Sunday, October 12, 2008


Last time we discussed the intricacies of massage, herewith I shall be discussing the Shirodhara. References regarding shirodhara in texts are found scattered. One of the south Indian book, Sahasra yoga has explained this procedure in length and has explained the therapeutic effects of shirodhara as well. Earlier preachers of Ayurveda have not explained the therapeutic utility much and have included this treatment under the regimens to be followed on daily basis. It has been explained as Moordhani tailam: which means, application of oil over the head.

Moordhani Tailam

Moordha means head, and tailam means oil. So collectively it means method of application of oil over the head. In total four methods of oil application has been mentioned in the texts, they are as following:-

a)      Shiro abhyanga.

b)      Shiro dhara.

c)      Shiro pichu.

d)      Shiro basti.

As Susruta narrates human body as a tree with roots upward and branches down, further adds that as its necessary to irrigate tree in its roots in order to flourish it completely, similarly human body needs to be irrigated in its roots i. e. head, in order to keep it moist and to enhance its functions. As a general understanding, brain is one of the most functional organ of body and is home for all the senses, which all most doubles the function of brain, apart from all this, it has its own functions of thinking, evaluating, deciding and controlling the body as well, due to excessive load of work this organ is most prone to fall prey to the increased Vata which causes dryness inside the cavity. Over a long period of time it starts showing up in form of various diseases and commonest of them is from dryness of skull leading to dandruff to insomnia. And in day to day life style we keep fighting with these common diseases unknowingly. Above everything we never apply oil on our skull for once and all. So, Susruta nowhere wrong with his comments to apply oil over the skull as a part of daily routine.

Then the question rises that why four different methods for the same function? Its easy to explain the same.

1)      They have made it clear that in descending order each treatment is stronger than previous in its therapeutic effects due to the involvement of more material and intricacy.

2)      The second is the cost effectiveness and zeal to make this treatment available to one and all.

Definition of Shirodhara:

            Shirodhara is a procedure in which warm medicated liquid is poured over the forehead region from a prescribed distance, in a prescribed manner, for a prescribed duration on a table specially created with the facility to collect the oil near the head region which is specially meant for the same procedure.

As per this definition of shirodhara, it tends to explain the whole procedure in itself. Let’s try to explain one by one:

1.)    Warm medicated Liquid.

As per the various different conditions liquid used for this treatment can be different. Usually oil is used for all the conditions but as per the dosha concept, material can be used as per this law too,

For Vata condition- Oil,

For Pitta condition- Milk,

For Kapha condition- Buttermilk.

2.)    From a prescribed distance: As per the classical references the distance between the forehead and the dropping of the flow of oil should be 4 fingers. It can be predicted in two ways:

a)      If the further extension to the shirodhara is used i. e. Varti(wick), the distance between lower end of wick and forehead has to be measured.

b)      If no wick and vessel is directly used then the distance between the vessel and forehead has to be measured.

Strongly, as per my opinion method A is more recommended one.

3.)    Prescribed manner: clearly states that, it should be an oscillating pendulum movement and should be slow. Classics explain it in beautifully, it should be like slow raising waves in a deep ocean and a person executing the procedure should watch for these waves.

4.)    Temperature: Temperature of the liquid should be pleasantly warm. Neither too hot nor too cold. Just warm, and should be checked time to time by pouring it on the back side of hand time to time. It should be maintained evenly through out the procedure.

5.)    Prescribed duration: it can be 48 minute. But it may vary in different therapeutic cases.

Contraindications of Shirodhara

Shirodhara should not be executed in following conditions,

  • Common cold of very recent origin.
  • State of indigestion.
  • Any open wound in the head.
  • Any specific disease in which Doctor feels the procedure is contraindicated.


Shirodhara can be successfully executed in following conditions:-

  • Mental stress.
  • Hypertension.
  • Headache.
  • Anxiety.
  • Insomnia.
  • Exhaustion.
  • Psoriasis. (?)
  • Hair fall, greying etc.

Materials required

For the execution oh this procedure, following material is required:

  1. Room sizing 10× 10 feet.
  2. Shirodhara table(Droni) with stand.
  3. Shirodhara pot with a measured hole in the base (middle) of the pot with 4- 5 litter Capacity.
  4. Oil/ liquid (as per the condition & choice) – App. 2- 3 lit.
  5. A cloth made wick 1.
  6. Cotton eye pads- 2.
  7. Cotton bandage.
  8. Vessels 2-3 litter capacity- 3.
  9. A larger vessel with water, for heating oil- 1.
  10. Expert masseurs – 3 for a better execution.
  11. Gas stove or a coil heater.
  12. Towel – 1.
  13. Changing dress for the client.
  14. Apron – 2 for masseurs.
  15. Soaking tissues – 4.
  16. Temperature of the room should be optimum, neither too hot, nor too cold.
  17. A bathroom with hot water facility.
  18. A changing room.
  19. Chair – 1.
  20. Light music in the background.

Surrounding area should absolute calm, it’s even better not to put on the music, if you can cut down all external sounds.

Method of execution

Step 1:

Poorva karma/ pre operative measures:-

  • Client’s preparation is the part of this step. Once you explained the whole procedure before the execution of the same, your client is assured of his safety and acknowledges your professional approach towards the procedure.
  • Then he should be given a dress for the change and after making sure that he/ she is free from all natural urges should be taken for the treatment.
  • A through head massage should be given keeping in view all major vital spot stimulation over the head region.

Step 2:

  • Head gear in form of cotton cloth wick should be tied around the forehead region just above the eye brows to avoid spilling of liquid into the eyes during the process.
  • Client should be asked to lie comfortably on the Dhara bed in supine position and shoulders should be just below the raised area of the bed near to the head.
  • An empty vessel should be kept under the collector aperture of the bed near to the head.
  • Liquid should be kept in separate vessel in heated water so as to make sure that heating is just in control and temperature should be pleasantly warm. Neither too hot nor too cold.
  • Warm liquid should be poured in the Dhara vessel, keeping a finger under the aperture to avoid sudden pouring over the head of client.
  • Take the vessel carefully over the forehead of the client and inform him that you are starting the treatment and start pouring the liquid on the forehead in the manner said earlier.
  • Continue the procedure for the period as prescribed by the Doctor.

Step 3:

  • Clean the head thoroughly and reassure the client.
  • Cover the head with towel or cloth so as to avoid any further exposure to the air.
  • Serve the milk treated with the ginger, so as to avoid any further complication.
  • Give him/ her, the chart of instructions to be followed on by the client.



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