Psycho-Physiological Effects of Shirodhara

Shirodhara is an ancient Ayurvedic technique to relax the mind and enter a medititative state or panchakarma (cleansing) state. It is rarely available in the UK and remains a strong practice in india and Sri Lanka. It is available at our al Covo suite, in Southampton, along with other Ayurvedic well-being practices.

Kazuo, Uebaba et al., a Japanese team, published a scientific study on the effects of Shirodhara therapy, using a "healing robot" to control for temperature, flow and sweeping of the liquid used. It is the only scientific controlled study on physiological effects of Shirodhara therapy we know of in relation to anxiety and altered states of consciousness (ASC). Fifty-seven healthy volunteers (ages 22-46, 33 ± 8 years) participated in this study with the healing robot after signing informed consent. In this experiment, the treatment was regulated automatically by the computerized system using the healing robot. The temperature (39.0 ± 0.5 ◦C) and flow rate (2.3 ± 0.2 L/min) of the oil were kept constant.
Summary of Results
•    Shirodhara induced bradycardia (decreased heart rate) and lowered tidal volume (decreased respiratory amplitude) and CO2 output (decreased metabolism).
•    During shirodhara, sympathetic nervous tone was suppressed while parasympathetic nervous tone (relaxation, decreased stress) was the same as that of the control's supine position.
•    EEG during shirodhara showed an increase of slow α and θ or Fmθ waves. Shirodhara induced an increase of right-left EEG coherence. These results indicated restful alertness in which the frontal lobe, limbic system, and medulla oblongata were activated.
•    There were no cases of headache or skin eruption which was directly related to shirodhara. However, some subjects complained of a compression discomfort of the occipital region or a numbness of the extremities or lower back, which were not directly attributed to shirodhara.
•    The technicians of shirodhara (control group) showed signs of a stressful condition based on their EEG findings. There was no coherent respiratory movement of the subjects and technicians.
•    Shirodhara induced an altered state of consciousness in some subjects, and it reduced anxiety as well. The subjective anxiolytic effects and depth of ASC (Altered States of Consciousness) were correlated with the objective increase of the skin temperature of the foot.
•    Successive shirodhara treatments reduced tension and anxiety of anxious subjects in one month.
•    Successive shirodhara in a 43-year-old male heavy smoker changed his lifestyle dramatically. A 61-year-old obese female changed her character, overcame troubles with her husband, and realized an improvement in her bulimia after several shirodhara sessions. These typical cases supported the changes of lifestyle reports that have occurred after shirodhara, probably due to a decreased stress level.
•    Plain sesame oil had a better effect than other mediums such as water, cow's milk, and bath salt. The effectiveness of shirodhara seemed to not be related to the viscosity of the medium.

10 ASC (*Altered States of Consciousness) findings were:
•    Loss of space perception: feeling like floating
•    Loss of time perception: no notice of time passing
•    Loss of speech sense: no mood for saying words
•    Trance: enraptured
•    Concentration: no notice of any change in surroundings
•    Cosmic consciousness: experience such as to have seen truth
•    Passiveness: feeling like being under someone's control
•    Momentariness: feeling like only a short period of experience
•    Loss of difference between subjectivity and objectivity: no separation between oneself and others
•    Loss of bodily sense: feeling like only mind existing without body
To read the complete study (Using a Healing Robot for the Scientific Study of Shirodhara), please go to
These findings are similar to the ones observed at the Cristalmind practice in Switzerland by Dr Bertrand Martin.  Lowered tidal volume is objectified in the following video:

Stress decrease has been studied in Dr. Martin’s practice on a sample of 26 subjects with the following results: The average of stress for the group decreased from 41% to 8.9% for physical stress and from 42% to 7.5% for mental stress.

Please go to: for more information.

Best wishes, Steve