What Is Shirodhara?

Indian Head Massage

A woman has a soothing Ayurveda massage to her forehead

 Dragan Trifunovic / Getty Images

The word shirodhara translates to shiro (head) and dhara (flow). Shirodhara is sometimes referred to as Third Eye Therapy or Indian Head Massage.

Originating in India, Shirodhara is an Ayurvedic healing technique which involves gentle head massage and the dripping of a slow stream of warm oil onto the forehead, specifically in alignment with the third-eye or anja chakra. The process is gentle, its application mindful.

Application of Constant Stream of Warm Oil to the Forehead 

OIl is used by the massage therapist in applying massage and reflexology techniques to the scalp, face, and neck regions of the body. Overflow of the dripping warmed oil from the head is captured in a basin that is placed on the floor or a low table beneath the recipient's head position.

Best Oils to Use in a Shirodhara Treatment

Oils used in a Shirodhara treatment will vary. Specific oils were typically chosen by professionally trained ayurvedic healers ​based on their perceived dosha body type of the person being treated.

There is also a tri-dosha blend of oils marketed by Banyan Botanicals that can be used for anyone. It is aptly named Shirodhara Oil. This organic blend consists of five Ayurvedic herbs (ashwagandha, shatavari, bhringaraj, skullcap, and brahmi) that have been infused in a combination of sesame and sunflower oils.

Sesame, Sunflower, or Coconut Oil?

Sesame oil is known for its heating properties and is beneficial for anyone who identifies with vahta dosha type.

Whereas, sunflower oil is a cooling agent and a good option for anyone who identifies with pitta dosha type. Coconut oil is also cooling, but could be considered too cooling and is best to use only during the summertime or hot season.

Signs of Dosha Imbalance

Of all the tridoshas (vatha (or vata), pitta, and kapha), people who identify with vatha and pitta will benefit the most from Shirodhara head massage.

Vatha Imbalances - Vatha dosha imbalances include feeling fearful, being worrisome, experiencing insecurity, and bothersome monkey mind chatter.

Pitta Imbalances -  Pitta dosha imbalances include outward rage or inner turmoil, being easily frustrated, feeling irritable, and impaired judgment.

Vatha, Pitta, or Kapha?

Each person has characteristics from all the doshas. It is a matter of which category is most dominant Not sure what dosha you are? For clues, take the quiz, What Dosha Are You?, to see what type fits you best.

Benefits of Shirodhara

  • Opens third eye, promoting intuition
  • Increased blood circulation in brain
  • Overall relaxation
  • Nourishes dry skin and brittle or thinning hair
  • Pain reliever, good for the chronic suffererer
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Gives clarity of mind, quieting mental chatter
  • Rejuvenates lackluster energies
  • Promotes intuition
  • Clears away toxins

Health Conditions Treated with Shirodhara

  • Fear or Anxiety
  • Fatigue or lethargic demeanor
  • Headaches and migraine
  • Indigestion
  • Insomnia
  • Mental fog
  • Jet lag
  • PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)
  • Eyestrain