Shirodhara relaxes the mind and brings the perfect balance between the mind and body.
Ayurveda is a very powerful tool for balancing the mind and the body for perfect health. Ayurveda addresses multiple layers of health issues to treat the underlying cause. From exfoliating dead skin cells to regulating stress response, managing blood levels and reducing toxic residues, Ayurvedic treatments have a long holistic history of facilitating good mental and physical health.
There are many treatments that come under Ayurveda’s umbrella. Usually, when an individual approaches an Ayurvedic doctor, they’re prescribed a series of treatments that require 3 to 5 sessions to have a proper effect. These treatments are customized according to the person’s medical history and health requirements. However, there are a few therapies that can be used as stand-alone treatments and are effective in one session. Shirodhara is one such treatment.
In this blog, we help you understand what you can expect from a Shirodhara treatment and how it benefits you in the long-term.
What Is Shirodhara Treatment?
Shirodhara originates from two Sanskrit words shiro – head and dhara – flow. It’s a form of therapy where warm Ayurvedic oil – or other liquids such as medicated milk or buttermilk – is poured onto one’s forehead. The pattern of pouring starts from the right temple to the left. After a specific amount of time, usually 30 minutes, the oil stream is focussed on the centre of one’s forehead. The continuous pressure of the oil creates an effect of vibration which can soothe the nervous system. The soothing impact of Shirodhara treatment is similar to the one achieved by meditation.
This therapy is usually accompanied by a head or a full-body massage and scalp manipulation.
Different Types Of Shirodhara Treatment
The liquids used in Shirodhara depend on what is being treated – and so, there are different types of the same therapy that can be used.
1. Taila Dhara
This treatment uses herbal oils which contain Ayurvedic herbs such as ashwagandha, brahmi, and bhringraj. It’s proven to be effective for people who suffer from chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and neurological disorders. This treatment rejuvenates the body and nourishes the skin. It also regulates blood pressure and improves circulation.
2. Takra Dhara
The liquid used in this treatment is buttermilk infused with Ayurvedic herbs. Buttermilk has cooling properties and the use of it is known to stimulate and soothe the hypothalamus, in turn regulating sleep. The use of herbs in the buttermilk also helps in keeping hair healthy. This therapy is recommended to people who have sleep disorders, insomnia, frequent headaches, and brittle hair.
3. Ksheer Dhara
Milk is the main ingredient used in this treatment. Lukewarm milk infused with herbs is placed in the vessel and a thin stream of it is poured onto your forehead. Ksheeradhara treatment is useful in treating mental stress, headaches, and insomnia.
How Shirodhara Works
If you’re new to Shirodhara, it’s best to consult a professional at Swaantana beforehand. The effectiveness of this therapy lies in its simplicity.
At the start of the session, you’ll be asked to lie on your back. You’ll be asked to close your eyes and you will be given a cloth to cover them, if needed.
Next, the Ayurvedic practitioner will slowly warm up the liquid (as decided before the session) till it roughly matches your body temperature. This will then be placed in a bowl with a small open at the bottom through which the liquid is poured onto your forehead. A full body or a head massage is usually the next step in the process.
The whole session lasts between 45 and 90 minutes. As this is a very simple treatment, it is often recommended to those who are just beginning their Ayurvedic journey.
Shirodhara & Stress Management
Ayurveda has always emphasized that good health is a balancing act between mental and physical needs. This is why it’s a holistic treatment plan – the external therapies also have a positive internal effect.
Shirodhara has several benefits – a few will be listed below – but its differentiator is that it’s a very soothing therapy.
Ancient practitioners of science have always considered the third eye, located between the eyebrows, to be a source of energy. In modern science, this area has been discovered to act on the pituitary gland which can induce relaxation and decrease stress.
The continuous pouring of the oil — or the liquid selected — induces what is termed as a relaxation response. The relaxation response basically slows down your nervous system – conserves energy, slows heart rate, and relaxes muscles. As the body enters into the state of relaxation, the activity of stress hormones declines and the release of positive neurotransmitters such as endorphins and serotonin increase.
One study has demonstrated that the shirodhara treatment has a significant impact on brain activity; it decreases respiration rate and reduces blood pressure.
It’s clear that nearly every chronic health condition has links to stress – and so, knowing how to minimize its damaging impact is a pretty handy tool towards nurturing overall wellbeing. A single session of Shirodhara treatment can evoke a powerful relaxation response such that the effect of stress is not felt for days or months.
Other Benefits Of Shirodhara
Further being a good stress buster therapy, there are few more distinct benefits to Shirodhara treatments.
1. Reduces Anxiety
It’s a scientific fact that brainwaves follow the pattern of external factors. If you’re surrounded by stressors, you’re likely to have increased brain activity. The warm oil poured onto the centre of the forehead activates an energy point known as ajna marma. This energy point relieves anxiety and agitation.
2. Improves Quality of Sleep
It follows from the above points that the treatment has a significant impact on brain waves by reducing them to a relaxed alpha state. A small study concluded that the Shirodhara treatment is a viable alternative to medication as many people reported sleeping deeper and better after a session.
3. Manages Insomnia
This is an offshoot from the previous benefit. Another report showed that Shirodhara with brahmi oil can “..be beneficial for moderate to severe insomnia.”
Is Shirodhara Safe?
The Shirodhara treatment is absolutely safe. The temperature of the oil could be a risk which is mitigated if the therapy is given by an experienced practitioner. People with sensitive skin are advised to do a patch-test beforehand to ensure that there’s no irritation caused.
Shirodhara is not recommended for people with sinusitis or any other facial conditions as the effects are not fully studied and documented. If your nervous system is overstimulated with caffeine, you may not be able to fully relax and calm down. This can adversely impact the soothing feeling of the therapy.
Shirodhara At Swaantana
Swaantana aims to heal you from lifestyle disorders through natural therapies. Shirodhara is one such treatment offered as part of the multidisciplinary approach to natural healing.
Shirodhara therapy is part of the larger Panchakarma therapy offered as a treatment. For many, it works as a standalone session while for others it needs to be supplemented by other therapies. Swaantana’s trained practitioners will first understand the parameters of your medical history and health requirements and build a plan that best suits you.
On a broader level, the general therapy session would observe these 3 key points:
Cell phones and devices are not allowed during this session. Noise distracts from the experience. It hinders people from disengaging from external stimuli and experiencing total mental rest.
-A Mindfully Adjusted Room Temperature
A warm room is conducive towards a more effective therapy session. During the treatment, the head will be wet with oil, so it’s important to make sure that an individual doesn’t get cold during the process. Air-conditioned rooms are avoided during Shirodhara, whenever possible.
-Careful Selection of Oil or Other Liquid
Oils used during the session are always diluted with carrier oils. The choice of oil is determined by one’s constitution and health history after careful examination. Since Shirodhara is not a one-size fits all treatment, the oil or milk used is always carefully selected and infused with the right herbs.
Like most Ayurvedic treatments, Shirodhara aims to reset the body’s natural healing mechanisms. Done with right care and preparation, it can bring the body back to its natural, harmonious balance. The therapy is a wonderful complement for herbs and yoga for achieving the perfect mental balance.
If you’re looking to start with an Ayurvedic ritual but are unsure about which, Shirodhara might be a good place to begin. It’s safe and relatively low-risk. As always, an expert opinion must always be considered.
Our trained and experienced professionals can help you figure out the path of your Ayurvedic journey. Book a clinic consultation, today!