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Ayurveda is the ancient Indian science of wellness that originated centuries ago. It is focused on balancing the various life forces called doshas and bringing the perfect balance between the body, mind, and soul.

Shirodhara is the combination of two Sanskrit words. “Shiro” means head and “Dhara” means flow. This is an ancient ayurvedic technique in which a liquid (which is a combination of oils and other ingredients) is poured over your head. Quite often when you visit an ayurvedic clinic, a combination of various treatments is recommended for the health of the mind and the body. However, very few standalone techniques are powerful enough to give the desired results within a single session. Shirodhara is one such technique.

What Is Shirodhara Treatment?

In the Shirodhara Ayurvedic treatment, oil is poured over the forehead. Initially, it goes from the left temple to the right temple and back based on your pattern of doshas. Finally, the stream settles to the center of the forehead and continues like this till the end of the treatment. This goes on for about half an hour after which a full body massage known as abhyanga follows.

The treatment has a lot of therapeutic benefits and helps in giving your body, mind and soul a serene and tranquil calmness. This makes Shirodhara effective in reducing stress, anxiety and improving sleeping patterns. You can also go for Shirodhara for hair loss and hair greying handling as it fights stress and anxiety which are a major cause for these problems.

Benefits of Shirodhara

Shirodhara has a soothing and calming effect on the body. While Shirodhara is extremely beneficial if being taken in conjunction with other ayurvedic treatments, a standalone treatment also brings an array of benefits to your body and mind. The various Shirodhara uses are listed below - 

  • Reduces Stress
  • Shirodhara brings tranquillity and relaxation to the body. When the body enters deep relaxation, stress-causing hormones decline. This relaxes the respiration rate, heart rate and reduces the blood pressure. A single session will invoke a relaxing response that can mitigate the negative effects of stress on your body for several days.

  • Reduces Anxiety
  • Shirodhara stimulates the energy at the center of the forehead and reduces your anxiety. The procedure brings serenity to your mind and is recommended for reducing anxiety-related disorders.

  • Reduces insomnia and improves sleep quality
  • A night of disturbed sleep can be the source of exhaustion and laziness the next day. This also impacts your emotional and mental wellness. Shirodhara therapy is a good option for improving your quality of sleep and dealing with insomnia. Clinical studies have found that Shirodhara enhances the quality of your sleep.

  • Energises consciousness and intuition
  • Stimulation of the point between the eyebrows has been linked to inner awakening in many traditional philosophies. Clinical studies have found Shirodhara to be linked to mental clarity and better decisiveness.

    How is Shirodhara Treatment Done?

    Shirodhara practice takes training and learning and it is recommended that you take this treatment from a trained professional only. Shirodhara at home is not recommended unless you are accompanied by a professional. The whole process can last from 30 minutes to 90 minutes and may be followed by a massage. Below steps will be performed once you go for a Shirodhara treatment –

    1. Before the procedure starts, the head and scalp are massaged using oil for 5 to 10 minutes.
    2. Lie on your back on the Shirodhara alter, you can keep a pillow or a rolled towel under your neck for support.
    3. The Shirodhara equipment is a pot with a hole at its bottom, centered for the oil to pour directly on your forehead. This pot is placed at a height of about 10 centimeters above the forehead.
    4. The oil specific to the treatment is put into the pot and the stream of oil starts to pour over your head and forehead.
    5. The pot is in continuous motion, oscillating from side to side of the forehead, with the stream of oil going from left to right.
    6. At this point, you should relax and feel the stream of oil being poured on your head and forehead.
    7. The extra Shirodhara oil is collected from the table or the alter, reheated, and put back into the Shirodhara pot.
    8. This process continues for about half an hour. All this while a light head massage is given. 
    9. After the process is complete, the oil is wiped from the forehead.
    10. At this point, you should relax for a further half an hour to an hour. During this time the oils will seep deeply inside the head.

    Oils Used in Shirodhara

    A variety of liquids and oils can be used as Shirodhara oil. This also varies from one practitioner to another. The choice of the liquid also depends on the imbalance of Vata doshas in the body of the person taking the treatment.

    • Sesame oil is very commonly used as it mixes well with essential oils and is neutral.
    • Coconut oil and ghee (clarified butter) are also used in Shirodhara.
    • Some practitioners also use water, coconut water, buttermilk, or cow’s milk for the treatment.
    • Ksheerabala oil which is a mixture of bala herb paste, cow’s milk, and sesame oil is popularly used by many practitioners.
    • Mahanarayan oil, Narayana oil, Dhanwantaram oil, Karapasasthyadi oil are some of the other traditional combinations that are often used.
    • Often essential oils and ayurvedic herbs are added.
    • Nervine herbs are often added to the oil mix. These are highly beneficial in the treatment of people suffering from stress-related disorders.
    • Generally, you would need about one to two liters of the massaging liquid for a single session.

    Are There Any Side Effects of Shirodhara Treatment?

    The Shirodhara Ayurvedic treatment is quite safe. There are no side effects. However, there a few things that you can be careful about when you go for a Shirodhara treatment -

    • The only risks involved arise if the oil being used is too heated or if the oils enter your eyes. However, if you are visiting an experienced practitioner, this should not be a problem. 
    • If you have any skin allergies, do let your practitioner know before beginning the treatment. 
    • If your skin is very sensitive, you can do a patch test first with the oil being used so be sure that it will not cause any skin irritation.
    • If there are any cuts or open wounds on your face, let them heal before you go for Shirodhara therapy.
    • Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil.

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    Dr. Shailendra Chaubey, BAMS

    Ayurveda Practioner

    A modern-day Vaidya with 11 years of experience. He is the founder of Dr. Shailendra Healing School that helps patients recover from chronic conditions through the Ayurvedic way of life.

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