Shirodhara: An Ayurvedic therapy for Stress
Shirodhara, an ancient Ayurvedic therapy, is known to be effective in relieving stress and has a profound effect on one’s nervous system as it calms, relaxes and cleanses the mind and nerves. It is traditionally done as part of the Panchakarma process but is effective done separately too.
‘Shiro’ means head and ‘dhara’ means to pour in Sanskrit together it means pouring of warm liquid/ medicated oil/ liquid medication in a continuous and rhythmic stream over the centre of the forehead. Shirodhara is also referred to as Shiriseka by traditional Ayurveda physicians. Shirodhara is a unique incredible therapy that has an intense and instant impact on the nervous system and mind as it calms, relaxes and soothes the mind of a person immediately after the treatment.
Shirodhara is most beneficial for vata and pitta disorders. Augmentation of vata dosha results in emaciation, tremor, and insomnia, dysfunction of sensory perceptions, delusion, fear, sadness, delirium and pain. When Pitta dosha increases it causes burning sensation, perspiration, fainting, intoxication, anger, lack of confidence, frustration, irritability and confusion.
A lot of research has been conducted to evaluate the effect of Shirodhara in different health conditions. Pouring of warm oil/ liquid on the centre of the forehead where “agnya chakra” is located stimulates the nervous system and creates a harmonic effect. Researches prove that a transcendental effect is achieved by Shirodhara therapy.
How is Shirodhara done?
Person undergoing Shirodhara is made to lie comfortably on the dhara table which is designed in a way to collect the oil that is poured on the head under the table in order to reuse the oil for the same person.
A dhara pot made of copper/ wood/ earthen material is a vessel of about 2 ½ liter or more capacity with a five-inch mouth and a hole sized about little finger to let down the stream of oil. Screw cap is attached near the hole to control the flow of the oil. A cotton wick is inserted in the hole to drop the oil rhythmically on the center of the forehead. The dhara pot is attached to the dhara stand and the adjustment is made such that the wick is about two inches above the forehead of the person. Later the vessel is filled with warm oil or medicated liquid and it is poured in a slow continuous rhythmic pattern from the center to the sides of the forehead. The oil that is collected at the bottom of the table in a vessel is warmed while reusing it. Duration of Shirodhara ranges from 45 minutes to 1 ½ hours.
The entire procedure of Shirodhara takes place in a silent, clean and closed room that is slightly warm. For better effect the room may have meditative or instrumental music in a very soothing volume.
Benefits of Shirodhara:
Benefits of Shirodhara are many. It is most beneficial in head and neck disorders. In today’s world where there is a lot of stress, anxiety, fatigue and hypertension Shirodhara combats these symptoms and relieves them. It is beneficial in tension, worry, fear, headache and depression. Not to forget hair fall and pre-mature graying of hair Shirodhara is the answer. It is one of the best treatments in paralysis, facial palsy and drooping of eyelids. For those suffering from insomnia or sleeplessness Shirodhara gives a sound sleep that is most refreshing. It is total body and mind rejuvenation. It activates the pituitary gland, regulates mood swing, improves concentration and memory and improves perception of sense organs.
Bala taila, Ksheerabala taila, Dhanwantharam taila, Triphaladi taila, Chandanabalalakshadi taila, Karpasahasthyadi taila, Neelibhringaraja taila, Yashtimadhutaila, Tila taila, takra/ buttermilk, medicated milk are some of the commonly used oils and liquids in Shirodhara.
Contraindication of Shirodhara:
Though the list of benefits of Shirodhara is endless yet there are a few contraindications. This therapy is not advised in pregnancy, for those who have had a recent head and neck injury, in fever and chill, alcoholism, low blood pressure and for those who have brain tumor.
Things to keep in mind if you are taking Shirodhara treatment:
- Avoid spicy, oily, junk food
- Avoid coffee, tea and caffeine
- Avoid travelling and exposing yourself to wind and breeze
- Avoid late night sleep and watching TV or computer for long time
- Consume light diet like khichadi, soups, etc. that is easily digested when you are taking Shirodhara
- Avoid ice creams, chocolates and other dairy products.
The benefits of Shirodhara are many as said above and its effect lasts for a long time. Well experienced Ayurveda practitioner will decide the oil that is suitable for your body type and requirements and suggest you the duration of treatment as to for how many days Shirodhara needs to be given. Many of the rejuvenation centers and Ayurveda treatment centers offer a treatment package that includes Shirodhara with other treatments such as Abhyanga, Navarakizhi, Kayaseka. One must experience the treatment of Shirodhara to get rejuvenated and relaxed in just an hour. Shirodhara leaves you energized and fresh.
Further reading on Shirodhara:
Effects of Ayurvedic Oil-Dripping Treatment with Sesame Oil vs. with Warm Water on Sleep: A Randomized Single-Blinded Crossover Pilot Study; Tokinobu A, Yorifuji T, Tsuda T, Doi H; J Altern Complement Med. 2016 Jan; 22 (1):52-8.
Shirodhara: A psycho-physiological profile in healthy volunteers; Dhuri KD, Bodhe PV, Vaidya AB; J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2013 Jan; 4(1):40-4.
The role of psychic factors in pathogenesis of essential hypertension and its management by Shirodhara and Sarpagandha Vati; Kundu C, Shukla VD, Santwani MA, Bhatt NN; Ayu. 2010 Oct; 31(4):436-41.