may be related to the tactile stimulation of the skin or hair follicles innervated by the first branch of the trigeminal nerves (ophthalmic nerve). The impulses are being transmitted to the thalamus through the principal nucleus and forward to the cerebral cortex (somatosensory field) or limbic system.
The effects of Shirodhara in reducing anxiety could be attributed to the somato-autonomic reflex through thermo sensors or pressure sensors in the skin or hair follicles via the trigeminal cranial nerve.4
In this procedure, pressure and vibration is created on the forehead. The vibration is amplified by the hollow sinus present in the frontal bone. The vibration is then transmitted inwards through the fluid medium of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). This vibration along with little temperature may activate the functions of thalamus and the basal fore brain which then brings the amount of serotonin and catecholamine to the normal stage inducing sleep.5
Shirodhara stimulates the pineal gland which produces the hormone melatonin. Melatonin regulates the wake sleep cycles of the body.6
Shirodhara is becoming increasingly popular in day spas where it is used to relieve fatigue and promote relaxation. As oil is poured onto the forehead, the nervous system is deeply stilled. The brain waves slow down and become coherent. Once the brain is free, the channels of life (pranavaha and manovaha srotas) begin to transport life (prana), oxygen, and other necessary nutrients to the brain.
When the brain is free and the channels (srotas) are activated, the cerebral circulation is greatly improved, and access to these mood stabilizing receptors is enhanced. Furthermore, it may open new paradigms for exploring what we refer to as spiritual biotechnology.7
In India, Shirodhara is a common and age-old Ayurvedic practice, and the clinical benefits are being observed by Ayurvedic practitioners in thousands of clients.8
During Shirodhara, amplification of vibrations on the intracranial sinus has several results.
a. Constant soothing pressure on the forehead.
b. Activation of certain areas… the frontal lobe, limbic system, brain stem, and autonomic nervous system.
c. Stimulation of tactile and thermoreceptors.
It lowers sympathetic tone and releases endorphins and serotonin. As a result, there is a reduction in heart rate, diastolic blood pressure, rate of breathing and in the level of plasma noradrenaline and urinary serotonin excretion. Alpha rhythm in EEG is increased. It has an anxiolytic effect.
In Shirodhara therapy, prolonged and intermittent stimulation by the dripping oil provides afferent inputs to the cerebral cortex, leading to a tranquilizing effect. By having an effect on the hypothalamus, Shirodhara results in improvement of most of the psychic and somatic disorders.
Shirodhara is an amazing, unique body therapy from the ancient natural medical system Ayurveda. It enhances the quality and benefits of massage (Abhyanga) as it directly and immediately calms, relaxes and has a cleansing effect on the mind, nerves and body.
1 Kalpana D. Dhuri Shirodhara: A psycho-physiological profile in healthy volunteers 2013 Jan-Mar; 4(1): 40–44. doi: 10.4103/0975-9476.109550 PMCID: PMC3667433 J-AIM
2 Charaka Samhita sutrasthana chapter 17 verse 12
3 Douillard John. (2004). The Encyclopedia of Ayurvedic Massage, (North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California), 14-15, 19-20, 36, 51, 8990, 271-279.
4 Uebaba, K., Xu, F.H., Tagawa, M., Asakura, R., Itou, T., Tatsuse, T., Taguchi, Y.,
Ogawa, H., Shimabayashi, M., Hisajima, T. (2005). “Using a Healing Robot for the Scientific Study of Shirodhara” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=shirodhara+healing+robot.
5 Pokharel, Sanjay, and Ajay Kumar Sharma. (2010). “Evaluation of Insomrid Tablet
andShirodhara in the Management of Anidra (Insomnia).” Ayu 31.1: 40–47.
6 Gotmare Ashish, Tawalare Kiran, Nanote Kalpana, Dehankar Manisha. (2013). “Godugdha Shirodhara: A Non Pharmacological Treatment of Nidranash (Insomnia). (Moksha Publishing House) doi:10.7897/2277-4343.04417.
7 Uebaba, K., Xu, F.H., Tagawa, M., Asakura, R., Itou, T., Tatsuse, T., Taguchi, Y., Ogawa, H., Shimabayashi, M., Hisajima, T. (2005). “Using a Healing Robot for the Scientific Study of Shirodhara” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=shirodhara+healing+robot).
8 Sharma, R.K. and Bhagwan Dah. (2014). Charaka Samhita (Varanasi: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office) vol. V, preface.
Comments will be approved before showing up.