Ancient Rituals in Your Everyday: Shirodhara

The steady stream of warm oil poured on your forehead is believed to quiet anxiety, increase mental focus and help you sleep better. Let’s discover more…

In this series, contributor Kari Molvar decodes the modern benefits of ancient healing rituals — delving into their history, purpose and practice, to help enlighten your self-care routine today.  


What Is Shirodhara?

Shirodhara is a treatment in Ayurvedic medicine, a healing system that dates back more than 5,000 years and seeks to balance the body, mind and spirit. Unlike bodywork therapies that focus on physical manipulation — like, say, a deep-tissue massage — shirodhara primarily works on the mental and internal aspects of your wellbeing. Specifically, it can help correct imbalances with your dosha type — vata, pitta, or kapha — which describe your natural constitution and are derived from the five elements (air, ether, water, fire and earth).

What It Involves:

The word shirodhara comes from two Sanskrit words, shiro (head) and dhara (flow). To start, you relax on a table, often with a thin cloth, rolled like a headband, place around your head. Next, a warmed, herbal oil is continuously poured onto your bare forehead. The oil can be streamed in specific patterns that relate to your dosha, from the right to left temple. After several minutes, the stream is set to the center of the forehead — which is known as your third eye — where it flows uninterrupted for the rest of the treatment (about 30 minutes). While many Ayurvedic treatments need to be done for repeatedly (three to six times) to reap the benefits, shirodhara can be done as a stand-alone treatment, with benefits from a single session.

What It Does For You:

According to many Ayurvedic experts, shirodhara is ideal for reducing mental stress, increasing mental clarity, calming anxiety and improving sleep. The steady pour of warm oil encourages your body to enter a deep state of relaxation — and that can help minimize stress-related cortisol levels and convert hyper-alert brain patterns (beta waves) into relaxed-alert ones (alpha waves). In fact, a small study founded that shirodhara can put you in a “state of alert calmness” similar to the relaxation response experienced during meditation. The oil-pour also activates a powerful Ayurvedic point between the eyebrows, known as ajna marma, or the third eye. In Ayurvedic systems, stimulating this point is said to relieve angst, increase the flow of life energy and remove blockages.

Where To Experience It:

You can find shirodhara on the menu at Ayurvedic-focused spas (try Pratima in New York City and Surya in Los Angeles).

What You Can Do At Home:

To capture similar feel-good, sleep-inducing vibes of shirodhara at home, try these soothing mind-body tips:

  • Put a drop of essential oil on a warm washcloth and spread it over your forehead while laying down. Breath in and relax.
  • Rub a bit of camellia-infused Shemana Dream Oil between your finger tips and massage your third eye (center of the forehead between the eyebrows), using gentle counter-clockwise circular motions. Then massage your temples and repeat the process for as long you like.
  • Quiet all distractions before bedtime and put this Eye Just Blue Light Blocking sticker over your phone to reduce blue light, which can keep you up at night. To help your body drift off to sleep, consider a valerian root supplement or hemp patch.


Want more calming solutions? Head to the Wellness shop!


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Never heard of shirodhara before!! Thanks for sharing ❤️✨

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog