What is Shiro Abhyanga Therapy?
Shiro Abhyanga is a Sanskrit term comprised of two words: Shiro (head) and Abhyanga (massage). Shiro Abhyanga essentially means a complete massage of the head, neck, and shoulders using Ayurvedic herbal oils. These are the areas that are most affected by stress, which is why Shiro Abhyanga is beneficial in reducing pain and stress in these regions.
How Shiro Abhyanga Works
Shiro Abhyanga treatment is a synchronized combination of two distinct Ayurvedic treatments – Shirodhara and Abhyanga.
Shirodhara is performed by pouring a relaxing and gentle flow of herbal massage oil formulations on the scalp, forehead, and neck. Abhyanga is a gentle massage on the forehead, head, neck, and shoulders so the oil formulation on these parts of the body take effect.
Hence, Shiro Abhyanga is an Ayurvedic massage therapy that works in two different processes following one another consecutively.
The Importance of Shiro Abhyanga
The science of Ayurveda considers the human body an inverted tree, where the roots are at the top and the branches are pointing downwards. Here, the head is considered to be the roots, the thorax and the abdomen are said to be the trunk, and the limbs are the branches.
Just like roots nurture a tree, the head is the operational center of the entire body. It consists of the brain which is the seat of consciousness and the sense organs with which we interact.
Marmas, or life centers, are the vital points in the body where the Prana or energy is converted, regulated, and stored for use by the body and mind. They are also the sites of the Tridoshas – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
It is generally accepted that there are around 107 Marma points throughout the body, where 12 are classified as Padu Marmas (vital life centers), many of which are located in the head and neck region. This shows how critical the head and neck region are to our physio-psychological functioning.
The most important Marma points for a head massage are:
- Adhipati: The “soft spot” located 8 finger widths above the eyebrows in the center of the skull.
- Simantaka: Located 12 finger widths above the eyebrows on the skull where the hairs gather in a swirl.
- Krikatika: These are 2 points located on either side of the first cervical vertebrae behind the head where the neck meets the skull (occipital – cervical joint).
- Vidhuram: The depression behind both ears, just behind the earlobes.
- Shankha: The depressions on both sides of the forehead between the end of the eyebrow and the hairline (temples).
The Significance of Oils
Ayurveda uses more than 300 herbs to prevent, rejuvenate, and cure. These herbs can be taken internally or infused with base oils. Shiro Abhyanga oils can consist of a range of a single herb to over twenty, depending on the purpose for which the Abhyanga is performed.
It is important to consider the properties of the base oils used. For example, coconut base oils are very cold in potency so they are used in hot and humid places, whereas sesame base oil is hot in potency and therefore used in colder climates.
Base oils should also be selected by “Prakriti” which is one’s body type.
Vata Prakriti (dry scalp) – Castor oil and sesame oil provide extra nourishment and warmth
Pitta Prakriti (sensitive scalp) – Coconut oil and sandalwood oil provide cooling properties
Kapha (oily scalp) – Mustard oil is beneficial in small amounts for scalp health
Diseases/Conditions Treated in Shiro Abhyanga
Prevention of any disease related to the head, mind, and sense organs is the first indication of Shiro Abhyanga. Since head massages can be done on a daily basis, Shiro Abhyanga is predominantly a treatment used for the prevention of many psychosomatic disorders.
Some other indications are:
- Shiro Roga – Different types of headaches and diseases related to the head
- Pakshaghata – Hemiplegia or paralysis
- Anidra – Insomnia
- Vata Roga – Degenerative diseases
- Pitta Roga – Inflammatory diseases
- Shiro Rukshata – Dryness of the scalp
- Shiro Kandu – Itching in the scalp
Shiro Abhyanga’s Numerous Health Benefits
- Improves and rejuvenates central nervous system health
- Improves vision, eye refraction errors, and eye strain
- Relieves pain, headaches, migraines, stress, and insomnia
- Relaxes muscles and reduces stiffness
- Prevents premature graying, hair fall, dandruff, and stimulates hair growth
- Calms the mind and rejuvenates the body
- Balances the pineal and pituitary glands, toning the lungs, heart, colon, brain, and stomach
- Calms the Vata to prevent degenerative diseases
- Calms the Pitta to prevent inflammatory diseases
- Highly rejuvenates the senses of sight, sound, and smell
- Helpful in treating tinnitus, jaw aches, and sinusitis
- Stimulates lymphatic drainage and aids sound sleep
- Increases blood and oxygen circulation in the brain
- Relieves fatigue and cloudiness of thought
- Anti-aging and helps in relaxing facial and eye muscles
As with all Ayurvedic treatments, Shiro Abhyanga must be done only under the guidance of a certified Ayurvedic practitioner. This massage is not recommended in case of high fever.