Shirodhara is an established ayurvedic treatment in which a steady stream of medical oils or other liquids is allowed to flow gently over the forehead. The aim isto induce relaxation and a heightened state of mental wellness.This therapy has garnered so much global attention that you might as well be eager to know what is Shirodhara and why there is so much hype about it.
The term Shirodhara is coined from two Sanskrit words “Shiro” meaning Head and “Dhara” meaning the flow of the liquid.The inclusion of this Ayurvedic treatment in wellness resort businesses has been on the rise for quite some time.
This guide gives you detailed information about the origin, history, principles, and benefits of Shirodhara Ayurvedic Treatment. If you are running a wellness resort, wellness hotel, or wellness spa or considering going for this treatment, you will find the right direction in this guide.
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A Complete Guide to Shirodhara Ayurvedic Treatment by Dr Prem – Definition, History, Benefits, Procedure and Factors to Consider
Origin of Shirodhara Treatment
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Shirodhara treatment has its roots indocumented ancient Ayurvedic textsand is aimed at stress relief, mental relaxation, and dynamic psychosomatic balance.The objective of Ayurveda is to harmonize mind, body, and senses and Shirodhara is one of the revered Ayurvedic procedures.
This is also known as the Third Eye Treatment as the oil or liquid is made to flow over a specific point or “Chakra’ between the eyebrows.
Principle of Shirodhara
The underlying principle of Shirodhara is to awaken the Chakra or the Third Eye with the gentle fluid flow that helps in soothing stressed-out nerves that ultimately allow the brain to calm down. As the liquid flows down gently, it produces Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR), a euphoric experience caused by the tingling sensation on the skin.
This sensation arises from the scalp and flows down the neck and spine inducing relaxation and mind-body harmony.Continuous trickling down of the liquid over the forehead stimulate the nerve endings leading to enhanced production of Acetylcholine, which calms the central nervous system and lowers blood pressure.
In Ayurveda medicine, our body is compared to an inverted tree where the head is considered the main part and other organs the branches. The head is known to be the prime controller of the entire system. Hence, treating the head with Shirodhara is believed can cure several diseases of the organs.
Imbalance in Vata and Pitta Doshas results in mental disbalance and emotional turmoil. You suffer from lack of sleep, tension, anxieties, stress, racing thoughts, anger, irritability, etc. that affect your normal activities and quality thinking. Shirodhara is recommended to restore the Vata-Pitta balance.
The Marmic Principle
According to Ayurvedic texts, our forehead has certain vital spots known as Marma through which energy flows throughout our body. These Marmas are so sensitive that any forceful infliction on any of these can be fatal. Marmas namely sthapni, Utshepa, Apanga, Shankha, and Avartaare located on our forehead.
The marma located between the eyebrows is named Sthapni where both the pituitary and pineal glands are known to exist. The pituitary gland is known as the Master Gland which controls the entire endocrinal system of our body. Shirodhara stimulates Sthapnimarma, which is also an indirect stimulation of the pituitary gland to bring positive psychosomatic changes.
Why Shirodhara is so popular in Wellness Resort Programs?
Simply put, Shirodhara induces a pleasurable relaxing effect that lasts for a long time. The procedure is easy and does not take much time. It can be taken as a sole treatment or in combination with other Ayurvedic therapies. Unprecedented levels of stress are making people sick in alarming numbers. Burnout has turned into a global epidemic.
People are seeking ways to get the relaxing effect naturally along with a pleasurable experience. Shirodhara stands out as the best option. The therapy is pampering as well as relaxing. Nothing can be better when you get this treatment in a great natural setting in wellness resorts and spas.
Shirodhara Treatment – Types
Various forms of Shirodhara practiced are as follows:
- Thailadhara: This involves the use of one or a mixture of several essential oils and extracts. It is used to balance the Vata dosha of the body
- Takradhara: This involves the use of buttermilk infused with certain herbs and helps in balancing Pitta Dosha of the body.
- Ksheeradhara: This involves the use of herbal milk where specific herbs are mixed in cow milk to form a mixture and helps in balancing Vata and Pitta.
- Jaladhara: Normal water or coconut water is used to flow over the forehead. It is meant for cooling the body.
- Kvathadhara: Decoctions of different herbs are mixed to create the desired fluid for Shirodhara. This helps in balancing Vata and Kapha Dosha.
Ingredients and Materials Required
Materials required: Shirodhara table, Shirodhara stand, Dharapatra (expanded copper vessel), 3-4 liters of the liquid (herbal oils, milk, buttermilk, water, coconut water), other vessels for measuring, mixing liquids, and collecting the dhara, cotton, gauze, ear plug, and soft towels.
Commonly used oils in Shirodhara:
- Tila Taila (Sesame oil)
- ChandaniTailam (Sandalwood Oil)
- Narayana Tailam
Common liquids used:
- Plain water
- Herbal decoction
- Tender coconut water
- Cow milk
- Butter milk
The process involves the slow streaming of liquid (medicated herbal oils, milk, buttermilk, or water) from a small hole in a vessel known as Dharapatra hanging from a stand. The vessel swings like a pendulum in such a manner that the liquid from the hole flows over the forehead laterally. The flowing liquid is collected in another vessel and is again used to refill the Dharapatra after it gets empty. The temperature of the liquid should be slightly above the body temperature.
Shirodhara Duration: Minimum 30 mins in the morning. It can be done for a maximum of 60 minutes.
The entire procedure should be done under the guidance of an Ayurvedic physician and one or two masseurs or trained assistants.
The entire procedure of Shirodhara in Ayurveda covers three major steps:
- Purva Karma (Before the procedure)
- Pradhana Karma (Main procedure)
- Paschata Karma (After the procedure)
You can consider these steps as pre-treatment, treatment, and post-treatment phases.
This phase involves the initial examination of the patient whether you are fit to take the therapy or not. What is your Dosha constitution? What type of Shirodhara will be suitable for you? These are assessed first. You will be asked to pass urine and clear your bowels. The therapist or physician will note your vital parameters like blood pressure, pulse rate, and body temperature. You will not take any food before the treatment.
You will have to lie down on your back on a Shirodhara table, and the Dharapatra or the vessel will be fixed measuring 4 fingers above his forehead. Your eyes and ears will be covered with cotton to prevent the entry of the liquid.
Shirodhara is an External Oleation therapy or BahyaSnehanawhere Snehana is the fat or oil that is selected based on the patient’s Dosha (energy balance) for oleation. It is done in the morning after a massage.
As per the rules of Dharakalpa, a person with:
- Vata Dosha will be given TilaTaila ( Sesame Oil),
- Pitta Dosha will be given Ghrita (clarified butter),
- Kapha Dosha will be given TilaTaila
- Rakta Dosha will be given Ghrita
- Vata, Pitta, and Rakta Dosha will be given Ghrita and Taila mixed in equal proportions.
- Vita, Kapha, and Rakta Dosha will be given Ghrita and TilaTaila mixed in the ratio of 1:2
Pradhana Karma or the main treatment part involves not only treating the patient but also preparing the room to facilitate better outcomes. The room should be clean and well ventilated with absolute silence prevailing all around.
A specific volume of the liquid, which is neither too hot nor too cold, is placed in the Dharapatra. The liquid or the Dhara has a definite viscosity, neither too thick northin. It should flow continuously on the forehead gently at a moderate speed.
As the liquid starts flowing, the Dharapatra is made to swing gently like a pendulum so the liquid flow covers the entire forehead. The flowing liquid is collected in another vessel and is again filled in the Dharapatra to repeat the process.
When to change the liquid?
Milk and water – Change every day
Dhanyamla – Can be used for up to 3 days.
Oil – Change after every 3 days. Half of the oil can be used for the first 3 days and the remaining half for the next 3 days.
After the Shirodhara flow is done, the patient’s head should be wiped clean and dried. You will be allowed a brief resting period which is followed by a body massage including the head with oil. You will be given a lukewarm bath and a light diet. You should avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol for a few days else it will negate the effects of Shirodhara.
Associated Ayurvedic therapies with Shirodhara
For better outcomes, Shirodhara is often associated with:
- SarvangaDhara – Medicinal fluids poured all over the body
- Pizichil – Herbal oils poured over the body
- Sarvanga Abhyanga – Body massage with herbal oils
- Patra Pinda Sweda – Fomentation with leaf bolus
- Abhyanga and Patra Pinda Sweda
- ShashtikaShali Pinda Sweda or Navarakizhi–Fomentation with Rice bolus
- Padabhyanga or Sarvabhyanga – Foot and Body massage with herbal oils
When should you do Shirodhara Treatment?
Ideally, Shirodhara is recommended to treat several disorders like:
- Daha ( burning sensation)
- Wound and Boils
- Migraine (Ardhavbhedak)
- Mental anxieties and tension
- Confused mental state and irritability
- Poor sleep
Benefits of Shirodhara
According to Ayurveda, our head is the foundation of all senses or Indriyas (sense organs). The head is known as the Uttamanga of our body due to which Shirodhara provides strength to our life energy or Prana and other sense organs (Indriyas).
Ayurveda believes, that our sense organs act in close coordination with our mind. If these senses are healthy, our mind is also healthy. Shirodhara works in synchronizing mind-body health. Our stress and tension arise from the imbalance of prana, and Shirodhara restores the functional integrity of our sense organs and Doshas (energy forms in our body).
The benefits of Shirodhara can be summarized as follows:
- Improves sleep
- Reduces fatigue
- Reduces stress, anxiety, and depression
- Lessens hair fall
- Reduces PTSD symptoms
- Improves focus and concentration
- Reduces jetlag
How many times can you do Shirodhara Therapy?
Shirodhara, like other Ayurvedic treatments, is need-based. The number of times you should take this treatment depends on the severity of the problem. If you want this treatment for mental rejuvenation, a 7-14-session can give long-lasting effects.
Shirodhara is most effective if done along with other Ayurvedic treatments. Normally, a series of 3- 6 sessions is advised for detoxification and mental rejuvenation. People opt for 3,7, 14, or 28- day sessions. Those with sleeping problems can opt for 3 or 7-day sessions every month or fortnightly as per the physician’s recommendation.However, the general recommendation is not to extend this therapy beyond 28 days.
Shirodhara Treatment Cost
Shirodhara treatment is costly. The cost can vary within a wide range depending upon the duration of the treatment, ingredients used, number of sessions, and the setting. The treatment cost in a typical clinical setup or wellness center will differ widely from that of wellness resorts, hotels, and spas. Shirodhara treatments in Ayurvedic hospitals are likely to have standardized rate charts.
Normally, Shirodharais included in Ayurvedic treatment packages, which is cost-effective given the range of therapies one has to take. If an individual opts for only Shirodhara, the cost is likely to be on the higher side.
What you can expect?
You will be taken to a neat and well-decked treatment room equipped with a Shirodhara stand and table. You will be asked to lie down over the table with or without clothes on your body. The therapist and masseurs may cover your body with a soft cloth if a massage is required.
Your eyes and ears will remain covered. The therapist will start streaming the fluid over your forehead and you will feel a pleasurable stimulating sensation. Automatically, your mind will set into a relaxed state. After the treatment, the assistants will help you clean the oil or fluids from your head. You will be asked to rest for some time before getting into normal activities. You experience a great relaxed feel, improved mental clarity, and good sleep almost instantly.
Are there any side effects of Shirodhara?
There are no documented side effects of this treatment except for some safety issues. Proper care must be taken to prevent the oil and liquid from getting into the eyes and ears. If you have sensitive skin, you should go for a patch test before taking this treatment. Make sure the ingredients used are of high quality devoid of any harmful chemicals and preservatives that can trigger side effects.
Who should not do Shirodhara?
- Women in their 3rd trimester of pregnancy
- Those with brain tumors, neck injury, and cuts or wounds
- Those allergic to oil and certain ingredients
- If you are suffering from any infection
Can you do Shirodhara at home?
Trying Shirodhara at home would be a cumbersome process. Arranging the entire setup will require special space because Ayurveda therapy involves both mental and physical engagement. You can ask for professional Shirodhara providers who will come with a portable Shirodhara kit and offer you the required treatment. Automated Shirodhara units are also available but it is suitable for spas and salons only.
If you opt for DIY Shirodhara, you will need a person who can pour the oil or liquid over the Marma points perfectly. We recommend you to take Shirodhara therapy at any Ayurvedic wellness clinic, wellness resort, Ayurvedic resort, or hospital where the entire procedure is manned by experts.
Shirodhara holds a significant position in Ayurvedic therapies. With mounting stress and tensions all over, this therapy ensures fast mental rejuvenation through proper mind-body synchronization.