My personal experience and observation has given me full faith in the power Shirodhara—also known as Bliss Therapy—plays in healing. Whether experienced alone or in conjunction with other Ayurvedic treatments, it is an invaluable healing tool and a gift from the ancient sages of India.
I have often been asked how Shirodhara works. After giving hundreds of these treatments, I have come to the conclusion that its powerful effects have to do with how it almost effortlessly brings stability and one-pointedness to the mind. While the body is being cleansed of physical toxins, shirodhara works like a psychic enema to purge mental toxicity. Often after treatment you feel peaceful and calm for several days.
It can be inferred that shirodhara helps to balance and regulate pineal and pituitary functions while nourishing and replenishing the central nervous system, but the ancient yogis may have conveyed it in a different way. The name alone contains a big hint into the meaning and purpose of this hallmark Ayurvedic treatment. In Sanskrit, dhara means “to pour” and is the root of the word dharana, which means “support” or “concentration.” Dharana is also the name of the sixth limb of ashtanga yoga, the eight limb yoga system. The yogis liken dharana to a steady stream of oil. I imagine that they applied this analogy by pouring oil on the ajna chakra, or third eye, with the intention of bringing the person more easily into a deeply relaxed and awakened state.
And it works. It gives the average individual a glimpse of inner peace that otherwise might be difficult to cultivate, especially when there is sickness or imbalance. By freeing blocked energy in the subtle bod—caused by chronic stress and tension—shirodhara provides the atmosphere for self-healing to occur. I have witnessed patients have profound transformational experiences and even enter samadhi, or super-conscious states, while receiving shirodhara.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, there is a specific science as to how shirodhara is applied, when it is appropriate, and what oils to use based upon body constitution and type of imbalances. There is a wide variety of plain or medicated oils (or tailams) and substances such as milk and herbal decoctions, that can be used for shirodhara. The traditional approach unlocks the greatest potential of this wonderful therapy and ensures its full effects.
I can certainly try to explain the efficacy of shirodhara in traditional as well as modern terms. This may be helpful to convey the benefits of the treatment in a language that everyone can easily understand, but to me the healing power of shirodhara is also quite mysterious and mystical. It is pretty amazing what warm herbal oil can achieve in terms of healing!
Before giving this treatment to a patient, I instruct them to just simply feel the oil, be present with the sensation, and allow the mind to settle on its own without forcing concentration. Simply let go and let the oil work. Whether you fall asleep, stay awake, or enter a blissful state, it is not important, the energy of the oil will do what needs to be done in each specific case, and the therapy will take you as deeply as you are ready for. In any case, shirodhara is an easy and enjoyable therapy that everyone should experience to really comprehend the power and depth of Ayurvedic treatments.