Written by Rachel Stermer
Marma therapy is an ancient healing practice that Ayurveda incorporates to restore and nurture body, mind, and spirit. Marma is a point-based system, meaning the practitioner uses gentle to deep pressure on specific energy centers throughout the body to initiate and activate the organism’s innate wisdom to heal.
The science of Marma dates to ancient Vedic times when martial artists utilized the points to both initiate a quicker recovery from injury, as well as to inflict wounds upon their opponents. From our modern perspective, we can see these ancient practitioners of Marma revered the subtle and deep power of the points to be both medicine and poison, depending on how they were used.
Sushruta, the famous Ayurvedic physician who compiled vast teachings on surgical techniques in the Sushruta Samhita, further developed the practice of Marma by observing that if incisions were made at or near these potent points, recovery time slowed. His observation was that these points were deep wells of prana and vitality. Conversely, if the points were activated with the intention to heal through touch, the patient would be rejuvenated and renewed with great speed. If, however, they were cut or harmed in some way during surgery or in battle, as martial artists understood, Marma could be deadly.
The Meaning Behind Marma
The potent polarities of Marma reveal the Sanskrit etymology beautifully. Marma means mortal or vulnerable point and derives from the root “mar” which means to kill. However, thousands of years of practice have also revealed that these points have great healing potential and the capacity to bring about a new life. Perhaps Marma can teach us about the power in our own vulnerability as human beings and the potential we hold to regenerate.
Located from the top of the head to the tip of the toe, the points, which number 117, are activated by the practitioner’s non-invasive touch, pranic intention, and, sometimes, other healing tools like tuning forks and crystals. While tools and technique are important foundations to the practice, the true synergistic healing effect is generated between practitioner, client, and contact with the living energy field surrounding and within us always. Giving and receiving Marma therapy is a gentle, restorative reminder that wakes up the subtle pathways and power points running through this field.
The Marma Approach to Disease
Ayurveda teaches that the physical manifestation of disease within the body always begins with subtle imbalances. The practice of Marma has the flexibility and fluidity to both address disease processes that have already manifested as well as clear energetic patterns that are beginning to crystallize into imbalance. It is for this reason that during a Marma session, the receiver will often experience an emotional release. Tears are the liquid vehicle of crystallized emotions, held in the nervous system or deep within the heart. Marma opens the srotas, channels of the body, to clear negative emotions and stuck mental patterns that would eventually facilitate the disease process.
Ayurveda places much emphasis on prevention and rejuvenation with longevity as its goal. Marma therapy offers much benefit to the recipient in terms of these aims with minimal invasiveness and is even more effective when combined with lifestyle, diet, and cleansing practices, Simple, accessible, and time honored are the hallmarks of a beneficial medicinal practice; Marma therapy elegantly embodies all three.
Applying Marma for Self Care
A simple point to stimulate that cools down excess Pitta, reduces stres, and relieves acidity is one we intuitively activate during headaches or mental fatigue. Shankha Marma is located at both temples, just next to the eyebrows. Try gentle pressure in a circular motion to relieve burning sensations, TMJ pain and elevated Pitta symptoms that arise during summer. Coupled with long, slow, deep breathing and awareness, Shankha Marma is just one of many points we carry that are the gateways to our inner apothecary.
Read More on the Doshas and Ayurveda