Shirodhara - Ayurveda's mind medicine

There is much we can do to heal ourselves. I consider them as active and passive therapies. Active therapies includes your participation at bringing awareness to your blocks and making a dedicated effort to shift those blocks through changing aspects of your diet and lifestyle. Passive therapies are induced via herbs or healer's prana (via energetic healing work). This basically means that the sheer intention of the healer, acting as a conduit of nature, works alongside the technique to bring positive energy into your system. Your only job, in this case, is not to resist to allow the magic to take place.

I had heard that there are some doctors in India that only treat Vata in the mind, namely fear, and believe that it is the root cause of all that ails us. Vata presents in the mind as stress, anxiety, memory loss, overwhelm, feelings of panic, insecurity, doubt, PTSD, disturbed sleep, excessive thinking, lacking integrity, mania, attention deficit, to name a few. And a lot of the time, it can be the cause of anger, even though anger would be considered a Pitta emotion. If we look deeply, a lot of the reasons for fear, or being critical or violent, is borne out of fear. It's the classic idea of a bush fire only being a problem when there is a ferocious wind, otherwise the fire is just minding it's own business being a fire.

the principal seat of the soul and the place in which all our thoughts are formed
— Rene Descartes on his description of the pineal gland (The Passions of the Soul 1649)

Shirodhara is an Ayurvedic technique borne from the state of Kerala in India, that pours medicated oil (milk/buttermilk) over the forehead into the hair on a continuous basis for about 30 mins to 1 hour. The area around the 3rd eye has the pineal gland deep within it. The pineal gland produces melatonin, which helps moderate basic circadian rhythms including sleep patterns. They are finding that calcification of the pineal gland contributes to the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease and certain types of dementia.  It is also the area where the vagus nerve runs through. This is a wandering nerve that runs freely (vagabond, vagrant are terms that are derived from the latin term vagus) and passes via the digestive and reproductive system. By relaxing this nerve you inadvertently calm the nerves that cause digestive disorders, tension in menstrual disorders as well as sexual trauma. It basically all comes down to relaxation and allowing the two nervous systems (sympathetic and parasympathetic) to coincide dutifully without one overpowering the other. Putting pressure on the 3rd eye, or where the oil stream from a Shirodhara, is one way to enervate this nervous system to bring balance to your visceral body functions.

See the body therapies area for more information on receiving a shirodhara treatment at the she oak

See the body therapies area for more information on receiving a shirodhara treatment at the she oak

A Shirodhara is best performed in a sequence of sessions. The reason is that the effect can be cleansing in the beginning before it becomes a truly blissful treatment. I know when I was getting a series done for the first time I had tension at the back of my head and neck because I found it hard to let go. I was also emotional as things that were locked up inside (and causing tension on my neck and shoulders) came flooding out.  It has been described (wonderfully I think) as a "psychic enema to purge mental toxicity".

The oils are prepared according to your constitution. Pitta needs more cooling oils and Vata needs more grounding and warming oils. Kapha does not need Shirodhara as it can create more lethargy and heaviness due to the oils. It is possible to use lighter more pungent oils for Kapha, however, in my opinion, Kapha does best moving the body in a vigorous format.

The kind of experiences I have witnessed from clients range from feeling like they were "out of it" and lost track of time to experiencing super conscious states, sometimes feeling like they were transported to another space. It's difficult to tell how it will be for each person but knowing there is a treatment that can take you to that place of contentment deep inside yourself is worth investigating at least once.  Whether combined with changing your state of well being to work on disorders of the mind or just experiencing bliss of contentment to establish the muscle memory, it's an available treatment to work at your deepest fears in a nourishing and safe space.


Sandra Radja

Established in 2012 The She Oak aims to provide healing through diet and lifestyle counselling as well as educational programs. I believe in teaching others to not only know their inherent constitutions that will best serve them but also how to help themselves should they mis-align with their true nature. Ayurveda treats the individual not the disease.