Shirodhara is a classic Ayurvedic therapy or the practice of slowly and steadily dripping medicated oil or medicated decoctions on the forehead. In Ayurveda, Shirodhara is traditionally done as a part of the Panchakarma cleansing process; however, it is effortlessly effective as a standalone therapy as well. The therapy induces a relaxed state of awareness that results in a psychosomatic balance. Intense feelings of wellness, mental lucidity, and comprehension are experienced in the Shirodhara treatment.
Classical Ayurvedic texts such as Charak Samhita and Susruta Samhita called Shirodhara by various vernacular names such as – Shiro Sheka, Sirothara, Parisheka, Shiro Parisheka, Dhara, and Shirashek.
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 herbal extracts or ayurvedic oils are used in Taila dhara type of massage.This is beneficial for balancing the Vata dosha in the body.
• Dugadha Dhara (Ksheerdhara)
The main ingredient used in dugadha dhara is milk infused with herbs.
It is helpful in Vata and Pitta’s predominant headaches, stress, and anxiety, and helps nourish and relax the body.
• Takra Dhara (Thakradhara)
Takra dhara mostly uses buttermilk infused with special herbs as the main ingredient. It is beneficial for balancing the Pitta dosha and helps maintain homeostasis.
• 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. It helps in balancing Vata and Kapha dosha.
• Jala Dhara (Aqueous formulation)
Generally used in case of Pitta imbalance in the body. This type mostly uses coconut water or normal water as the main ingredient for the treatment.
How does it 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.
Indications as per Ayurveda –
As per Ayurveda, Shirodhara is specifically advised when there is an aggravation of Vata and Pitta Doshas in the mind and body.
• An augmentation of Vata dosharesults in insomnia, racing thoughts, anxiety, stress, dryness, hair fall, pain, and aches.
• An aggravated Pitta dosha causes anger, irritability, frustration, burning sensation, migraines, and premature greying of the hair.
Shirodhara is said to be beneficial when these Vata and Pitta imbalances create the above concerns.
Oils Used –
Some commonly used oils in Shirodhara are –
• Ksheera Bala Tailam
• Chandani Tailam
• Dhanwantharam Tailam
• Narayana Tailam
• Triphaladi Tailam
Step by step procedure that need to be followed during therapy includes –
• 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.
Some points need to be considered –
• 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.
How Long Should Shirodhara Treatment be Followed?
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.
• Headaches & Migraines
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.
• 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.
Shirodhara therapy holds great value for treating different types of psychotic problems like depression, dementia, restlessness, etc.
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.
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.
• Cognitive Problems
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.
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.
• Rouses Intution
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.
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.
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.
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.
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