Marma Points for Headaches, Digestion and More

While much of what is widely known about Ayurveda is the dosha, or constitution type, system and food lists of what to eat or what to avoid, this is an overly simplified version of how Ayurveda can support us in our ultimate well-being. Daily and seasonal routines have an equal, if not greater, impact on our health than what we eat.  One of the jewels of Ayurvedic wisdom is the daily self-massage, known as abhyanga.

Abhyanga works in several ways to benefit all systems of the mindbody. Oil has a heavy, grounding quality that is soothing to the central nervous system. It is also nourishing to the skin and all tissues. The process of applying the oil touches many marma points on the body that have a positive impact on physical, mental and emotional health. Marma points are similar to acupressure or acupuncture points, however they are larger in size and Ayurveda does not relate them to meridians. They are sites where nerves meet with muscles, tendons, joints, bones, muscles, arteries or veins and considered the junction of the body and the mind (consciousness).  

Here are a few specific benefits that massaging marmas can bring. These lists are not comprehensive – there are many more marmas that can support with each of these areas.

Constipation: Did you know that sometimes constipation is not an issue of digestion, but rather of the downward moving energy (apana vata) in the body? Massaging the following points can balance your apana vata energy and relieve constipation:

·      Above the belly button

·      Inner thighs

·      Rounded center of the calves, center of shins

·      Bottoms of the feet

·      Ears – the tip and behind the ears

·      Nape of the neck

·      Tip of the coccyx

·      Mid-gluteal fold (butt cheek fold), sit bones

Headaches: Often related to excessive pitta, the following points can be massaged gently with oil for relief:

·      Top of the head – measure your starting point by opening your thumb and fingers wide, placing your thumb on your nose and then resting your middle finger on the top of the head. Where your middle finger rests is your brahmarandra point. This is considered a very important point for abhyanga and is where your “soft spot” was when you were a baby. From this spot, make a part in the hair and massage back a few inches to the vertex of the midline of your head. This is best done before your bath or shower so you can wash the oil out of your hair.

·      Along the hairline on the forehead

·      Temples

·      Left and right sides of the occupit (back and lower part of the skull)

Liver: The liver helps us digest fats and detoxify the body. It works hard! To give it some love and support, try massaging the following points:

·      Above the center of the eyebrow (especially on the right side)

·      Above the collar bone to the right and left of the body’s center

·      Under the center of each breast on the upper ribs

·      Mid point of the lower ribs on both the right and left sides

 As you can see, massaging the entire body daily will naturally apply pressure to each of these points (and many more!), offering a doorway to improved overall health. While you can spend more time on these specific areas, doing a full body self-massage each day is balancing and beneficial for all systems.

Abhyanga “How To” For Overall Health:
Abhyanga is done using warm oil that can optionally be infused with herbs. However, plain organic, unrefined oil, like what you purchase at the grocery store, will work fine. As a general rule, sesame oil is used for abhyanga; kapha types do better with a lighter oil, like sunflower, mustard or almond; pitta types do well with cooling coconut oil.

Before your shower or bath, coat the whole body with the oil, using long strokes over muscles and circular motions around joints. Apply in the direction of hair growth. On the belly, move in the direction of digestion – that is, stroke upward on your right side and downward on your left side, moving in a circular manner. After applying oil, it is best to wait 10-15 minutes to allow the oil to fully saturate all tissue layers. We have seven tissue layers and it takes approximately five minutes to saturate the first layer, and one minute for each additional layer. You can put on a bathrobe and do one or two tasks around your home while you wait. However, if you don’t have time, just get right into your bath or shower. You can reapply some oil after your shower or bath as well, especially for dry vata-type skin, and will still gain the benefits.

If you don’t have time for a full self-massage, you can rub oil on the soles of the feet, the crown of the head (brahmarandra point as described in the headache section) and the ears. These points are beneficial for calming the nervous system and promoting sleep.

This simple practice only takes ten minutes out of your day, but offers enormous benefits. For my daughter, it entirely stopped her chronic ear aches during the coldest, windiest part of winter. If you are skeptical about how greatly this practice can benefit you, I challenge you to test it: practice abhyanga everyday for two weeks and notice how you feel. Have you been calmer? Sleeping better? Feeling happier with life in general? While deep healing takes time, even two weeks of abhyanga can begin to shift your mental, emotional and physical health.