AYURVEDIC MARMA MASSAGE

     Ayurveda, the Science of Life, brings the knowledge of how to live in harmony with nature
and to live without disease. 

It is perhaps the most comprehensive and integral healing system, going to the roots of our being, or wellbeing, on physical, psychological and spiritual levels and our connections with the greater universe of consciousness in all these areas.

     This ancient medical system has developed the science of MARMAS, vital points in the body and NADIS, channels of vital force. This vital force in Ayurveda is called PRANA. In Sanskrit this means primal energy or life force energy.

      Understanding the concept of PRANA is fundamental in the essential comprehension of Ayurveda. There is nothing more subtle in the body than this energy. It empowers the body/mind and it is closely linked to the soul.  Prana is channeled through the Nadis or meridians. We can say that it corresponds to CHI, in the Chinese medical system. Health, in Ayurveda, is brought through the right use, or knowledge of Prana in food, herbs, water and life itself. Disease is brought through the wrong use of it. The cosmic Prana creates the tridoshas, also referred to as humors or functional units of the body, VATA, PITTA and KAPHA.

These three humors control the five states of matter and create all manifested forms of life.

     Marmas are points in the body, similar to the pressure points used in acupressure and reflexology: they can give life and death. Just as acupuncture points are used in Chinese medicine and Chinese martial arts, marma points are also used in the Southern Indian martial arts called Kalaripayattu. 

However, marmas can be much larger in size, are not always related to acupuncture meridians and are fewer in number than acupuncture points.  

All major Ayurvedic texts refer to the total number of primary marmas as 107. However many Ayurvedic teachers recognize more than these.

A pinpoint location of marmas is not always crucial as for acupuncture points, particularly when marma treatment focuses on massage rather than the use of needles, which Ayurveda rarely practices. So while recognizing the important similarities, we should not confuse marmas with acupuncture points because they can be very different.

     Marma means “secret” (Atreya, 2000), “vulnerable” (Dr S. Ranade, Dr A. Lele, 2003). These are anatomical places on the body, mostly composed of flesh and bones. They are an integral part of Ayurveda and Yoga, a science that is closely connected to Ayurveda. Marma points can be used specifically for the diagnosis and treatment of disease or generally for promoting health and longevity. When manipulated, these points can alter both organic functions and structural conditions of the body. Through the right use of marmas our entire physical and mental energy can be consciously increased, decreased or redirected in a transformative manner. Through manipulation of marmas, Prana can be directed to remove blockages, improve energy flow or tap into hidden energy reserves and make connections with the greater powers of life and nature.

     The condition of Marmas is an important diagnostic tool in Ayurveda. At marma sites toxins, stress and negative emotions get embedded and are held, sometimes for years. Disease is reflected in pain, blockage or swelling in these areas even before it may manifest outwardly in the full range of disease symptoms.

Marmas are key locations for Ayurvedic bodywork and massage.

These regions are treated mainly with pressure, herbal or essential oils, providing many tools for working with our internal energies and with our Prana through them.  
      The Prana of a good therapist can easily find the weak or blocked Prana points on a client even without an extensive physical examination.  The identification of marmas is more a matter of practice, not simply a physiological definition (Frawley, 2003). This is one reason why exact marma location may vary slightly according to different Ayurvedic practitioners. 

     According to Sushruta (the Sushruta Samhita, 2500 B.C is an ancient Sanskrit text and one of the foundational texts of Ayurveda, alongside the Caraka-Saṃhitā, 1000 B.C and the Astanga Hridaya, 600 A.D.), marmas are places where the three doshas (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) are present along with their subtle forms as prana, tejas (strength and vitality), Ojas (powers of immunity) and the three gunas (virtues or qualities of the mind) of sattva = wisdom, rajas = activity and tamas = ignorance. 

     Marmas help maintain our immune system and can be treated in order to boost its powers. Besides being used to stimulate and regulate the functions of internal organs, they can be worked on to stimulate unconscious bodily processes, mental /sensory responses or emotional reactions. Treating them can release negative emotions and remove mental blockages, including those of a subconscious nature, such as addictions.

     Marma therapy can be employed as part of a daily and seasonal life-style practice, or part of complex clinical Ayurvedic procedure such as Pancha Karma or purification therapy. Besides treating the body, marma therapy can be used for pranic healing or energy medicine in various forms. It can also be used for calming the mind, pacifying the emotions and stress reduction. It is a great aid for yoga and meditation, facilitating the opening up of consciousness on an inner level.

     In yogic philosophy and in Ayurveda, touch is the sensory power that corresponds to the cosmic AIR element. This element in turn relates to Prana. Touch conveys Prana, which is the main healing power of life. Prana at a deeper level carries the energy of love and consciousness, so therapeutic touch can help heal the mind and heart as well as the body. That is why massage in Ayurveda has always played a very important role.

In today’s hectic and ultra busy world, still touch is a form of communication and as such, it communicates a message. Ayurvedic life style might be difficult to be followed today but still Ayurvedic massage teaches us how to transmit a powerful therapeutic message.

Ilaria Bucchieri

References:

Secrets of Ayurvedic massage, Atreya; Sri Satguru Publications, Dehli, India, 2000

Ayurveda for beginners, Dr L. Mahadevan, BAMS, MD; Chennai, India, 2005

Ayurveda and Marma therapy, Dr D. Frawley, Dr. S. Ranade, Dr A. Lele; Lotus Press, U.S.A., 2003

Ayurveda, The science of self healing, Dr V. Lad; Lotus Press U.S.A, 2009

Panchakarma and Ayurvedic massage, Dr S. Ranade, Dr A. Lele; Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratishthan, Dehli, 2004