Article by Jennifer Eddinger

Reproduced with permission from – July 10th, 2014.
Original document, Everything you need to know about Shirodhara

Shirodhara is an amazing, unique body therapy from the ancient natural medical system Ayurveda. Shirodhara has a profound impact on the nervous system. That means, the treatment directly and immediately calms, relaxes and has a cleansing effect on the mind and nerves.

In the western alternative medicine world, I personally do not know of another therapy that has a similar impact on the nervous system, apart from an established meditation practice.

Because information on shirodhara is a bit scattered, I’ve compiled everything you need to know about shirodhara therapy into this one article. You’ll learn who benefits from shirodhara (and who does not), how shirodhara works, how to ensure you get a great shirodhara and how to prepare for a shirodhara treatment.

Who Benefits From Shirodhara?

Shirodhara is a great treatment for a compromised nervous system. Shirodhara can help relieve symptoms of anxiety, stress, fatigue and hypertension. It relieves tension, worry, fear and headache as well as depression. It regulates mood and gives feelings of pleasure and relaxation.

Shirodhara can also assist with the following conditions:

  • Stress Relief
  • Insomnia
  • PTSD
  • Jet Lag
  • Hypertension


Shirodhara is also a great treatment for the healthy individual looking to maintain health and enhance well being, clarity, calm and immunity. Shirodhara promotes deep relaxation, relieves fatigue and renews and reinvigorates the body and mind.

It also balances one’s energy level. If you are in need of rest and relaxation, the process will provide you that. If you are well rested the process will enhance your clarity and perception.

Shirodhara increases immunity by relieving stress, worry and balancing the Ayurveda mind-body types or doshas so that your constitution remains strong.

Shirodhara gives deep rest and renewed energy producing an ageless and youthful countenance. Shirodhara relieves stress, worry and excessive thought. It gives total relaxation as if from meditation. This naturally relaxes and rejuvenates the face and softens worry lines.

Who SHOULD NOT Have Shirodhara

Shirodhara is suitable for any dosha or constitution however there are some contraindications.

Shirodhara should NOT be given to women in their third trimester of pregnancy and to those with a rash or sunburn on the forehead or scalp.

Other contraindications include brain tumor, recent neck injury, abrasions or cuts on the head, fever/chills, acute illness, nausea, vomiting, severe weakness, exhaustion, fainting or spontaneous sweating.

If you have an aversion to oil then it is also not recommended for you.

What is Shirodhara?

shiro-close-up,manShirodhara is an ancient Ayurvedic therapy. Warm oil (or other liquid) pours in a continuous stream over the forehead or ‘ajna marma’, an area where nerves are highly concentrated. The pressure of the oil onto the forehead creates a vibration. The oil saturates the forehead and scalp and penetrates into the nervous system.

The gentle pressure and soothing warmth of the oil allow the body, mind and nervous system to experience a deep state of rest, similar to meditation.

Shirodhara is traditionally done as part of the Panchakarma cleansing process using specially prepared shirodhara oil. It is also safe and effective as a stand-alone therapy.

How does shirodhara work?

There are a few ways to look at how shirodhara works it’s magic.

According to Ayurveda, shirodhara is beneficial for Vata and Pitta dosha. When out of balance, Vata dosha exhibits as fear, insecurity, worry, racing thoughts. Out of balance Pitta dosha exhibits as anger, irritability, frustration, judgment.

The action and qualities of the liquid used in shirodhara counters the qualities of the out of balance doshas. It soothes, nourishes and pacifies the doshas through the application of the liquid to the forehead, scalp and nervous system.

In the Spring 1995 issue of the journal of The Ayurvedic Institute ‘Ayurveda Today’, Ayurvedic practitioner Ed Danaher explains how shirodhara affects stress.

Stress, according to Ayurveda, is a state of imbalance of prana vayu, sadaka pitta, and tarpaka kapha. Shirodhara reestablishes the functional integrity between these three doshic subtypes and thus helps alleviate stress.
According to this study, the gentle pressure of the oil falling onto the forehead may also play a role in inducing rest.

In the procedure of Shirodhara, particular pressure and vibration is created over the forehead. The vibration is amplified by the hollow sinus present in the frontal bone. The vibration is then transmitted inwards through the fluid medium of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). This vibration along with little temperature may activate the functions of thalamus and the basal fore brain which then brings the amount of serotonin and catecholamine to the normal stage inducing the sleep.

Again, it is explained in modern text books of physiology that pressure has an effect on impulse conduction through tactile and thermo receptors. If prolonged pressure is applied to a nerve, impulse conduction in interrupted and part of the body may go to rest. In Dhara therapy, prolonged and continuous pressure due to pouring of the medicated liquid may cause tranquility of mind and induce natural sleep.

How To Prepare For A Shirodhara Appointment

When scheduling an appointment for shirodhara, keep in mind that you may need additional rest following the treatment.

Shirodhara cleanses the mind and senses. Make use of this time and avoid unnecessary stimulation after your treatment. Avoid large crowds (concerts, restaurants/bars, large gatherings) and make the remainder of your day peaceful. This is your time for mental rest.

Eat lightly before your appointment. Shirodhara has an effect on the digestive system and a full stomach is not advised.

Your hair will be saturated with oil. Dress appropriately and comfortably. Wear an old shirt, something you don’t mind getting oil on.

It is advised to leave the oil in your hair for at least a few hours following the treatment. It’s best to leave the oil in your hair overnight.

Prepare to cover your head following the treatment. If the weather is cool, windy or cold, bring an old warm hat, again something you don’t mind getting oil on. An old scarf works well to cover the head and hair in warmer weather. A plastic shower cap also works well.

Post Shirodhara Tips

Wash Your Hair Like This

If your shirodara was done with oil and you have a lot of hair, the easiest way to remove the oil is to add the shampoo to your hair before adding water. The shampoo will grab hold of the oil so it can be easily rinsed out.

Avoid Caffeine For A Few Days

Caffeine creates disharmony in the body. It deranges all of the doshas and will have an immediate negative effect on your nervous system. If you are in need of a pick-me-up try juice or a piece of fresh fruit.

3 Tips For Continuous Self-Care

It is possible that for some people the effects of your shirodhara may not be immediately known. Continue to care for yourself and over time you will notice a change.

If the effects of your shirodhara were felt immediately follow the below three tips to maintain the peaceful qualities.

Keep A Proper Diet And Lifestyle

Eat well. A diet high in sugar, caffeine and refined products will eventually take its toll on the body and mind. Choose whole grains like rice, oats and whole wheat. Enjoy fresh fruit for a snack and eat vegetables daily. Choose high quality protein and dairy products. Avoid caffeine.

Keep A Regular Schedule For Eating And Sleeping

A regular daily routine maintains health of the doshas. Wake and sleep with the rise and setting of the sun.


Meditation is the ultimate cleanser for the body and mind and the only other process I am aware of that has the same benefits of shirodhara – relaxation, separation from thought, rest and renewal. If you are new to meditation here is a good place to start online.