In order to treat a disorder properly and effectively, it is essential for us to understand the components attributing to that disorder. Obesity, a common issue for much of the population, is categorized as an excess amount of body fat, but there are a number of factors contributing to that excess. The obvious and “direct” contributing factors include unhealthy eating habits, hormone imbalances, and sedentarism. The less obvious, or indirect, factors however, constitute a much longer list. Udhvartana, discussed in part one of this blog series, is a direct approach in which herbs and oils are rubbed on the skin to metabolize and liquify those excess fat cells. While Udhvartana treats obesity directly, there are a number of Ayurvedic modalities that indirectly treat obesity by remedying the indirect or more subtle causes.
Shirodhara (similar to a relaxing 7 day getaway in about 45 minutes) directly relieves a number of disorders such as headaches, migraines, insomnia, jet lag, PTSD, memory loss, anxiety, hypertension, diabetes, auto-immune conditions, and the main attraction of this blog... depression! I know, not the most uplifting topic, yet it is necessary to understand, because when depression no longer depletes our mental energy, obesity is also likely to be cured. A survey revealed that 43 percent of adults with depression were also obese. Over-all, adults with depression are more likely to be obese than those without depression. So, what is the connecting link between the two? Individuals who suffer from depression are likely to overeat, make poor food choices, and live a more sedentary lifestyle. Additionally, weight gain is a common side effect in many depression medications.
The clear link between depression and obesity aids in the understanding of Shirodhara as a treatment for obesity. Now let’s explore what Shirodhara actually is. “Shiro” means head and “dhara” is the pouring of a substance onto points on the body. This treatment is categorized by pouring substances, most often herbal oils over the forehead in order to reduce stress, treat depression, anxiety, mental fatigue, and awaken to the essence of who we are. Shirodhara soothes and nourishes the brain cells and peripheral nerves through the skin, resulting in a tranquilized and stabilized mind. There are various types of Shirodhara based on the liquids used. These can include, but are not limited to, oils, milk, herb decoctions, ghee, buttermilk or coconut water, chosen according to the constitution and condition of the client. One session lasts for about 45-60 minutes, including a head, neck and face massage. For maximum benefits and it is recommended to receive Shirodhara every day for 7 days to a maximum of four weeks.
From start to finish, the procedure is relaxing and rejuvenating. Shirodhara begins with a five to ten minute head, neck and shoulder massage, and sometimes a full body massage if needed, based on the individuals’ condition and concerns. The client lies on their back on the Shirodhara/massage table. A small pillow or cloth is placed under the neck and a covering placed over the eyes for comfort and support. The Shirodhara pot is then positioned 4-6 inches above the client so that the oil falls onto the forehead in a steady stream. The Ayurvedic therapist then puts the oil into the pot and starts pouring onto the individual’s forehead. This is a continuous pouring from one side of the forehead to the other. Meanwhile, the individual receiving treatment enjoys the relaxation that naturally comes with the sensations. The oils are recollected, reheated, and re-administered, the oil is wiped off from the forehead and the individual rests on the table for a few minutes. The time of the treatment and the rest period are adjusted according to the person, the longer the treatment, the longer the rest period.
Shirodhara is good for brain health and nourishment, and soothing and calming the nervous system, by synchronizing brain waves, stilling the mind, enhancing blood circulation to the brain, nourishing the hair and scalp and aiding in the release of stress and tension, it is energizing yet relaxing.
Although Shirodhara soothes the mind from the sensations, there is a scientific process that induces the benefits. The back and forth motion of pouring the oil synchronizes brain waves, enhancing blood circulation to the brain that nourishes the brain, and is soothing and calming the nervous system. Complimentary to this relaxation, stress is also reduced as a result of the serotonin secretion in the head. As the sensations in the head pass through the nerves and calm the brain, serotonin levels in the brain increase even more, decreasing mental stress and depression. Additionally, by opening the pathways in the brain, the body is able to deliver nutrients more effectively, aligning the body and mind resulting in our experience of ourselves at our source and with the nature of the soul, feeling calm, healthy, and peaceful. Over-all, Shirodhara positively affects our mood. And when we feel good mentally, we are more likely to feel less stressed, and make healthier choices for the body, including healthy weight loss.