So what is it exactly? It is one of the preparatory stages for Panch Karma. Before the detox the body needs to be strong, so many rejuvinative therapies are carried out before the major cleanse.
The cleanse may involve expelling vomit, mucous, blood or faeces in order to rid the body of toxins and extraneous dosha's that have accumulated.
But before all of that come the rejuvinative therapies. I have just finished Shirodhara myself so thought now is a good time to write about it. Shiro is the third eye, the point between the eyebrow centre, and is a powerful chakra and marma point. Since Vata lives in the head, this treament is for Vata disorders including mental illness, over active brain, anxiety or nervous disorders. Insomnia, Parkinson's Disease and eating disorders all benefit from Shirodhara.
Dhara means to pour, so shirodhara is to pour on the third eye. Most commonly this is done with deeply vata pacifying sesame oil, but other liquids including ghee, herbal infusions or even water may be indicated. I believe it is beneficial to blindfold the patient, in order to minimise sensory distractions. Cotton wool in the ears is a good idea too, though in many cases these practices are not followed.
The effect of Shirodhara is to induce a very deep meditation. It is especially advised for those on the spiritual path, but it may bring up some old karma for you to work through. As always with Ayruveda gently gently is the key!
Shirodhara regulates the mood, and breath, improves circulation, improves concentration and slef esteem...and becuase Vata is like the elctricity of the body, placating Vata can benefit all dosha's by supporting their movement and flow of energy as needed.