Marma Therapy in Ayurveda
Marma therapy is a form of therapy designed to stimulate “marmas” — 107 alleged vital, epidermal, invisible but palpable “junction points” between mind and matter. This treatment system was promoted by Joseph Kurian and is founded in Ayurvedic medicine concepts.
Marmas are thought to be channels that regulate the flow of information, nutrients, and toxins throughout the human body. Marma therapy theory is that the “marma system” may become damaged through stress and improper nutrition, and that unblocking the marmas through stimulation restores health. Marma therapy includes the use of massage, aromatherapy, herbs, special oils, and yoga to unblock marmas. This therapy is also known as Dhanur Veda and Dhanur Veda’s science of marmas.
What Is Marma Therapy?
On Ayurveda ‘Marmasthans ‘ are special points of energies in the body. This ancient science of dealing with body energies was taken to China during the religious and cultural changes taking place in India and the Chinese developed this science as acupuncture. But Ayurvedic acupuncturists or marma therapists are fully aware of the energy chakras and all energy points which can be treated to unblock the channels of energies. Ayurvedic acupuncture is still widely in practice in India and Sri Lanka.
Kalari marma massage is a traditional Ayurvedic massage for stimulating vital points. This is a traditional Kerala ayurvedic massage using herb infused ayurvedic oils, performed by the therapist using his hand and feet, applying appropriate pressure to specific vital points/parts of the body. Marma abhyanga not only relieves back pain, stiffness and sports injuries but also stimulates various bodily organs and systems.
Marma are certain vital areas of the body. The word marma comes from Sanskrit origin mru or marr. The Sanskrit phrase, Marayate Iti Marmani, means there is likelihood of death or serious damage to health after infliction to these places and hence these areas are called marma.
Marma is also thought to be a Sanskrit word meaning hidden or secret. By definition, a marma point is a juncture on the body where two or more types of tissue meet, such as muscles, veins, ligaments, bones or joints.
Yet marma points are much more than a casual connection of tissue and fluids; they are intersections of the vital life force and prana, or breath. The word marma can also be associated with terms such as tenderness, secretion or vital places.
Marma therapy is an important part of ayurveda, as it involves the conditioning of these vital areas. Effective conditioning of these areas can improve and maintain a good health balance.
Prana is a form of vital energy. Prana pervades each and every corner of the body, and it nourishes, guides and controls the functioning of the cell and systems. When these marma (junctions) are affected or ruptured, the organs linked with prana channels become starved with lack of prana and some organ becomes diseased, crippled or paralysed or depending upon the quantum is of prana being lost, it may lead to slow or sudden death.
The idea behind massaging the marma points is to cleanse blocked energy, also called chi, by either arousing or calming the doshas. Like a television with three channels, each marma point has three receptors that align with the three doshas. During a marma-point massage, the points are stroked in a deliberate sequence using specific essential oils.
There are total 107 Marma in the body. In Tamil traditions they are 108 Marma points, and in Kalari tradition there are 365 Marma points. The points were mapped out in detail centuries ago in the Sushruta Samhita, a classic Ayurvedic text. Major marma points correspond to the seven chakras, or energy centers of the body, while minor points radiate out along the torso and limbs. The points cover both the front and back body, including 22 on the lower extremities, 22 on the arms, 12 on the chest and stomach, 14 on the back, and 37 on the head and neck. (The mind is considered the 108th marma.) Each has its onw Sanskrit name given by Sushruta, one of the founding fathers of Ayurvedic medicine.
They are classified for better understanding according to the physical components:
Mansa marma – muscle
Sira marma – vessels conveying body fluids and impulses
Sanyu – tendons
Asthi – bones
Sandhi – articulate points specially bone joints
The marma are also grouped on the basis of their similarities in the features particularly on the basis of vulnerability:
Sadhya Pranhara Marma ~ Sadhya means sudden or immediate. These marma are vulnerable for the loss of life immediately after injury or insult.
Kalantara Pranhara ~ Kalantara means after the lapse of some time, Pranhara means loss of life. After infliction to these marma, loss of life results gradually after some time.
Vishalyaghana ~ Vishalya means being the foreign body removed. This category of Marma is named on its surgical importance. Vishalyaghana indicated death being the foreign body removed. When injured the person survives as long the foreign body remains in place.
Vaikalyakara ~ Vilkala means deform or cripple.
Marma massage involves a full body massage with warm medicated oil and stimulating or massaging the marma points on the body. According to psychosomatic constitution or disease, different oils are selected for marma massage. Marma massage is a soft flowing massage can be done by two people massaging in synchronize rhythm or with a ingle individual. This massage encompasses the techniques developed in keeping the knowledge of channels and nadi location in priority. Marma massage stimulates or generates the energy resources and helps the flow of vital energy in the individual. It removes blockages form the marma points giving physical and psychological relaxation and strength.
Marma massage benefits (summary)
Some of the benefits of the marma massage include:
increase in protection from vata disorders
nourishement of the body
marma massage encourages good sleep
improvement of physical stability.
History of Marma massage
Marma-point massage dates back to southern India circa 1500 BC. Masters of kalari, an ancient martial art, first discovered the power of marma points. In battle, kalari fighters targeted an opponent’s marma points as a way to inflict pain and injury. According to kalari lore, people have 12 marma points that, when hit with a knockout blow, can cause instant death. These areas were so important that soldiers even used armor to protect their horses’ marma points while riding into battle.
Along with their ability to kill, however, comes an ability to heal. Wounded kalari fighters were nursed back to health with marma therapy. Practitioners used marma-point massage to stimulate healing in areas that corresponded to the soldier’s injuries. If a warrior suffered a blow to the small intestines, for example, the marma point on the back of the calf, which corresponds directly with the upper intestine, would be massaged to trigger a healing flow of energy to the injury. Eventually, Ayurvedic physicians around India learned of the technique’s powers and brought kalari masters into hospitals to teach the art. Soon, marma-point training became mandatory for surgeons, who would take great pains to work around specific points lest they risk a patient’s life. Today marma-point massage is still a respected component of Ayurvedic healing.
Marma massage today
In summary, simulating or massaging the marma points gives benefits to the area of their locations and improves the function of the connecting organs.
The marma massage itself is approximately 60 to 90 minutes of duration followed by steam bath or warm shower.
The above is only a brief outline to marma massages. Ideally, marma massages should be first consulted with a qualified ayurvedic physcian and performed by experienced therapists. The marma massage can be used as a part of a rejuvenation therapy or it could be used as preventative measure from unwanted conditions. Either way, marma massage is a really useful way to help improve or maintain an individual’s health balance.
Ayurveda and Marma Therapy
Marmas are the Ayurvedic equivalent of acupuncture points; they are connected to the chakras and nadis of yoga and can be treated with massage, aromatherapy, herbs, and yoga practice. This book outlines 107 main marma points throughout the body, with a clear illustrations for each point and instruction for treatments such as acupressure, massage, aromatherapy, acupuncture, yoga, and meditation. Additional information is included on the use of acupuncture on the marma points and the relation of marmas to the practice of yoga.
This is the first book on marma therapy published in the West. It clearly describes the 107 main marma points in location, properties and usage. It explains in detail how to treat them with many methods including massage, aromas, herbs and yoga practices. Ayurveda and Marma Therapy is an essential reference guide for all students of Yoga, Ayurveda, massage or natural healing.
Marma Therapy: Energy Points of Yogic and Ayurvedic Healing
Many secrets of yogic healing can be found through the study of Ayurveda, the traditional natural medicine of India. In fact classical Yoga relies upon Ayurveda for its language and methodology of healing both body and mind. Traditional Yoga therapy was included in a greater Ayurvedic context of the healing arts, including the use of diet, herbs and bodywork. A number of these factors of Ayurvedic healing are now becoming introduced into the Yoga community. Marma therapy is another important approach common to both Yoga and Ayurveda, which deserves a greater examination.
‘Marma’ is a Sanskrit term for sensitive or vulnerable points on the body. Injury to marmas quickly affects the health and vitality of a person and in the case of some marmas can even prove fatal. Another term used for marma points is ‘varma’ points. Varma refers to protective material or armor. Marmas are regions of the body that were protected in battle in order to safeguard the life of the warrior.
Marmas are commonly used in Indian martial arts (Dhanur Veda) much like sensitive body points in Chinese and Japanese martial arts. Certain marmas, touched in a specific manner, can confuse, incapacitate, paralyze, or even kill an opponent. Dhanur Veda trains a warrior how to recognize marma points as well as the different blows that can be used to affect marmas in various ways.
Yet besides their usage in martial arts, marmas have an important role in Ayurvedic medicine, which will be the main focus of our discussion here. Beside ‘lethal marmas’, which are of more interest to the martial arts, are ‘therapeutic marmas’, which are more important in Ayurveda. However, these two types of marmas do overlap and all marmas have some therapeutic value as well as some degree of physical vulnerability.
Marma Points and Acupuncture Points
There is a tendency to equate marmas with acupuncture points, which they do resemble. Marmas are points or areas on the body that can be manipulated with either acupressure (done commonly) or needles (only practiced by some Ayurvedic doctors in South India and Sri Lanka, where it is called ‘marmapuncture’).
Marmas vary in size from _ finger lengths or digits (the most common) to four finger lengths or about the width of the hand. While there can be a close degree of correlation between smaller marma points and acupuncture points, this is not always the case relative to the larger marmas. Acupuncture points are usually smaller in size and more specific in location.
Marmas in turn are not related to the meridian system of Chinese medicine but to the chakra, nadi and srota-systems (channel-systems) of Yoga. For example, chakra points like the top of the head (adhipati marma) or the third eye (sthapani marma) are also important marma points. Similarly, the end points of various nadis like the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, the corners of the eyes, ears or nostrils are important marmas as well.
Ayurveda also treats marmas with massage, oils and aromas more commonly than with either acupuncture or acupressure. So while we can draw a comparison between marmas and acupuncture points and their treatment, we should not confuse the two either.
Nature of Marma Points
Marmas are of various compositions relative to the tissues that make them up, defined as bone, tendon, muscle, nerve or vein, including relative to channels that carry the doshas (biological humors) and channels that carry thought and emotion. Many marmas are a combination of several such factors. In this regard, all major joints like the elbow, knee, wrist and ankle contain significant marmas.
While many marmas are on the surface of the body, like points on the hands or feet, others are internal like the heart and the bladder, which are large marma regions. Blood vessel marmas, likes those in the neck, are another type of internal marma.
Many marmas are on peripheral regions of the body like the arms and legs. The head has the greatest concentration of marmas, with special marmas governing the eyes, ears, nostrils, mouth and brain. Yet marmas can also be found along the front and back of the trunk as well.
Yet besides anatomically defined marmas, which are the same in everyone, other marmas unique to an individual’s special anatomical structure also exist. These can result from injury, from postural distortions and other changes in our physical structure brought on by various factors from our life-style to the aging process.
There are 107 prime classical marmas according to the Sushruta Samhita, one of the oldest Ayurvedic texts, which also mentions marmas relative to the practice of surgery. However, besides these primary marmas are many other marmas, up to 360 according to some healers. To some extent, any sensitive point on the body of a person is a kind of marma or vulnerable location. The skin itself can be regarded as a greater marma zone in which all the other marmas are contained.
Marmas are also locations in which the doshas of vata, pitta and kapha can be held, along with their subtle essences of prana, tejas and ojas. As sensitive zones, marmas can hold various emotions like fear (vata), anger (pitta) or attachment (kapha), as well as the gunas or primary qualities of sattva (calm), rajas (aggression) and tamas (inertia). In this regard the concept of marmas goes beyond modern medicine and its purely physical definitions to the main principles of mind-body medicine.
Marma and Prana
Marmas are most closely connected with prana or our vital energy. They serve as ‘pranic control points’ on the body, where the energy of prana can be treated, controlled, directed or manipulated in various ways. This is perhaps the key to their importance.
Many strictly anatomical marmas are still important pranic zones, like points by the heart or the head, because our anatomy is created by and serves to hold prana. Prana and vata dosha (which is connected to prana), for example, reside and accumulate in the empty spaces in the body, particularly in the spine and the joints. So many marma points are located in these regions. Even in a particular marma area, the main pranic point in it may shift or move over time, which means that the prana at a marma is more important than the general structure of the marma itself.
In addition, just as there are special marma points unique to a person’s anatomical structure, there are also marma points that are unique to a person’s energy patterns, expression or psychology. There are non-physical marmas located in the sphere of prana around a person, in the aura, like certain points above or behind the head. Even the more obviously physical marmas are an expression of a deeper energy that is the most important factor, not simply their anatomical location. Besides the classical fixed marmas, we must also recognize such variable and changing marmas. We should view marmas and marma therapy more in terms of prana and energy than in simply physical location or physical manipulation.
Marmas are important diagnostic as well as therapeutic points. The pulse itself is one of the prime ‘vessel’ (shira) marmas in the body, where the patient’s energy can be read and understood. Ayurvedic practitioners routinely palpate various marma points for diagnostic purposes during patient visits. Marma points are important regions for gauging the doshas, their level of accumulation and their possible disorders, particularly relative to vata dosha, which governs pain and trauma. Any painful point on the body becomes a kind of marma as long as the pain exists.
Marma therapy is an important tool of both disease prevention and disease treatment in Ayurveda. It can be used to balance the doshas, to increase agni (the digestive fire), for detoxification (reduce ama), as well as to promote energy (vajikarana) and aid in rejuvenation (rasayana). It can be part of special clinical methods (like Pancha Karma) but also part of self-care and our daily health regimen. For example, massaging marma points on the head, like those around the eyes, ears, nostrils and mouth, is an important way to stimulate one’s mind and senses in the morning. Relative to diseases, marma therapy is particularly good for arthritis and other structural problems, as well as for treating any type of nerve pain or paralysis.
The treatment of marmas, though having many methods, is primarily a matter of therapeutic touch. Ayurveda employs massage and pressure (like acupressure) to marma points. It has various techniques for massaging marma points either by themselves or along with partial or full body massage (usually the best procedure) In its typical fashion, Ayurveda uses special medicated massage oils or tailas, generally herbs prepared in a sesame oil base, of which dozens of different formulas exist manufactured by various Ayurvedic pharmacies. Certain massage oils applied to specific marmas will result in special therapeutic effects to increase energy, reduce toxins, create flexibility or bring about the changes necessary for true healing to occur.
The use of aroma therapy is another important tool for treating marmas, either with massage oils or by themselves. Aromatic oils have a strong ability to influence Prana and alter our energy. Marmas can be massaged or anointed with different aromatic oils, as per the location and conditions. As marmas are sensitive points, they are regions that aromas can penetrate easily and influence the entire body through them.
Stimulating oils like camphor, eucalyptus or cinnamon are used for opening up energy at marma points, while cooling and sedating oils like sandalwood or khus serve to calm or consolidate the energy. Applying camphor, menthol or eucalyptus to the marmas at the side of the nostrils to remove congestion is such a stimulating marma therapy, while applying cooling and calming sandalwood oil to the third eye to treat headaches is such a sedating approach.
Marma Therapy, Yoga and Prana Therapy
While much of marma therapy consists of massage and direct touch, another significant portion consists of energy treatment or pranic healing, in which touch may be light or even indirect. In this regard, the prana of the healer is as important as the physical manipulation of the marmas. We can compare this to the martial arts in which a master with a strong chi or prana can stop or knock down an opponent with his own energy, using only a light touch or no touch at all. An Ayurvedic healer with a good prana can have a strong healing effect by his prana alone, even without using any significant touch or physical manipulation. This more subtle or sattvic form of touch is often best for treating the mind, emotions and deeper consciousness of the person.
A good marma therapist must therefore cultivate his or her own prana. This requires Yoga practices for the creation of additional prana (pranayama) and the ability to withdraw or focus prana on to a particular point (pratyahara), which may be a point in the body itself or even outside the body. A yogi with an awakened prana can easily become a good pranic healer and will intuitively find the appropriate marmas on the patient by the very power of his healing energy. Just as water flows to a lower level even in the absence of any other stimulus, so too the prana of the healer will naturally flow into the weak pranic or marma points of the patient.
Marmas enter prominently into yogic thought and yoga therapy. As marmas carry the energy that develops from the chakras and nadis of the subtle body, they can be used to energize the physical body from within. As we practice Yoga, particularly pranayama, we will naturally become aware of these pranic control points. Great yogis have always known the secrets of marma as part of the greater science of Yoga. Many yogis practice pranic concentration on specific marmas to aid in the opening of the chakras and nadis or to simply aid in relaxation and purification of the body. In this regard, marmas can become important points in the practice of Tantric Yoga and the arousing of the Kundalini.
“MARMA” is a Sanskrit term for sensitive or vulnerable points on the body.
Marma therapy is an important tool of both disease prevention and disease treatment in Ayurveda. It can be used to balance the dosha, to increase agni (the digestive fire), for detoxification (reduce ama), as well as to promote energy (vajikarana) and aid in rejuvenation (rasayana) .It can be part the clinical methods (pancha karma) but also part of self-care and our daily health regimen.
Marmas are special Ayurvedic energy points similar to acupuncture points. Marmas are also locations in which the dosha of Vata, Pitta and Kapha can be held, along with their subtle essences of prana, tejas and ojas .As sensitive zones, marmas can hold various emotion like fear( vata), anger (pitta) or attachment (kapha), as well as the gunas or primary qualities of sattva (calm), rajas (aggression) and tamas (inertia). In this regard the concept of marmas goes beyond modern medicine and its purely physical definitions to the principles of mind-body medicine.
Marmas are of various composition relative to the tissues that make them up, defined as bone, tendon, muscle, nerve or vein, including relative to channels that carry the doshas and channels that carry thought and emotion. Many Marmas are on peripheral regions of the body like arms and legs.
The treatment of marmas, though having many methods, is primarily a matter of therapeutic touch. Ayurveda employs massage and pressure to marma points. Ayurveda use special medicated massage oil, generally herbs prepared in a sesame oil base.