Ayurvedic Body Techniques

Marma Points of Ayurveda

Based on centuries of intuitive wisdom and field-tested knowledge, marma chikitsa (therapy) is an essential hands-on Ayurvedic practice that often delivers profound mind-body benefits. This practical application of ancient Ayurvedic principles is defined by the renowned Ayurvedic physician Dr. Vasant Lad as “the precise art of touching an individual in exactly the right place at a critical moment in time for the purpose of healing.”  

Similar to the acupoints described in Chinese medicine, marma points, or marmaṇi, are specific locations on the body where our mental and physical energies can be accessed and adjusted or redirected. These access points occur in areas where veins, arteries, bones, tendons, or joint intersect. In Sanskrit the word marmameans “mortal or vulnerable point,” suggesting that these areas may be tender, weak, or sensitive. 

Located along the nadis—the energy channels that prana(the life-force) flows through—marma points are used in Ayurvedic medicine to promote communication between the body and mind as well as between cells, maintaining and coordinating their functional activities and transmitting healing energy to organs and tissues. 

Stimulation of a marma point that relates to a particular tissue can be used to not only help maintain the normal functioning of that tissue but also to address a specific imbalance (vikruti) in our elemental makeup by either increasing or reducing the predominance of a particular dosha, thus restoring our constitution (prakruti) to its natural intended state. The activation of marma points also produces a powerful response in the mind, helping to calm it while increasing the clarity of perception and empowering more effective communication. 

Often these points are used as a mechanism of pain relief. Pain is generated when tension and stagnation in the body block the flow of prana to a particular part of our body, disrupting the delicate equilibrium of the doshas associated with that area. Marma chikitsa alleviates this pain by stimulating the flow of prana to the affected area, pacifying the accumulated dosha. 

There are 117 primary marma points that are classified according to their location; constituent elements; degree of vitality; and associated doshas, tissues (dhatus), bodily wastes (malas), organs, and physical channels (srotamsi). The power of the marmaṇi is intimately connected with the basic components of the vital essence of life (ojastejas, and prana). Marma chikitsa is rarely used in isolation; more often it’s employed as a part of a comprehensive, multifaceted treatment program. To design this type of program, an Ayurvedic practitioner must have a broad and deep understanding of the etiology and symptomatology of disease and the stages of pathogenesis as well as sensitivity and skill in Ayurvedic diagnosis. However, marma chikitsa can also be used for immediate pain relief, long-term pain management, and first aid. Although marma therapy alone may not eradicate the disease process completely, it can give temporary symptomatic relief and may prevent serious complications from arising. 

Marma points reflect the qualities of the region of the body where they reside and the internal and external features of the corresponding doshas and subdoshas. Sushruta, an expert Ayurvedic surgeon in ancient India, described marmaṇi according to the six major parts of the body: the four extremities, the trunk, the head and the neck. He also defines the points in relation to the five principal components of the body’s physical structures: mamsa(muscle), sira(veins), snayus(ligaments), asthi(bone) and sandhi(joints). 

The marmaṇi on the scalp are connected to the brain as well as to organs situated in other parts of the body. On the chest and upper back, the points are connected with the heart and lungs. The points on the lower back are connected with the kidneys, stomach, and the digestive organs. Each of the areas where marmaṇi reside is associated one of the five constituent elements of the body (space, air, fire, water, and earth), and each marma point activates the energy of the element associated with its location. 

The language of the doshas is absolutely key to understanding the Ayurvedic viewpoint on health and disease. Knowing how marma points affect the dosha that predominates in a particular region of the body is crucial to achieving excellent therapeutic results. For example, chest and lung marma points stimulate kapha, umbilical points affect pitta, and colon points will influence vata. 

There are eight great marma points that are essential to life. These marmaṇi house the greatest concentration of vital energies of all the points. Sushruta described how injuries at these marma points, whether superficial or deep, can disrupt the flow of prana, decreasing vitality and even causing life-threatening damage. These points are known as the sadyah pranahara marmaṇimurdhani(crown), brahmarandhara (anterior to crown), shivarandhra(posterior to crown), ajna(third eye), shanka(right and left temple), hrdayam(heart), habhi (umbilicus), and uda(anus). The illustration below shows these eight marmaṇi, as well as five other vital points—kanthagrivabastivrushana, and yoni jihva—that can cause death or serious injury when traumatized. 

Sadyah Pranahara Marmani

 

 While marma points are the most vulnerable areas of our body, they also hold great potential to improve our health and well-being. Each of the following marma points provides access to specific health benefits:

  •  Anja – benefits the eyes and nose, regulates hormones, and improves pituitary function 

  • Shivarandhra – stimulates memory, calms the mind, and balances emotions

  • Hrdayam – directs the healing energy of love to the heart

  • Nabhi – enkindles gastrointestinal agni(digestive fire)

  • Murdhani – stimulates blood flow in the cerebral cortex and the circulation of the cerebrospinal fluid

  • Brahmarandhara – relieves headache and optimizes the functioning of the pituitary gland

  • Shankha – strongly pacifies pitta, relieves stomach pain and excess acidity, improves speech

  • Griva – boosts circulation of plasma and lymphatic fluid, benefits the throat and thyroid 

  • Guda – balances strength, vitality, and stability 

In general, stimulating the marmaṇi enhances the flow of prana. The manipulation of marma points can be quite effective when used on its own to treat mild and short-term illnesses and  dysfunctions. As the complexity of a disease increases, other Ayurvedic therapies become essential. These may include herbal or dietary recommendations, panchakarma, and exercise and lifestyle changes. 

Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. 

Shirodhara in Infertility

Infertility has been steadily rising among men and women over the last few decades. As an Ayurvedic practitioner,  I work with clients dealing with infertility by applying diet and lifestyle practices along with herbal formulas, stress management tools, and Ayurvedic body techniques. Since ancient times, one such body technique, shirodhara, has been used with great success to address infertility problems. 

Shirodhara is a simple yet profound technique specifically designed to balance and stabilize the nervous system and the activities of the mind. In this application, an Ayurvedic practitioner streams dosha-balancing herbal oils over the middle of the client’s forehead, where the third eye chakra is located. Shirodhara is highly effective in normalizing sleep cycles, reducing stress, and managing infertility and is unique in its ability to calm the nerves while at the same time awakening the senses. 

Modern scientists now recognizes the relationship between what traditional Eastern philosophies call the “third eye” and the region deep inside the brain that houses the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the pineal gland. These three structures regulate production of most of the hormones in the body, including reproductive hormones, such as follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Secreted by the pituitary gland into the bloodstream, this hormone stimulates the growth of ovarian follicles in women’s ovaries before the release of an egg at ovulation.Insufficient levels of FSH can result in reduced growth of ovarian follicles and interfere with the release of an egg, thus leading to infertility. In men, FSH is required for the proper development of the testes and for sperm production. 

Normal levels of FSH are needed for fertility in both men and women. When levels are either too high or too low, the chances of pregnancy decrease. Elevated FSH levels are a sign of malfunction in the ovary and testes and, in women, may indicate the onset of early menopause. Diminished FSH levels in men may indicate the failure of the testes to produce normal numbers of sperm. 

The application of the dosha-specific herbal oils on the focal point of the third eye helps ensure adequate levels of FSH and other reproductive hormones by optimizing communication between the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the pineal gland, These endocrine glands not only secrete our reproductive hormones, but also govern the hormones that support our autonomic responses, including digestion, respiration, and elimination, and play an important role in our mood and emotional states. The use of shirodhara promotes harmony between our organ systems and hormones, thus supporting female and male fertility and overall wellness. 

Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. 

Why Panchakarma?

Ayurveda teaches that the key to optimal health lies in our ability to fully digest everything that enters our body and mind, integrating whatever nourishes our being and eliminating the remainder. Because of genetic tendencies and, more commonly, unhealthy lifestyle choices, the most vulnerable areas of our body tend to accumulate toxic residues from foods, experiences, and feelings that haven’t been completely digested and metabolized. When left unaddressed, the buildup of this sticky toxic waste, known as ama, can give rise to physical and mental fatigue, disease, and emotional distress. Its presence often manifests in physical symptoms ranging from high cholesterol, hardened arteries, tooth tartar, and joint pain to a coated tongue, foul body odor, and excess mucus. Signs of ama’s harmful impact on our psychological and spiritual well-being include frequent episodes of boredom, irritability, and insatiable craving.

For thousands of years, Ayurvedic medicine has relied on the purification process known as panchakarma to deal with this fundamental threat to our health and happiness. The word panchakarmameans “five actions” and refers to five procedures that intensively cleanse and precisely balance the body, mind, and emotions. The correct application of these techniques quickly reverses the degenerative process and often yields profound and long-lasting benefits. Ayurvedic practitioners use panchakarma as a preventative or supportive measure for a variety of health imbalances. It can be particularly effective for managing health problems that are chronic, metabolic, or stress related.

According to Ayurveda, every human being is unique and therefore best served by an individualized approach to health care. The aim of Ayurveda is to help a healthy person stay well and to eliminate the causes of disease in a person who is ill. In both cases, panchakarma nurtures wellness with a set of procedures that are tailored to an individual’s constitution, age, digestive strength, health issues, immune status, and situational factors.

Panchakarma therapy detoxifies the various microscopic and macroscopic structures of the body, including the respiratory, lymphatic, circulatory, reproductive, and nervous systems. By optimizing digestion, elimination, and nutrient absorption and by introducing antioxidant enzymes into the body, panchakarma helps neutralize free radicals, balance cholesterol and triglycerides, and regulate blood pressure. It can slow the aging process, boost vitality and mental clarity, and even reduce the risk of heart attacks, stroke paralysis, and cancer by enabling our mind and body manage stress more effectively. Brain wave studies indicate that panchakarma techniques foster a relaxed yet alert mental state. By inducing this state of restful alertness, these techniques help protect our mind and body from the potentially deadly effects of chronic stress and tension, while enhancing our physical and mental performance.

Many Ayurvedic practitioners believe that even healthy people should undergo regular panchakarma treatments to combat the effects of chronic exposure to today’s rising levels of environmental pollution. Traces of the thousands[EP1] of synthetic chemicals used in modern industrialized societies (including many compounds that are linked to cancer and other health threats) permeate our food, water, air and can accumulate in our bodies, adding to the toxic burden of ama on our organs and tissues.

Ayurvedic theory emphasizes the importance of a panchakarma program for easing the challenges of transitioning from one season to the next. This is particularly true during the early spring when the lingering effects of excess kapha on winter-stressed bodies tend to increase susceptibility to colds and seasonal allergies.  

The first stage of panchakarma comprises treatments that stoke agni (digestive fire) while liquefying the sticky mass of ama in your organs and tissues and pushing it toward the digestive tract. This preparatory phase, known as purvakarma, consists of oil massages, ingestion of medicated ghee, and techniques like steam baths to stimulate sweating. These treatments lay the groundwork for efficient waste removal by lubricating the body’s subtle channels. After several days of purvakarma, the practitioner chooses one or more of the five (pancha) actions (karma) designed to rid the body of the ama. This stage also typically lasts for several days. The elimination stage is followed by a series of internal and external rasayana(rejuvenation) procedures. This phase, which strengthens and nourishes the body, is just as vital as the first two to panchakarma’s goal of preventing disease and restoring our natural state of balanced health and happiness.

Just as you would with any medical procedure, be sure to consult with a qualified physician before undergoing panchakarma therapy. An Ayurvedic physician has the specialized expertise to determine your constitution, diagnose any health problems, and recommend the panchakarma techniques that are most appropriate for your condition. Specially trained technicians must administer these procedures in a defined sequence over a specified period of time. The importance of close supervision by an Ayurvedic expert at all times during the treatments can’t be overemphasized. If your body isn’t properly prepared for cleansing, or if the techniques are incorrectly administered, the process can overwhelm your nervous system or dislodge more toxins than your body can handle. Each stage of panchakarma must be performed with proficiency and grace in keeping with the rigorous standards of Ayurvedic tradition.

While many of the most popular cleanses promise fast results, these quick fixes tend to be harsh and unpleasant and their benefits often prove fleeting. Panchakarma is gentle, soft, and slow. It seeks to create a gentle, steady wave of cleansing—not a tsunami—so this time-honored Ayurvedic therapy may grant those who experience it deep and enduring rewards.

Panchakarma may help with most minor and major health problems including:

  • Nervous system disorders

  • Stress, insomnia, anxiety

  • ADD/ADHD

  •  Obesity

  • Diabetes

  • Sports injuries 

  • Arthritis

  • Frequent illness

  • Allergies, asthma

  • Infertility & sexual dysfunction

  • Hormonal imbalances

  • Muscular dystrophy

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • Drug abuse

  • Stomach discomfort

  • Weight gain or loss

  • Fatigue

  • Headaches & migraines

  • Digestive disorders

  • Skin conditions

  • Psoriasis

  • Autoimmune disorders

  • Candidiasis

  • Joint immobility

  • Circulation-related imbalances

  • Thyroid conditions

  • Crohn’s disease & IBS

  • Constipation

  • Insomnia

  • Heart disease

  • Osteoporosis

  • High blood pressure

  • Menopause

  • Emotional problems

  • Seniors’ health issues

  • Parasites

  • Depression & bipolar disorder

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome

Sources: 

“What Can Panchakarma Do for You,” Yoga International, https://yogainternational.com/article/view/what-can-panchakarma-do-for-you.

Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. 

 [EP1]I deleted to reference to 100, 000 chemicals use in commerce. The EPA has a list of 84,000 chemicals that  are manufactured but fewer than 8,000 are in wide use.

Dhanwantharam Oil

In Ayurveda, application of oil by means of massage is equivalent to injecting medicines into the body. The massage helps the blood to absorb most of the oil content directly to the blood stream and support overcoming illness. It helps by making the body more flexible, and treats even sports injuries through massage. However, only a qualified person is permitted to perform such a massage, as there are specific methods of applying pressure in each part of the body, and a wrong method can worsen the injury or illness.

Dhanwantharam oil is one of the most popular herbal massage oils, a combination of 28 rare herbs, mostly found in the Indian sub-continent. Dhanwantharam is recommended for all body types, particularly the Vata and Pitta Types. Due to its potent anti-oxidant effect, it rejuvenates the body and skin increasing immunity, and possesses excellent nourishing and anti-inflammatory features. It is used in treating rheumatic and neurological diseases, chronic vata conditions, pre and post natal care, regeneration of skin cells, to improve skin texture, to relieve numb muscles and blocks caused in the body, to improve blood circulation, and to help the skin in getting rid of toxins.

Another Ayurvedic technique that use this lukewarm medicated oil as treatment option for several health conditions including arthritis, spondylitis, nervous disorders, hemiplegia, and sexual weakness, is Pizhichil. The oil is poured over the persons body in a special rhythmic manner by expert for 45 to 60 minutes. It is done as a single day course or a course of 7 to 21 days, depending on health condition of the person. This is also recommended for an otherwise healthy person as a rejuvenation and preventive treatment.

When using on daily basis (other than for treatment purposes), a small amount of oil is poured into a container and heated up to 36-40 degree celsius and is gently massaged into skin. The oil is rubbed off with a clean cloth or a lukewarm shower after an hour. However, the oil should not be applied directly on freshly injured skin, and should be kept strictly out of reach of children.

Ingredients in Dhanwantharam Oil

Some of the main ingredients that go into preparation of Dhanwantharam oil are Cow milk, Wild mallow, Black sesame oil, Madras gram, Indian jujube, Barley, Wild asparagus, Spanish woodbine, Ashwagandha,  Bael tree, Snapdragon tree, Indian madder, Headache tree, Indian trumpet flower, Pseudarthria, Desmodium, Pink jacaranda, Indian sarsaparilla, Himalayan cedar, Puncturevine, Aerva, Solanum, Stone flower, Fenugreek, Sweet flag, Rock salt, Chebulic myrobalan, Indian gooseberry, Beleric myrobalan, Myrrh, Golden gram, Cinnamon, Vigna, Licorice, Cardamom and Indian dill.

Benefits of Ayurvedic Massage

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Ayurveda is an approach to health, wellness, and medicine that originated in India. A traditional form of holistic medicine that utilizes herbs, yoga, nutrition and massage techniques to support symptoms of illnesses and for health maintenance. Ayurvedic massage is an ancient practice enjoyed today in all parts of the world, providing a multitude of benefits to recipients. Understanding the benefits of Ayurvedic massage will offer you another choice when it comes to your long-term approach to health and wellness.

Muscle Relaxation
 It relaxes your muscles and relieves stress and tension at the same time while receiving an Ayurvedic massage. An Ayurvedic massage can help ease tension from the shoulders and neck, eliminating or reducing tension headaches. Those experiencing migraines or pain from joint illnesses, such as rheumatism or other forms of arthritis, also enjoy some pain relief and reduced stiffness after an Ayurvedic massage.

Flexibility
Ayurvedic massage utilizes gentle muscle and joint manipulation heating techniques that help improve range of motion and flexibility through out the whole body. It loosens up stiffness and blockages of tight muscles, ligaments, and tendons.  Individuals diagnosed with back injuries or forms of chronic back pain may also benefit from these massage techniques with the use of herbal oils specific for your condition.

Enhance Joint Function
Ayurvedic massage helps increase the flow of blood and vital nutrients to joints, restoring fluids to areas requiring motion, such as the ankles, knees, hips, and wrists. This is especially valuable for individuals diagnosed with arthritis or those healing from joint injuries or surgery. Ayurvedic massage is also believed to help flood the joints with nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus, all essential minerals vital for the healing of bone fractures, according to Ayushveda.

Increase Circulation
According to the Ayurveda Encyclopedia, Ayurvedic massage improves blood circulation to all areas of the body, and enhances the number of red blood cells and help injured tissues to heal. Increased blood flow also contributes to lower blood pressure and increase the effectiveness of heart function. Ayurvedic massage may also help to increase metabolism by eliminating waste products from the body and enhances the flow of and provides efficient use of lymph fluids through the body. Ayurvedic massage is also known to help relieve symptoms of hypertension in some.

Emotional Relief
Massage helps you relax and offers the pampering that many of us enjoy after a hard week at work, or during stressful situations. In addition to providing relief of tension, Ayurvedic massage offers you a sense of calm as blood and lymph fluids flood through the body, strengthening your mind and immune systems.

Detoxification
Ayurvedic oils massage loosens the deep seated toxins from joints and tissues and releases them into the system to be eliminated. Besides this, this accumulated toxins from the skin are discharged, giving you healthy and clearer skin.

Insomnia
Supporting you to over come fatigue Ayurvedic massage can nourishes and calms the nervous system and promotes undisturbed sleep providing relief of insomnia, resulting in an increase in vigor and vitality for your everyday life.