Marma Bodywork | Healing the whole being


The Sahara belongs to the sun. 

Among the rolling dunes there was once the world’s largest lake, named Mega Chad, which evaporated over a thousand years ago under the sun’s relentless glare. But today the lake’s silvery remains sustain life half a world away. Each year wind blows mineral-rich dust from the dried Saharan lake bed all of the way to South America, where it fertilizes the lush greenery of the Amazon.

To gain an understanding of Earth’s intricate and fantastic ecological balance, one must examine the planet as a whole. The earth is a holistic system in which balance is sustained by the interaction of different elements.  The human being is no different. To initiate true healing we must consider the person as a whole: mind, body and spirit.

The reason why Ayurveda and Yoga are such effective healing systems is because they take a holistic approach to human health. These practices focus on the union of mind, body, and spirit and how these different dimensions of self relate to one another, and to the whole being. From a holistic point of view, we understand that how we use our mind and what we do with our emotions has great impact on our physical bodies. Therefore true healing must address the whole being.

Taking a holistic approach to healing requires a shift in perspective from that which underlies Western (allopathic) medical practice. From a reductionist point of view, the allopathic approach tends to compartmentalize the mind, body and spirit and to treat these elements individually. Diagnoses are extrapolated through the laboratory analysis of the chemical composition of individual parts. 

The disease is treated rather than the underlying cause of the disease, which is actually multidimensional.

​As a holistic science, Ayurveda offers a range of therapies that simultaneously treat the physical, mental and energetic aspects of the whole being. Of primary importance among Ayurveda’s complete system of natural healing is marma bodywork. This potent form of healing works by accessing vital points of energy in our bodies, known as marma points. Similar to the acupuncture points used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) marma points are sensitive conduits for Prana, or Chi. However, the energetic channels that marma points access can become blocked due to emotional turmoil or through unhealthy lifestyle choices. When marma points are activated using moderate to light therapeutic pressure, energetic blockages are released and Prana may flow without obstruction.

Prana is the intelligent master energy that sustains and enlivens our whole being. As the primary source of our energetic, mental and physical health, it is the single most important factor in healing.  When Prana flows evenly throughout the whole being, we are able to think and perceive with greater clarity and we open up to higher consciousness.

An understanding of the network of marma points on the body gives great insight into how a person’s subtle, or energetic body relates to their physical body.  Marmas, which are found at key junctures in the body (ligaments, tendons, veins and bones) are connected to the chakra and nadis. Chakras, which are quite well known, are the main energy centres of the subtle body. Chakras connect to the nadis, which are the subtle channels that distribute the energy from the chakras.  Each nadi is, in turn, connected to certain marmas located in our physical body. They are the gateways to our whole being, points of transition at which our energy body becomes our physical body. Marmas therefore function as the interface between our physical, emotional and spiritual selves. They are points at which the whole being connects.

This is why marma bodywork is crucial to Ayurveda’s holistic approach to healing.  

Marmas are Ayurveda’s most effective method of harmonizing prana in the body, so an understanding of the marma point system offers a healer a vital framework with which to treat and diagnose disease. Marma bodywork increases the efficacy of all other Ayurvedic treatments and is a powerful component in a healer’s toolbox.

When a bodyworker finds soreness around a particular marma point, this will be a strong indication of an energetic blockage. When prana is unable to flow correctly disease begins to manifest in both the physical and subtle bodies.  Marma bodywork therefore focuses on the root cause of pain and imbalance and initiates healing of the whole being. A bodyworker that finds a sore marma will understand the importance of gently exercising the surrounding muscles and joints in order to release the healing power of pranic energy.

A study of marmas also offers a new layers of insight into yoga asana practice and teaching. Yoga poses enliven the energy that is stored in the limbs, joints and spine, all of which contain important marmas.  In fact, asana practice is designed to facilitate the flow of prana through the marma regions. To offer some examples, twists improve the flow of prana by activating the marmas in the hips, back and shoulders. Backbends, like ustrasana will strongly stimulate pranic energy by opening the front-body marma network.  An education in marma bodywork provides a yoga teacher with the key to unlock pranic obstructions in a student.

When Prana flows, the masterful intelligence initiates a deep healing and we find equanimity in our experience. With the current of prana circulating effectively, our bodies naturally calibrate, just as the earth does.  Saharan dust nourishes Amazonian roots; spinal opening refreshes our insight. Transitions can occur naturally: with the end of a cycle comes the beginning of a new one.

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