In today’s quick-paced life if there is one thing that affects our health the most it’s stress. In this constant hustle of being someplace and doing something, we often overlook the most important thing that keeps us going: our health. While we are busy accumulating wealth, fame, and success, stress seeps in through the backdoor silently. Just like the many factors that induce stress, there are many ways to deal with it too. One such way finds its roots in ancient times: Shirodhara, a therapy that balances the doshas in the body, thus healing it.

Shirodhara, a word derived from Sanskrit, when split into two, breaks down to ‘shiro’ and ‘dhara’. Simply put, ‘shiro’ means head, and ‘dhara’ means to pour. Put together,  it means pouring a liquid over the head. However, it is not just any liquid that is poured over. The various liquids involved in this treatment vary from herbs infused oil to milk and even buttermilk. The combination of the herbs along with the liquid is said to have a soothing and relaxing effect on the nerves, thus releasing stress.

shirodhara how does it help reduce stress

The process of Shirodhara itself is extremely calming. The procedure starts with a scalp massage ranging between 5-10 minutes with an ample amount of oil. After that, the patient is made to lie comfortably on the treatment table with their neck properly supported with a pillow or a towel. The ayurvedic therapist then calibrates the Shirodhara apparatus (pot) in a manner that the herbs infused liquid falls directly on the forehead of the patient. While doing this, the patient is asked to relax completely and attune themselves to the flow of the liquid which falls exactly on the forehead. The forehead is where the “agnya chakra” is found. When the liquid is poured over it, it has a restorative effect on the nervous system that sends out calming effects to it. The pot also oscillates from left to right and right to left in a manner that covers the entire forehead. Lastly, the patient is left to relax for 30-60 minutes which also helps the oil to seep in.

As it is rightly said in the words of Joan Borysenko,

“ Every day brings a choice: to practise stress or to practice peace.”, the choice is yours. 

There are various types of oils, herbs, and liquid combinations that are used for Shirodhara due to their natural ability to soothe and calm the nerves.  Some of them are even good to induce peaceful sleep. One of the ingredients majorly used in the blends is licorice. It is often fused with milk, oils, or even buttermilk. Some of the routinely used oils are Bala taila, Ksheerbala taila, Dhanwantharam taila, Triphadi taila, Chandanabalakashadi taila, Karpasahasthyadi taila, Neelibhringaraja taila, Yashtimadhutaila, and Tila taila. While most of these may not be known easily known but Tila taila or commonly known as sesame oil is easily available as well it is extremely beneficial.

Listed below are some commonly practised types of Shirodhara:

  • Taila Dhara (Thaila Dhara): It is a massage done using a single type of oil or a concoction of different ayurvedic oils depending on the doshas of the patient. Apart from the commonly known benefits of Shirodhara, Taila Dhara has shown great results to paralytic patients. 
  • Dugdhadhara or ksheerdhara: In this type of massage, the key ingredient for the connotation is milk. The rest of the fusion varies as per the ailment. This variant is particularly used to cure ailments like insomnia and headaches.  
  • Takradhara (Thakradhara): This therapy is practised using buttermilk as the primary ingredient. It is said to be beneficial to reduce blood pressure. 
  • Kwatha Dhara (Decoction): As mentioned earlier, Shirodhara balances the doshas in the body. A portion of various herbs is used in Kwatha dhara, In this particular treatment, the key ingredient (herb) varies according to the purpose and the diagnosed ailment. 
  • Jala Dhara (Aqueous formulation): Supremely used for balancing the pitta dosha in the body, this therapy has coconut water as its central ingredient.

shirodhara benifits

(image by Kairali)

What are the Benefits of Shirodhara?

 There are many listed benefits of Shirodhara which are interconnected to one another mentioned below are a few

  • Curbs the effects of stress: As mentioned earlier, stress is a major reason why we lose out on our health so easily. It has easily become a part and parcel of our lives. By curbing the effects of stress, Shirodhara indirectly also improves health quality.
  • Enhances and uplifts the sleep quality: A relaxed and balanced sleep plays a vital role to help our body function well. A tampered sleep pattern can have just as much negative effect on the mind and the body as anything else. Shirodhara helps to relax the mind and hence improves the quality of sleep.
  • Wakens and improves intuition: Shirodhara is majorly related to the forehead where the ‘Agya Chakra’ is said to be present. When the warm concoction is poured onto it in a rhythmic pattern, it wakens the chakra, thus enhancing the intuition. 
  • Brings down anxiety: The natural stress-relieving qualities of the oils and herbs used for Shirodhara help to calm the mind and thus bring down anxiety. It regulates serotonin and balances the vata and pitta dosha, which plays a vital role to suppress restlessness and anxiety. 
  • Soothes the Vata Dosha: A combination of air and space, Vata dosha, when found in increased amounts in the body can lead to reduced attention which leads to forgetfulness. It also affects the mind which leads to confused thoughts. Increased Vata dosha can also lead to physical uneasiness. 

Shirodhara, an ancient form of therapy is not just rooted to the history of our culture but our bodies too. Having so many listed benefits, this therapy connects you better both to your body and soul. It is absolutely worth a try to cure many deep-rooted ailments like hypertension, migraine, anxiety, depression, and countless other health issues.

Shirodhara table at Sheyas

(image by Shreyas)

Frequently Asked Questions about Shirodhara

Why is it that the Shirodhara oil is poured onto the forehead? 

Shirodhara is considered one among the best procedures used in Ayurveda for physical, mental and spiritual wellness.

The oil is poured over the forehead due to the superficial nature of blood supply and innervation over that area. A massage done over that area along with pouring of oil helps in improving the circulation over the head region along with proper nerve activity. 

In addition to the above fact, the forehead is the site of Ajna Chakra which when given care with a procedure like Sirodhara will perform at it's best in maintaining the energy level of an individual along with the proper balance of Vata dosha.

Ref Astangahrudaya Sutrasthana by Acharya Vaghbhata

Answered by Dr Varun Ram Raj

What oil is used in Shirodhara?

The most commonly used oil is the Ksheer Bala Tailam which contains the Bala herb, cow milk, and sesame oil as its core ingredients. The others vary according to the nature of the ailment.

Is Shirodhara good for hair?

One of the most common reasons for hair fall is a stressful and hectic lifestyle. Shirodhara, helps to curb stress, thus reducing hair fall. Shirodhara also nourishes the roots of the hair and also prevents premature greying in hair.

What is Shirodhara good for?

  • Headaches and migraine
  • Poor eyesight
  • Depression
  • Hypertension 
  • Cognitive abilities 
  • Supports memory
  • Enhances the quality of sleep 
  • Amplifies intuition
  • Brings balance to the doshas 
  • Strengthening hair roots 
  • Calming, soothing, and relaxing effects

Can we do Shirodhara at home?

Though Shirodhara can be practised at home it should be done in the presence of a trained therapist. While practising Shirodhara at home one must ensure the use of a warm and stable stream of good quality oil (Taila). As safe as it is to practise it at home, it is important to make sure that the oil is warm and not too hot.

Lastly, it is important to make sure that the oil keeps out of the nose and eyes.                                               

How Long Does It Take For Shirodhara Treatment?

A single Shirodhara session anywhere between takes about 45-90 minutes. 

Who Should Not Go For Shirodhara?

 Shirodhara is not advised during the following: 

  • Women at the end of Pregnancy
  • Women having their periods
  • Those dealing with low blood pressure, nausea, fever, fatigue
  • Those uncomfortable with excessive sweating conditions
  • Ones dealing with a brain tumour, neck or spinal injury 
  • Ones with any cuts, sensitive skins, or oil allergies

What are the side effects of Shirodhara?

Shirodhara is a procedure that must be done only after the consultation of an Ayurveda doctor. The major side effects of Shirodhara are

  • Blocked nose
  • Headache
  • Neck pain 
  • Earache and 
  • Edema around eyes

The side effects are only noticed when contraindicated individuals perform Shirodhara. The major contraindications of Sirodhara are

  • Indigestion
  • Diarrhea
  • Extreme obesity
  • After gynecology-related surgery
  • Immediately after major Panchakarma procedures like Nasya (Nasal medications), Virechana (Enema) and Vasti (Enema) and
  • Kapha dosha related chronic disorders

Ref Astangahrudaya Sutrasthana by Acharya Vaghbhata

Answered by Dr Varun Ram Raj

**The benefits of Ayurveda vary from person to person and the results may vary immensely based on the quality of the herbs, oil concoctions and medicines. is not responsible or liable for the effectiveness and outcome of the Ayurvedic treatments. The information above is shareable purely for educational purpose it is not to be considered as a replacement for medical advice. Please always consult a certified specialist/Doctor before you embark upon a treatment.