Shirodhara is a combination of two Sanskrit words, “Shira” meaning head and “Dhara” meaning stream or flow. In this, liquids are poured gently in a stream over the forehead, for a fixed duration of time.
The type of liquids used depend on the type of disease, but they typically include herbal oils and medicated liquids like milk and buttermilk or decoction.
Shirodhara relaxes the mind and helps in eliminating accumulated toxins (ama) from the body by balancing the tridoshas. The calming effect it induces is similar to that induced by meditation.
TYPES OF SHIRODHARA
Sneha Dhara or oil Shirodhara uses herbal oils or clarified butter/ghee.
Lakshadi oil and Dhanwantaram oil are two oils that are effective in treating Pitta and Vata disorders. Warm oil is predominantly used in a aggravated Vata and Kapha, whereas cool oils/ oils on room temperature or other liquids are used in Pitta imbalances.
Alternatively, lukewarm oil, such as Chandan Bala Lakshadi oil, can be used in Pitta disorders. Lukewarm herbal ghee or Saraswat ghee can be used for Shirodhara if the Pitta dosha is accompanied by Vata vitiation.
Ksheer Dhara uses milk infused with ayurvedic herbs. The medicated milk is poured over the forehead from a specific height, in a rhythmic manner, for a certain duration of time.
This therapy is highly beneficial in Vata and Pitta predominant headaches, stress, insomnia, and anxiety.
In Takra Dhara buttermilk infused with special herbs is used. It is an effective therapy in people with an aggravated Vata.
This relaxation therapy lasts for 45-60 minutes per sitting. On the basis of the type of disease or health concern, Shirodhara can be done for a minimum of 7 days to a maximum of 28 days.
BENEFITS OF SHIRODHARA
Stress is your body’s reaction to emotional and physical alteration that arises from any event or thought that makes you feel angry, frustrated, or nervous.
Shirodhara effectively relieves stress from the mind and body. When medicated liquid is poured over head and it is massaged gently, it brings calmness in body and mind, facilitates relaxation, and promotes tranquillity. The body then enters into a deep state of relaxation, turning on the parasympathetic nervous system mode.
ENHANCING SLEEP QUALITY
Today’s fast-paced life surely comes with some level of stress. As a result, people often suffer from lack of sound sleep, insomnia/sleeplessness. Being sleep-deprived is debilitating and leads to exhaustion and lethargy. It brings a negative impact on your emotional and physical well-being.
Shirodhara is very effective in reducing cortisol, which is our body’s primary stress hormone. Hence, it helps in relieving stress and it significantly improves the sleep quality.
EFFECTIVE IN ANXIETY
Shirodhara acts as a natural stress-buster. When accompanied with the head massage, it helps to clear the toxins out of your brain and improves in cognitive abilities, such as concentration and memory.
It also balances the Pitta and Vata doshas in the body. Also, it regulates the serotonin hormone, which reduces several symptoms of anxiety, like cold hands and feet, restlessness and uneasiness
SHIRODHARA FOR PACIFYING VATA DOSHA
Excessive accumulation of Vata within the body leads to physical restlessness, scattered attention, chaotic thoughts, and forgetfulness.
Shirodhara is an excellent remedy to pacify abnormal Vata dosha in body. Medicated herbal oils balances the Vata’s cool, light, and fluctuating nature. It efficiently provides relief from symptoms of a Vata imbalance.
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. Shirodhara also improves the mood of an individual and gives relief from stress induced headaches and chronic migraines.
This shirodhara procedure is extremely useful in case of vision problems. Although It’s not directly applied into the eye, the massage with warm herbal oils improves the eye muscles, improves clarity and helps a person see better without any glasses. Shirodhara therapy if done using eyesight improving oils for a fortnight shows effective results.
Shirodhara therapy works wonders in treating different types of psychotic problems like depression, restlessness, dementia, etc. due to the potent anti-stress, anti-depressive and anti-anxiety properties of the herbaloils and decoctions used, the therapy balances the brain chemicals/neurotransmitters and increases the secretion of dopamine which in turn keeps the serotonin level in check and helps to reduce various symptoms of anxiety and depression
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 improving the blood flow, it not only improves the heart functions but also enhances cardiovascular endurance which therefore brings down the blood pressure to a stable level and hence treats hypertension.
The oils used in shirodhara therapy have potent brain-boosting properties. Enriched with powerful antioxidants and flavonoids, they effectively improve the concentration, calmness, memory capacity, focus, and alertness of an individual. The use of Medhya Rasayana herbs in the Shirodhara oils are filled with neuroprotective elements that relieve the mind from stress and tension and reduces the risk of memory loss and degenerative changes.
HOW DOES SHIRODHARA WORK?
The medicated oils or other liquids when poured on the head and scalp produces a soothing and calming sensation on the nerves and muscles of the head, then this effect passes via the superficial peripheral nerves of the forehead to the brain. By stimulating the hypothalamus, it regulates the activity of the pituitary gland and therefore treats conditions like insomnia by inducing sleep.
Shirodhara also stimulates the various vital points in head and improves blood circulation. The warm medicated oils used in this procedure causes vasodilatation and thus improves the blood circulation in the brain.
This therapy brings down the elevated serotonin levels, which is a neurotransmitter and stabilizes our mood, happiness and feelings of well-being. Shirodhara also reduces the level of stress hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenaline.
The medicated oils or herbal decoctions are sprinkled on the forehead, 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. As mentioned in a lot of spiritual texts as well, 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 culture third eye is called ‘Agnya Chakra’. Focusing on the Agnya chakra with closed eyes during meditation leads to psychosomatic harmony. As the oil drips on the agnya chakra, it brings a meditation-like effect. The oil infiltrates into the nervous system after drenching the forehead and scalp. The entire procedure makes the mind and body to experience a state of deep rest, similar to the state, a person attains right after meditation
OILS BEST FOR SHIRODHARA
Ksheer bala tailam (a mixture of Bala herb paste, sesame oil, and cow’s milk) is used for Shirodhara.
Other oils used include Chandanadi tailam, Karpasasthyadi tailam, Narayana tailam and Dhanwantharam tailam.
If above mentioned herbal oils are not available, one can just use sesame oil for the Shirodhara therapy. Sesame oil is rich with antioxidants and active ingredients like sesamin, sesaminol and sesamol, this oil manages the serotonin activity in the brain. It soothes and calms the head but also helps in relieving stressful conditions and induces sleep. Shirodhara oils mixed with nervine herbs are also beneficial for treating people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other nervous system related disorders.