About seven years ago I recall a particular class during my schooling at the Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico, where we were exploring marma therapy, the practice of targeting and applying pressure to particular vital energy points throughout the body, for therapeutic effect. We were paired up, my partner that day, a close girlfriend who happened to be on her menstrual cycle. She explained to me before lying down on the carpet how her cycles had always been particularly painful. It was such that for years, she would miss work, classes and other important events in order to tend to her pain during those difficult cycles. She was having one of these periods yet again. She laid down and I had my first of many experiences that lead me to a deep appreciation of a simple, yet profound tool for pain relief, diagnosis, detoxification, and general healing.
Settling in my dear friend for the demo treatment I briefly and gently stretched her legs out on the floor. We were working on marma points on the lower body that day, many of which happened to be perfect for relieving stagnation in the reproductive organs. I placed my palms on two points at the protrusion of her hips, applying gentle but firm pressure. She inhaled deeply, and released a great sigh. Her inhalations and exhalations calmed and became deeper. I continued on, pressing points at the center of her thigh (called Sakthi Urvi) for about a minute, then at both the medial and lateral points on the sides of her knees (Charana), and finally ended at her feet, engaging pada madhya, a soft point about the center of her foot and then pada kshipra, a point at the root of her big toe nail.
While her body was releasing the tension she was holding from the cramping, the expression on her face softed, and after just about 5 minutes of holding these marma points, she looked at me and said….
And it was this experience that set off a beautiful and lasting fascination with one of Ayurveda’s most useful and quickly accessible therapies – Marma.
Of course, I had a lot of questions.
What is a marma anyway? Why does it work? How does it work? And how can we use it in everyday life to heal, calm and reduce suffering?
A marma point is considered a ‘vital energy point’, a ‘secret hidden point,’ and in Traditional Chinese Medicine is understood as a place in the body richly supplied by nerves and blood vessels. The science dates back to Vedic times and was greatly expanded and applied by the great physician Sushruta, the father of surgery. These points in Ayurveda were found to be locations of concentrated prāna and consciousness, and serve as a bridge to accessing the doshas, tissues, and organs of the body as well as the condition of the mind. Engaging the marma by gentle or deep pressure, depending on the situation, begins “a complex biochemical and neuroelectrical impulse” according to Dr. Vasant Lad, which passes through the gateway of the marma to balance the bodily channels, and its corresponding organs to balance prāna, tejas and ojas (the subtle essence of vata, pitta and kapha).
There are over 117 marma considered of primary therapeutic importance. Of those 117, there are 8 marma that are considered the Sadyah Marmani, the eight great marmani. To relieve stress, support calm, good sleep, balanced emotions, and good digestion try working these marma on yourself, friends and family as needed.
General guidelines: Check in with yourself or the person you are working on to see what an appropriate pressure feels like. Sit or lay in a comfortable position. If you choose, utilize a drop of your favorite essential oils on the various marma to deepen the therapeutic effect. Here are some suggestions: Nutmeg essential oil for Vata imbalances, Sandelwood essential oil for Pitta, and Eucalyptus for Kapha.Engage each marma point for at least 30 seconds before moving on.
Murdhni (located at the center of the crown): regulates prāna and circulates cerebrospinal fluid. Stimulates memory, relieves headaches and insomnia, balances all emotional disturbances.
Brahmarandra (about 2 finger widths anterior to the crown): supports creativity and intelligence, relieves headache, support pituitary function
Shivarandhra (about 2 finger widths posterior to the crown): relieves neck pain, enhances memory and recall, reduces emotional disturbances due to vata – fea, anxiety and loneliness.
Ājñā (third eye): steadies the fluctuations of the mind, relieves stress and insomnia, improves proper focus, ADHD
Shanka (right and left temples): strongly pacifies pitta (acid stomach, sharp headaches, irritability), temporal headaches.
Hridayam (heart, at center of the breast): regulates cardiac function and heart rate, enhance lymphatic circulation, releases stuck emotions.
Nabhi (navel): enhances metabolism, stimulates digestion and absorption, boosts immunity and treats autoimmune disorders.
Guda (anus): Benefits pelvis floor, stimulates kundalini energy, reproductive dysfunction, low libido. \
Each marma contains tremendous potential for opening weakened or blocked energy channels in the body. When marma points are particularly tender upon pressure, it is a good indication that the organs/tissues/channels associated with that point are experiencing weak or blocked functioning. Discovering an engaging these vital energy points is the bridge to accessing the pharmacy within.
– Emma Landau AP, RYT
Lad, Vasant, and Anisha Durve. Marma Points of Ayurveda: the Energy Pathways for Healing Body, Mind & Consciousness with a Comparison to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Ayurvedic Press, 2016.