Shirodhara: the King of Ayurvedic treatments

Shirodhara is by far the most iconic treatment of Ayurveda. It is considered the King of all treatments, as it treats a wide variety of conditions in Ayurvedic clinical practice.

The name Shirodhara, comes from the two Sanskrit words Shiras meaning ‘head’ and Dhara meaning ‘to pour’. This deeply relaxing and nurturing treatment involves the continuous pouring of warm medicated oil over the forehead, using a pot with a tap that controls the flow of oil. The oil is gently poured from side to side across the forehead, at times resting over the midpoint of the forehead.

The mechanics behind Shirodhara

Shirodhara affects the body in several ways:

  • Warm oil poured over the forehead improves blood supply to the brain, by dilating local blood vessels.1
  • Pressure- and temperature sensors in the skin of the forehead stimulate a somato-autonomic reflex (relaxation response) via the trigeminal cranial nerve.1
  • By relaxing the mind and central nervous system, it exerts its main effect of balancing Vata.
  • In addition, it also affects the other two Doshas, Pitta and Kapha. In simplistic terms, Vata, Pitta and Kapha can be equated to the nervous, endocrine and immune systems respectively. Interestingly, recent studies confirm the effect of Shirodhara on these systems, e.g. a reduction in anxiety, a decrease in the hormone noradrenaline, and enhancement of the immune system.2

How does Shirodhara help?

1. Reducing anxiety and insomnia

Shirodhara is traditionally used for a variety of mental conditions, including anxiety, sleep disorders, stress, headaches and migraines. A recent study showed a significant reduction in anxiety levels, which were sustained for at least 3 weeks after completion of the Shirodhara treatments.3 Shirodhara benefits the slow wave sleep states needed for the restorative effect of a good night’s rest. It reduces nocturnal awakenings and sleepiness during the daytime4, thus resetting our circadian rhythm or inner clock.

2. Lowering blood pressure

Studies have confirmed that Shirodhara reduces both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. It also slows the heart rate, which is increased under stressful situations.5

3. Reducing menopausal symptoms

Shirodhara is helpful in the management of the physical, mental and emotional aspects of menopause, including night sweats, palpitations, hot flushes, irritability, anxiety and sleep disturbances.6

4. Inducing a meditative experience

The deeply relaxing effect of Shirodhara is similar to the states experienced during deep meditation. It slows the breathing rate and increases the alpha rhythm of the brain (associated with wakeful relaxation), thus altering the state of consciousness.7

Shirodhara can be considered as a Marma (energy point) therapy, as the stream of oil is positioned over a point in the middle of the forehead known as the Sthapani Marma. This point corresponds to the Ajna (third eye) chakra in Yoga. The meaning of the word Sthapani is ‘to be fixed or established in a place’, in this case denoting the ability of the point to hold your attention during meditation. During Shirodhara, the mind is naturally drawn to this point due to the pleasant sensation of the oil pouring over the forehead - another reason for the meditative effect experienced.

" I contacted Colette seeking help with recurring tension headaches... With the very first Shirodhara treatment my headaches improved and I began to sense more vitality and an overall sense of improved wellbeing. The Shirodhara is an amazing experience – calming, relaxing and completely de-stressing. " - Frank


How will you feel during a Shirodhara treatment?

A Japanese researcher in the field of psychometrics has created a list of ten markers of altered states of consciousness, induced by traditional healing techniques such as meditation and acupuncture. Interestingly, most clients undergoing Shirodhara report similar experiences. One particular study on Shirodhara focused on these markers and found that participants experienced a higher occurrence of these states than the control group.2

Mind as a cause of disease

Ayurveda recognises the psychosomatic role that the mind plays on the body. All diseases have some mental component, whether it is fear, anger or lethargy (increasing Vata, Pitta or Kapha respectively). According to Ayurveda, the subtle channels of the ‘mind’ are located over the entire body. Thus, our minds affect every cell and organ in our body, having a significant effect on our state of health and disease. It is for this reason that Shirodhara has such a far-reaching effect on the body and is able to re-establish balance in the nervous, endocrine and immune systems. The applications of Shirodhara in clinical Ayurvedic practice are many, treating conditions such as skin, digestive and hormonal disorders, and more.



1. Uebaba, K. et al (2008): Pharmaco-physio-psychologic effect of Ayurvedic oil-dripping treatment using an essential oil from Lavendula angustifolia. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2008;14(8):947-56.

2. Uebaba, K. et al (2008): Psychoneuroimmunologic Effects of Ayurvedic Oil-Dripping Treatment. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2008; 14(10):1189–1198.

3. Rastogi, S. et al (2016): Effects of shirodhara in generalized anxiety disorder. Association of Humanitas Medicine. 2016; 6(4).

4. Tubaki, B. R. et al (2016): Manasamitra Vataka and Shirodhara treatment Preserve Slow Wave Sleep and Promote Sleep Continuity in Patients with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Co- Morbid Generalized Social Phobia. Current science. 2016; 111(2): 283-292.

5. Kundu, C. (2010): The role of psychic factors in pathogenesis of essential hypertension and its management by Shirodhara and Sarpagandha Vati. Ayu. 2010; 31(4):436-41.

6. Santwani, K. et al (2010): An assessment of Manasika Bhavas in menopausal syndrome and its management. Ayu Journal. 2010; 31(3).

7. Dhuri, K.D. et al (2013): Shirodhara: A psycho-physiological profile in healthy volunteers. Journal of Ayurveda Integrative Medicine. 2013; 4(1).


" Thank you so much for all of this information... Since our session on Friday I have felt lighter. My digestive tract also seems to be moving healthier."

Angela (after a consultation)

" Had a marvellous massage from Colette. Highly recommended. Five stars."

Wellbeing Magazine

" I had the Shirodhara treatment with Colette, I found it to be a profound healing experience. The treatment itself was out of this world but what made it such a special experience was that Colette explained all the theory behind the treatment and the ancient wisdom behind it – all of this at 8.30pm as if I was the first client of the day."

G.M. (Aromatherapy Associates trainer)

" I contacted Colette seeking help with recurring tension headaches. [Meeting Colette], I felt I was with somebody professional, competent and caring. With the very first Shirodhara treatment my headaches improved and I began to sense more vitality and an overall sense of improved wellbeing. The Shirodhara is an amazing experience – calming, relaxing and completely de-stressing. "

Frank (after consultation & Shirodhara)

" Thank you so much for the treatment yesterday - my skin still feels so soft! I slept so well last night, too."

Kate (after an Udvartana massage)

" Thank you so much for the massage on Friday. I really did feel an energetic shift, especially in my heart, lungs & stomach area. I felt lighter and nourished."

Nina (after a Marma massage)

" Colette is an excellent practitioner: competent, knowledgeable and caring. She appears to have an intuitive sense of what’s required and has a warm and caring personality. I have no hesitation in recommending this very capable practitioner. "

Frank (after consultation & Shirodhara)

" I just want to say thank you for everything you have done for me over the last few months. I really appreciate it and feel very lucky indeed to have met you. There is no doubt you have helped me a great deal and I know you have gone above and beyond the norm."

Richard (after consultation & treatment)

" Thank you Colete for a great training session. Best place for learning about Ayurveda."

Lynn (after training at an Ayurvedic Academy)

" My treatment was one of the most well delivered massages I have experienced. Throughout my treatment, my therapist [Colette] was highly professional yet friendly, approachable and reassuringly knowledgeable."

The Good Spa Guide

" The nasal treatment was really interesting - much nicer than I imaged it to be. I think the best way to describe how I felt afterwards is this: it felt like the inside of my nose had been hugged and acknowledged. My nasal cavity felt gentle - a similar way to how my muscles feel after a massage. It was a really nice feeling."

Sam (after a Nasya treatment)

" I have felt SO much better since my last appointment - seriously better. I have loads more energy and it is mostly steady throughout the day - in fact this is the first time I have felt like this over a continued stretch of time for some years! "

Alexandra (after consultation & treatment)

Colette Jyothi Park

BSc (Hons) Ayurveda

MSc Clinical Nutrition

Full member of the Ayurvedic Professionals' Association


07845 145 718

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Wimbledon Village

Neals Yard Remedies,

SW19 5EG

Wednesdays 2pm-6pm

Fridays 10am-6pm

Sundays 11am-5pm

020 8947 3155