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  5. The Complete Guide To Shiro Abhyanga - Procedure & Benefits

From treating hair loss, scalp dryness and dandruff to several other psychosomatic, degenerative and inflammatory diseases - Shiro Abhyanga is a boon! This ancient Ayurvedic therapy is beneficial in reducing stress and its associated pain as well.

Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix, says, “Murdha taila (head massage) is done in four ways as described by Acharya Vagbhata in Ashtanga Hridayam - Shiro Abhyanga, Shiro Dhara, Shiro Pichu and Shiro Basti. Shiro Abhyanga is the easiest to do and is recommended in daily routine in the Dinacharya adhyaya.”

Read on to know more about the significance of medicinal herbs and oils in the Shiro Abhyanga session, its plethora of health benefits and ancient Ayurvedic science of Marmas.

What Is Shiro Abhyanga?

Shiro Abhyanga, a Sanskrit term, is a combination of two words - Shiro meaning head and Abhyanga meaning massage. Hence, Shiro Abhyanga is defined as a complete massage and relaxation of the upper body involving the head, neck and shoulder regions. The areas of the upper body are most prone to stress [1].

This rejuvenating Ayurvedic procedure involves massaging with dosha-specific, herb-infused oils. The massage oil is usually pre-mixed with potent, natural herbs which alleviate specific conditions. “Regular head massage prevents hair fall and greying, dandruff, diseases of vata origin in the head and strengthens the jaw and neck muscles,” says Dr. Zeel.

Shiro Abhyanga Procedure – How Is It Done?

This ancient Ayurvedic treatment is an amalgamation of two individual natural therapies – Shirodhara [2] and Abhyanga.

The Shirodhara therapy is performed by pouring a gentle, steady and relaxing stream of herbal massage oil on to your scalp, forehead and neck.

In continuation, Abhyanga is performed involving gentle massage with light-pressure on these areas for the oil to take effect. Therefore, Shiro Abhyanga includes two different processes which follow one another simultaneously.

Shiro Abhyanga Benefits – The Holistic Approach For Overall Wellness

The initial manifestation of Shiro Abhyanga is mitigation of any disease associated with the sense organs, mind and head. As head massages can be performed on a regular basis, the Shiro Abhyanga procedure can be beneficial in prevention and treatment of several psychosomatic issues.

Other manifestations which can be treated are listed below:

  • Shiro Kandu – Itchiness in the scalp
  • Shiro Rukshata – Dryness of the scalp
  • Pitta Roga – Inflammatory disease
  • Vata Roga – Degenerative disorders
  • Anidra – Insomnia [3]
  • Pakshaghata – Paralysis or hemiplegia
  • Shiro Roga – Various types of headaches and illnesses related to the head

Other health benefits include:

1. Anti-aging therapy and helps in relaxing your eye and facial muscles

2. Relieves fatigue and clears your mind

3. Increases oxygen and blood circulation in your brain

4. Stimulates lymphatic drainage

5. Helps in treating insomnia and aids in sound sleeping [4]

6. Aids in treating sinusitis, jaw aches and tinnitus

7. Heightens the senses of smell, sound and sight

8. Prevents inflammatory diseases by calming the Pitta

9. Prevents degenerative illnesses by calming the Vata

10. Helps in toning your stomach, brain, colon, heart and lungs

11. Balances your pituitary and pineal glands

12. Rejuvenates your body and calms your mind

13. Prevents dandruff, hair loss and premature greying

14. Stimulates hair growth

15. Reduces stiffness and relaxes muscles

16. Relieves stress [5], migraines and pain

17. Improves your eye strain, eye refraction errors and overall vision

18. Stimulates central nervous system

Marmas & Shiro Abhyanga

ayurvedic marma therapy

Marmas [6] are known as life centers which act as vital points in your body. In these life centers, the energy form known as Prana is converted, controlled and stored for further use by your complete system, including your mind and body.

Marma Chikista (treatment through vital points) is an age-old practice of Ayurvedic treatment for a range of health complaints. It has been described as an important aspect in Sushruta Samhita’s Sharira Sthana. The name and location of Marma as per the surface region of the body were found to be imperative in the ancient Ayurvedic field of surgery and medicine.

Additionally, these are also the points of the Tridosha (Kapha, Pitta and Vata).

As per the Ayurvedic system, Marmas are the vital points which result in death on traumatic injury or extreme pain resembling death or the location of pain on pressure and irregular pulsation. This represents the juncture of five structures:

1. Asthi (bones)

2. Mamsa (muscles)

3. Sandhi (joints)

4. Snayu (nerves) and

5. Sira (veins)

When all these five structures align together, Prana (vital energy or component of life) flows or resides through by its Vishesa (specifically) as well as Swabhava (generally). Any injury or blockage may lead to Prananasa (severe pain or fatality). This is why Marmas are considered as important connection points within your body.

Sushruta Samhita further classifies the Marmas based on the body structures or organs involved, the time based consequences of the injury, the sizes and the areas, the location and sites over the body and lastly the number of Marmas falling in different groups.

Based on the structure and organs of the body, Marmas have been classified as:

1. Sandhi Marma

2. Asthi Marma

3. Snayu Marma

4. Sira Marma

5. Mamsa Marma

Based on the prognosis or consequences of trauma over Marmas, it has been categorized into five groups:

1. Sadya Pranahara Marma (immediate death post injury) - 19 Marmas

2. Kalantara Pranhara Marma (death post delayed time) - 33 Marmas

3. Vishalyaghna Marma (immediate death post removal of Shalya) - 3 Marmas

4. Vaikalyakara Marma (injury increasing the restlessness) - 44 Marmas

5. Rujakara Marma (injury leading to extreme pain) - 8 Marmas

The classification reflects how critical the vital points are to our physio-psychological performance and overall wellness. Marma therapy has a deep impact on Annamayakosha (physical state), Pranamayakosha (circulation of vitality and breath), Manomayakosha (our mind), Vijananamayakosha (our intelligence) and Anandamayakosha (the doorway to transcendence and happiness).

Things To Know Before A Shiro Abhyanga Session

healthy meal for shiro abhyanga

Before undergoing a Shiro Abhyanga session by an Ayurvedic practitioner, you should prepare for the session beforehand to reap the numerous benefits. Here are a few points which you may keep in mind:

  • You may require additional rest after the therapy.
  • As this Ayurvedic therapy purifies your senses and mind in general, you may use this time to avoid any unwanted stressful thoughts.
  • Try and avoid large gatherings post session. Spend the rest of the day in a quiet, relaxed ambience.
  • Avoid having a heavy, full meal before the session. Instead opt for a light, healthy snack or meal.
  • You will be asked to leave the oil in your hair after treatment for a few hours – mostly overnight. You can either tie a scarf or wear shower cap after the treatment.

What Herbs Should Go Into An Ayurvedic Shiro Abhyanga Massage And Why?

natural herbs for ayurvedic shiro abhyanga

The ancient practice of Ayurveda utilizes around 300 medicinal and therapeutic herbs for treatment, rejuvenation and prevention of ailments or health conditions. These medicinal herbs can be taken by infusing with base oils or internally by including in your daily diet.

The oils used in Shiro Abhyanga can either consist of a single herb or a mix of over 20 herbs, based on the reason for which this Ayurvedic therapy is performed.

Below is a list of herbs which are commonly used in Shiro Abhyanga:

A. Kwath, Triphalakalka, Jatamansi And Brahmi

All the herbs are added in Murchhita Tila Taila (preprocessed sesame oil). This formulation is boiled in medium heat till the water portion (Kwatha) evaporates. The remaining oil residue is then filtered and stored for future usage.

B. Brahmi Vati

It is popularly used in sleeplessness, physiatric disorders and depression. Bramhivati subtly balances the Pitta and Vata. In Nidranash (insomnia), one experiences an imbalance in Pitta-Vata dosha. Hence, this herbal infusion can be used to treat and manage stress induced insomnia.

C. Saraswatarishtam

This herbal infusion is useful in balancing the Pitta and Vata dosha and acts as an effective memory tonic. It also helps in managing bhaya, nidranash and chinta. Apart from the memory and neurological benefits, it also corrects the function of your intestine and stomach.

It is also crucial to understand the properties of the base oils which are used along with the herbs. For example, sesame based oil is considered hot in potency so it is used in colder climates. On the other hand, coconut base oils are cold in potency and therefore used in warm and humid climates.

Your Prakriti, which is your body type, should be taken into consideration while choosing any base oil:

  • Kapha – This leads to an oily scalp condition. Mustard oil in small quantities is beneficial for maintaining good scalp health.
  • Pitta – This leads to a sensitive scalp condition. Both sandalwood oil and coconut oil provide soothing and cooling properties.
  • Vata – This leads to a dry scalp condition. Sesame oil and castor oil provide additional warmth and deep nourishment.

Shiro Abhyanga Contradictions – When Should You Avoid?

As per Ayurveda, you should not undergo the therapy if you have any one of the following conditions:

  • During pregnancy.
  • During your menstrual cycle. If you still want to go ahead with the procedure during your cycle, it is advisable to gently apply the oil only for 5 minutes.
  • Unless your doctor or healthcare practitioner advises you, you should avoid the therapy if you have any medical condition.
  • If you are taking purgatives or emetics, or if you’re suffering from acute indigestion.
  • If you have the flu, chills or acute fever.
  • If you have acute illness, physical discomfort or high ama (indication of white, thick coating on your tongue).
  • If you have broken or infected skin.
  • If you have painful or swollen areas on your body.

The Last Word

As per ancient Ayurvedic excerpts, Shiro Abhyanga helps treat and prevent a wide range of health conditions such as stress, sinusitis, peptic ulcers, insomnia, indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure, Crohn’s disease, chronic fatigue, anxiety, and several other ailments. Therefore, Shiro Abhyanga is a powerful Ayurvedic therapy that offers you inumerable health benefits.

Know Your Dosha Now