As the world searches for more alternative therapies and with a noticeable shift away from conventional medicine and therapies, Ayurveda is steadily becoming a popular option.
WHAT IS AYURVEDA?
It is the first ever medical system dating back to over 5000 years ago first practised in India. Pronounced Aye-your-vay-duh, the word is a combination of two Sanskrit words: ayur, meaning life and veda, meaning knowledge. Ayurveda is known as the sister science to yoga, both focusing mainly on preventing and treating illness. In Ayurveda, it is believed that the body and mind need to be treated in conjunction with each other to achieve optimal mind-body balance.
SHIRODHARA (OIL ON THE HEAD TREATMENT)
While Ayurveda focuses on diet and lifestyle management according to your specific constitution, known as your dosha, it also consists of other components such as a wide range of treatments. One treatment, shirodhara, derived from two Sanskrit words; shiro, meaning head and dhara, meaning flow. I have been receiving Shirodhara for the better part of a year, enjoying one every six to eight weeks or so. Simply put, whilst you lay down, a warm steady stream of oil flows from above a moving pot gently on to your forehead. Before all the type A’s out there begin telling yourself how messy this process sounds, please give me a chance.
WHAT TO EXPECT
My practitioner begins by giving me a head massage to help stimulate the nerves and blood vessels. Next it’s time to lay down and relax and at this point your eyes will be covered with cotton pads. Nothing more for you to do but unwind and if you have been especially stressed, get ready for your nervous system to come to a complete halt. The tepid oil begins to flow down from a vessel above which is controlled by your practitioner. The warm oil will continue to flow across your forehead in an oscillating type motion stimulating your pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is known as the master glad of the body as it produces hormones that control other glands and many body functions including growth. Fairly important I’d say. Back to the oil. The oil flows on to the forehead, flowing on to the hairline and into the hair. My practitioner uses her hand to encourage the oil down through my hair. Once you eventually surrender to the oil flowing over your forehead and into your hair, you will slowly slip into what I personally describe as the deepest meditative state I have ever experienced. For those who have experienced a floatation tank, times this serene feeling by at least ten with more lasting results. Feeling relaxed yet?
WHEN YOU’RE DONE
You will more than likely have gone into a very deep state of relaxation at the very least and getting yourself up and moving will feel like a slight effort. I remember attempting to speak after my very first session and I quite literally could only get a whisper out of my mouth. This super calm state is due to the fact that the mind and body was able to come back to balance. I feel it important to mention that once you step out into the big scary world, noises appear to be amplified. For example, my Uber driver seemed to be speaking super loud although this was not the case. My practitioner always tells me to keep warm, especially in winter and to get myself home as soon as possible. You are advised against using electronics of any kind for the next couple of hours. Yes, this includes your phone, TV, laptop etc. It is a good idea to let your close friends and family know that you will be unavailable after shirodhara, particularly those with whom you speak regularly. To get the best out of your treatment, it is important to allow yourself the space afterwards to simply just be so the treatment can integrate. Caffeine and other stimulants are to be avoided for a couple of days as it will have an immediate negative effect on the nervous system as it will cause disharmony in the body. I made the mistake of having a strong cup of tea the morning after a treatment and it did not feel great at all. I felt scatty and wired for hours and therefore do not recommend doing so.
WHAT ABOUT THE HAIR?
I bet you are asking; ‘what does Shirodhara have to do with hair growth?’. Apart from bringing the mind and body back to complete calm, Shirodhara has many wonderful benefits. One is it encourages hair growth and I experienced this first hand. Even after two sessions, I noticed my hair was thicker and getting longer quicker. Now because I also use Mane ‘n Tail shampoo and conditioner on a regular basis, the hair growth and fullness as a result was quite noticeable indeed!
Apart from significant hair growth and the best relaxation known to man, listed below are other impressive benefits Shirodhara can provide:
- Reduces stress, nervous tension and anxiety
- Assists recovery from PTSS
- Improves memory
- Improves mental focus and concentration
- Slows hair from greying
- Helps treat insomnia
- Assists with jet lag
- Cures migraines and headaches
- Slows down the ageing process
- Stimulates the third eye and crown chakras, related to intuition and wisdom
If you are interested in hair growth and/or balancing your nervous system to bring your mind and body to a blissful meditative state, then shirodhara might just be modality you have been searching for. I believe there to be quite a few practitioners practising Ayurveda around the country. My advice would be to speak to a practitioner over the phone or via email first to get a sense of if they could be right for you. In my next shirodhara treatment, I will endeavour to film my session so I can post for you all to see this wonderful treatment.
You may also enjoy reading about Sam Armytage and Mane 'n Tail here.