What is Shirodhara?
The therapeutic effects of hair massage induce pleasure and this makes you forget your worldly worries and drift off to sleep faster.
Shirodhara is a more relaxed and therapeutic head massage experience that offers immense physical and mental benefits. So if you think a head massage is great, Shirodhara is even better. In this, a light massage is given at the end after dripping oil on the forehead. And yes, it is just as relaxing as it sounds.
In simple terms, Shirodhara therapy can be described as pouring medicated oil over the forehead. Let’s understand the procedure in detail.
In this Ayurvedic therapy, the person receiving the treatment lies down on the back. Next, warm, medicated oil is poured over the forehead from a certain height in the next step.The oil then flows around the forehead and down into the scalp, which is then gently massaged into the skin by the practitioner.
While a regular head massage may induce sleep and relaxation and strengthen the hair follicles, Shirodhara’s benefits go above and beyond. It’s a divine process that helps exfoliate dead skin, relieve stress, improve blood circulation, pacify elevated doshas and transport lymphatic fluids.
When performed by an experienced practitioner, Shirodhara can help purge toxins, reduce mental fatigue and improve brain function.
According to Ayurveda, Shirodhara treatment uses medicated oil, milk-based solution, herbal decoction, or aqueous formulation. It depends on the therapeutic benefits you seek.
How it Works
When the medicated oil or any herbal decoction is poured over the forehead, it creates a soothing sensation. This sensation goes to the hypothalamus via the peripheral nerves.
Hypothalamus is responsible for inhibiting or releasing hormones in response to physical or emotional stimuli. As a result, the secondary hormones throughout the body become active and trigger a suitable response.
Shirodhara can help regulate these hormones and bring balance to your mind and body. It can help relieve stress, promote restful sleep and calm down an agitated mind. In addition, using warm medicated oil can dilate the blood vessels and improve blood circulation, thereby enhancing brain function and beating mental fatigue.
Interestingly, Shirodhara also regulates the level of serotonin in your body. Serotonin is a good hormone that helps stabilise your mood and make you feel grounded. However, abnormally high serotonin levels do the opposite. High serotonin levels are characterised by profuse sweating, shivering, the sensation of diarrhoea, restlessness, etc. Shirodhara is a potent therapy for promoting calmness and overcoming chronic stress.
If you feel burnt out due to overwhelming work pressure or struggle to cope with a personal loss, a professional Shirodhara therapy can help you find peace and soothe your tense nerves.
Benefits of Shirodhara
Shirodhara is an extensive therapy performed in a purpose-built setting using specialised techniques and ingredients to maximise the health benefits. Let’s look at some of the major benefits of Shirodhara.
Shirodhara therapy is believed to open the ‘third eye’, resulting in a heightened sense of mindfulness. Buddhists define it as spiritual awakening or complete awareness that enables a person to observe their past trauma and painful experiences from a different perspective, which was not accessible previously. Tapping into a different vantage point gives them mental clarity and the will power to move forward in life.
When was the last time you slept like a baby? Can’t recall? You might blame your mattress or the weather for your inability to fall asleep, but in most cases, it’s the hyperactive mind or a neurological condition. Shirodhara is a sleep-inducing therapy. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it will lull you to sleep right away. Rather, it works in a sustainable manner. It relaxes your nerves, calms your mind, and improves your night’s sleep.
It’s a no-brainer that a head massage reduces stress and clears up your mind so you can think and perform better. However, Shirodhara works at a deeper level than that. When performed regularly, Shirodhara therapy can help reduce chronic stress and overcome past traumas. It also eases frustrations due to a hindrance in career growth or family disputes.
When things around you get messy and chaotic, Shirodhara is a great escape to tranquillity.
You can use Balaswagandhadi thailam, a herbal formulation ideal for any oil therapy. Although this oil primarily promotes strength of the body post-fever or infections, it has another surprising benefit. It is a potent oil that can be used as a Shirodhara oil on the scalp to promote sleep and relieve stress.
Shirodhara Benefits for Eyes
Do your eyes hurt due to extended screen time? While we can’t recommend you stop using your devices, a short retreat can make up for your eyes’ strain throughout the day. Shirodhara can help soothe your eyes
Pacifies Elevated Vata Dosha
Vata dosha is characterised by air and ether. When in excess due to compromised Agni, Vata dosha can lead to various health concerns, such as anxiety, constipation, cracking joints, mild insomnia, and digestive disorders in general. Shirodhara ayurvedic treatment can help pacify Vata dosha and get you back to a state of mind where you experience joy, creativity, and connection.
Improves Cognitive Abilities
There are multiple Shirodhara benefits for the brain, including enhanced cognitive abilities. But what does that mean?
The oils used for Shirodhara therapies have flavonoids, antioxidants, and neuroprotective elements that increase brain function. The treatment is said to boost memory, alertness, and the ability to focus. It’s a great oil therapy for the elderly, who are often at risk of memory loss.
Oil for Shirodhara
It is important to use the right therapy oil or herbal decoction in order to utilise the maximum potential and benefits of the Shirodhara treatment. Here are a few recommendations for you.
Ksheerabala thailam: it’s a blend of sesame oil, Bala herb paste, and cow’s milk. It is deeply relaxing oil which is applied on palms and soles to promote sleep. Along with this, it is also used for Shirodhara to relieve stress and promote relaxation.
Ksheerabala Thailam (Oil)
Foot Massage Oil for Deep, Restful Sleep
Chandanadi thailam: it’s a natural coolant that soothes tense nerves and sore muscles.
Karpasasthyadi thailam: it’s a medicated oil that helps with various neuromuscular conditions.
Dhanwantharam thailam: Dhanwantharam thailam is a massage oil for pre and postnatal care in women. It is also a complete nourishment oil used for full-body massage for men & women, that helps relieve muscle cramps and pain and promotes relaxation. Apart from this it is also used as Shirodhara oil.
Sesame oil: Full of antioxidants, this oil regulates serotonin activity and soothes irritated nerves and aching muscles.
Shirodhara treatment is performed on a purpose-built massage table. An oil-carrying container (Shirodhara pot) with a tiny hole at the base is suspended over the table. The table has a small built-in pit to collect the excess oil that falls from the head during the therapy.
Prior to Shirodhara treatment, a 10-minute gentle head massage is performed to stimulate the nerve endings in the head.
With preparatory measures out of the way, the typical age-old procedure of Shirodhara treatment that practitioners follow in Ayurvedic centres.
The first step is to lie on the table facing up. Keep your arms close to your body and take deep breaths to relax muscle tension. To feel comfortable during the massage, use a pillow to support your neck.
Adjust the Shirodhara pot in such a way that the oil pours over your forehead from a height of 10-15 cm. Fill the pot with the oil of your choice, depending on the benefits you seek from the treatment.
As the oil is being poured over your overhead, relax your mind by focusing on your breath and enjoy the soothing sensation as the warm oil trickles through the scalp.
Then begins the lateral movement of the Shirodhara pot, covering the forehead from left to right.
Once the pot is fully drained, refill it with the oil collected in the pit. If the oil is cold, it must be reheated to attain optimal temperature for Shirodhara therapy.
The process continues for 30 minutes, accompanied by a gentle head massage using fingertips.
The excess oil is then wiped off the forehead, and the recipient is allowed to relax or even catch a nap for an hour.
Shirodhara Treatment at Home
Shirodhara is a bit complex to perform at home. However, you can enjoy the benefits of Shirodhara by doing Shiro pichu or soaking a cotton pad in medicated oil and placing it on your forehead. Get in touch with an Ayurvedic physician to understand which oil will suit you and what precautions should you follow.
While Shirodhara is an excellent way to destress and rejuvenate, you can even go for Panchakarma Shirodhara treatment – a combination of various therapies that run for a couple of days. Whether you opt for a combination or independent Shirodhara treatment, you will walk out of the therapy room feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.