This is unlike any massage I have ever seen. No muscles stretched and squeezed. No elbows or thumbs digging into flesh. No steaming rocks or salt scrubs. The masseur, instead, gently guides a trickle of warm oil onto the woman’s forehead, where it rushes over the crown of her head, saturating her hair and scalp.
This is where we find Julie Zwillich in episode four of The Chopra Well’s CHOPRA CENTERED. She is receiving marma point therapy and shirodhara – eyes closed, hair streaming over the side of the massage bed. “I feel my entire scalp getting saturated… It’s a really interesting sensation.” As relaxing as it seems, I can’t help thinking, “Where’s the massage? When is the masseur going to dig into those knotted muscles?” My doubts dispel, however, once the treatment is over, and Julie sits up. Her serene eyes gaze out from glowing skin; her voice is soft and conveys utter peace. How do marma points and shirodhara work? I decided to investigate.
Marma point therapy works much like acupuncture, by focusing on key pressure points in the body in order to facilitate healing. Marmas are critical points in the body that store pranic energy – vital, sustaining energy of life. Activating marmas through massage helps promote the healthy flow of prana in body and mind.
For Julie’s treatment, the masseur focuses on the sthapani marma point, or third eye. This is the point right between the eyes which many believe holds the power of insight and clairvoyance. He first applies pressure to the point with his fingers, before transitioning into shirodhara therapy. For this, warm oil pours in a continuous stream onto Julie’s third eye, coursing over her forehead and scalp. The oil is intended to stimulate the marma point, which can awaken intuition, relieve stress, and improve concentration. In traditional shirodhara therapy, the oil may be substituted by milk, buttermilk, coconut water, or plain water.
I’ve heard a lot about the third eye over the years and was fascinated to read about its connection to marma point therapy and shirodhara. Beliefs surrounding the third eye pop up in many disparate cultures and religions, including Taoism, Gnosticism, Hinduism, and New Age spirituality. It even has a place in mystical Christianity.
Anatomically, the third eye is associated to the pineal gland, which produces melatonin from its central location in the brain. Apart from melatonin production, very little is known about this little gland. Originally thought to be nothing more than a remnant of a larger organ, the pineal gland has since assumed almost mythic proportions. Descartes declared it the “principal seat of the soul,” and countless other mystics and philosophers have been similarly captivated.
Whether it is the association to the pineal gland, a convergence of pranic energy, or some unexplainable psychic phenomenon, that little point on center forehead, just above the eyes, proves to be the key to Julie’s complete and utter relaxation. Even after experiencing the treatment she has difficulty explaining exactly how and why it works. But the results are clear. “It’s something you have to feel.”
Do you think the third eye is the “seat of the soul?” Have you ever experienced marma point therapy or shirodhara? Let us know in the comments below!
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