History and Evolution:
- A recent trend among some Ayurveda scholars is an attempt to equate and correlate knowledge of Marma with the ancient Chinese method of treatment known as Acupuncture. Though recognition of special spots on the body is common to both, the aim of approach of each one is thoroughly opposite of the other. While Ayurveda describes the ‘Marma’ as seats of prana… the descriptions are mainly intended to warn the surgeon not to cause injury [where as] Acupuncture… spots are considered centers of ‘vital energy’ that when stimulated by sharp needles… brings about cure of many diseases. Nowhere in Ayurvedic texts is there any suggestion of meddling with the Marma for either relief of pain or for cure of diseases” (Murthy, 115).
Whether marma were classically used for healing or not, it is nonetheless now commonly used as such in Ayurvedic clinics and schools around the world.
Locations, and Categorizations:
|Marma||Location||Size||Number of Points|
|Adhipati||Crown Chakra||½ angula||1|
|Amsaphalaka||Shoulder blade||½ angula||2|
|Ani||Lower region of upper arm and upper leg||½ angula||4|
|Apanga||Outer corner of each eye||½ angula||2|
|Apastamba||Medial and inferior to nipples on abdomen||½ angula||2|
|Avarta||Midpoint above each eyebrow||½ angula||2|
|Bhavi||Inside of upper arm||1 angula||2|
|Basti||Lower abdomen/ bladder||4 angula||1|
|Brihati||Broad region of upper back||½ angula||2|
|Indrabasti||Center of forearm and lower leg||½ angula||4|
|Kakshadhara||Coracoid Process||1 angula||2|
|Katika Taruna||Hip joint||½ angula||2|
|Krikatika||Neck joint||½ angula||2|
|Kshipra||Between thumb and index finger and between big toe and second toe||½ angula||4|
|Kukundara||Sides of the lower iliac spine||½ angula||2|
|Kupara||Elbow joint||3 angula||2|
|Kurcha||Bottom of thumb and big toe||4 angula||4|
|Kurchashira||Base of thumb joint and base of big toe joint||1 angula||4|
|Lohitaksha||Lower frontal end of shoulder and hip joint||½ angula||4|
|Manya||Side of the neck||4 angula||2|
|Nila||Base of the throat||4 angula||2|
|Nitamba||Upper buttock||½ angula||2|
|Parshva Sandhi||Upper hip||½ angula||2|
|Phana||Side of each nostril||½ angula||2|
|Shringataka||Just below each cheek bone||4 angula||4|
|Simanta||Sagittal Suture of skull||4 angula||5|
|Sira Matrika||Base of the neck||4 angula||8|
|Stanarohita||Superior and medial to nipples||½ angula||2|
|Sthapani||Third eye center||½ angula||1|
|Talahrdaya||Center of palm of hand and sole of foot||½ angula||4|
|Utkshepa||Above ears||½ angula||2|
|Urvi||Mid-region of upper thigh||1 angula||2|
|Vidhura||Behind and below ears||½ angula||2|
- • Sadya Pranahara: Immediately causing death
- • The marma of this type are Shringataka (four points), Adhipati (one point), Shankha (two points), Kanthasira/ matrika (eight points), Guda (one point), Hrdaya (one point), Basti (one point), Kshipra (four points), and Nabhi (one point). According to Sushruta, Sadya Pranahara points have the qualities of fire, and this is why they quickly cause death. Some classical physicians said that Sadya Pranahara points are those containing all five tissue types (Mamsa, Sira, Snayu, Asthi, and Sandhi). Sushruta disagrees and says that all five tissue types are present in the below four types of marma.
- • Kalantara Pranahara: Causing death after some time
- • Kalantara Pranahara have the qualities of water and fire, thus with their hot/fiery qualities kill debilitated people quickly, and with their cold/watery qualities kill others after some time. Sushruta designates the following marma as Kalantara Pranahara: Stanamula (two points), Stanarohita (two points), Apalapa (two points), Apastamba (two points), Simanta (five points), Tala (four points), Indrabasti (four points), Katika Taruna (two points), Brihati (two points), and Nitamba (two points).
- • Visalya Pranahara: Fatal if pierced
- • Visalya Pranahara points have the quality of air, thus are fatal if the air residing in the marma is disturbed. If pierced, the air will remain undisturbed if the foreign object is not removed, but upon removal of the foreign object air will be allowed to escape from the marma and thus cause death. Marma of this type are Utkshepa (two points) and Sthapani (one point).
- • Vaikalyakara: Disability causing
- • Sushruta describes Vaikalyakara marma as “possessing qualities of the moon/water” and explains that the corresponding stable and cold qualities help with the sustenance of life when these points are injured. Thus, only disability is caused. Points of Vaikalyakara nature are Lohitaksha (four points), Ani (four points), Janu (two points), Urvi (four points), Kurcha (four points), Vitapa (two points), Kupara (two points), Kukundara (two points), Kakshadhara (two points), Vidhura (two points), Krikatika (two points), Amsa (two points), Amsaphalaka (two points), Apanga (two points), Nila (two points), Manya (two points), Phana (two points), and Avarta (two points).
- • Rujakara: Pain causing
- o The final categorization of marma point is Rujakara, which designates points composed of the qualities of fire and air, which produce pain. These marma are Gulpha (two points), Manibandha (two points), and Kurcha Sira (four points).
Relations to Ayurveda & Diagnosis
|Relationship of Doshas, Subdoshas, and Marma Points|
|Prana Vayu||Adhipati||Sadhaka Pitta||Adhipati||Tarpaka Kapha||Adhipati|
|Brihati||Katika Taruna||Kledaka Kapha||Nabhi|
|Relationship of Body Systems and Marma Points|
|Circulatory System||Hrdaya, Nabhi, Kupara, Brihati, Janu, Lohitaksha, Sira Matrika|
|Digestive System||Nabhi, Indrabasti, Kurchashira, Parshvasandhi, Shankha|
|Female Reproductive||Guda, Vitapa, Gulpha, Basti|
|Lymphatic System||Hrdaya, Kshipra, Stanamula, Lohitaksha, Amsaphalaka, Nila|
|Muscular System||Kurchashira, Kakshadhara, Stanamula, Stanarohita, Guda|
|Nervous System||Adhipati, Simanta, Sthapani, Apalapa, Apastambha, Shringataka|
|Respiratory System||Talahridaya, Kshipra, Hridaya, Phana, Sthapani|
|Skeletal System||Kukundara, Katikataruna, Janu, Manibandha, Simanta|
|Urinary System||Basti, Guda, Kukundara|
Methods of healing through Marma
Ayurveda uses a vast breadth of herbs and formulations for internal and external healing. The topical application of herbal medicated oils, pastes, and powders may be used to elicit a desired effect from a specific marma. Dr. Frawley recommends Guggul as the most well rounded herb for marma therapy, citing it’s clearing properties and it’s affinity for reducing pain and promoting the flow of energy. For healing of a specific condition an herbal formula with properties specifically targeted toward the desired result should be used.
Most commonly used as part of the Abhyanga massage, the application of oils is deeply therapeutic most especially for conditions of Vata nature but can be therapeutic for imbalances of all doshas. Warm sesame oil is best for the treatment of Vata, and the essential oil of sandalwood, calamus, or cinnamon can be added. For pitta coconut or sunflower oils are best, potentially mixed with the essential oils of sandalwood or rose. For Kapha, oil is generally contraindicated however sesame and mustard oil mixed together with the essential oils of camphor, menthol, or wintergreen would be balancing.2
Pranic Healing involves transmitting energy from the healer to the client and can be accomplished by placing one’s hands above the specific area of the body (or in this case the marma point) that is the target of the healing. In Ayurvedic terms marma points are part of the Majja dhatu, or nervous system, which is governed by prana. Pranic healing can assist in the harmonious interaction of prana vayu (the flow of cellular intelligence), sadhaka pitta (present especially in the gray matter of the brain) and tarpaka kapha (the white matter covering the brain), to promote greater healing in the physical, mental, and emotional bodies.
When contemplating the manipulation of the emotions, energetic body, or physical points remote to a specific marma it is interesting to note the correlation with modern superstring theory which considers all particles to be made of “infinitesimally small vibrating strings”5 which are the foundation of all energy.
- The oneness of mindbody and how it may be bundled as vibrating energy that is interconnected to everything else in the universe, is the basis of what may be called the “Cosmic Connection”. Furthermore, vibrating bundles of energy (i.e., vibrating strings of mutual harmonic resonance that have coalesced to form an electromagnetic field operating at a given frequency — not unlike a frequency for a radio station, for instance) create fields of influence around their physical selves. A physical manifestation of the energy of thoughts is the instincts and/or emotions as they elicit as a response to a specific stimulus.7
Yoga is known to increase general pranic levels and also directly affects marma points through compression in certain poses.11 For example, Janu Sirsasana (seated forehead to knee pose) compresses Nabhi, Janu, and Sthapani marma as the third eye connects with the knee, and the abdomen is contracted. Sirsasana (headstand) stimulates Adhipati through the connection of the crown chakra with the earth. Halasana (shoulder stand) affects Hrdaya, Nila, and Nabhi as the frontal plane of the body is contracted and may also affect Brihati and Krikatika on the posterior plane. With a thorough knowledge of marma points and yoga postures, a great variety of therapeutic applications may be derived.
Healing may be brought on by meditation upon a specific marma point, or set of points, to promote the free flow of prana independently of a therapist. Simply concentrating one’s energy on the specific point(s), or by following the flow of energy within the body to or from a specific point, or by performing a complete rotation of consciousness around all the marma points of the body, awareness and healing may be achieved.
2. Frawley, Dr. David. Ayurveda and Marma Therapy. Wisconsin: Lotus Press, 2003
3. Halpern, Marc, The Importance of Marma Therapy in Ayurvedic Practice: https://www.ayurvedacollege.com/importance-marma-therapy-ayurvedic-practice
4. Lad, Vasant. Marma Points of Ayurveda. Albequerque: The Ayurvedic Press, 2008
5. Smith, William L. The Human Electromagnetic Energy Field: It’s Relationship to Interpersonal Communication: http://www.journaloftheoretics.com/articles/4-2/Smith.htm
6. Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusamdana Samsthana, Bangalore, India, Effects Of Yoga Practice on Acumeridian Energies: Variance Reduction Implies Benefits for Regulation: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23439630
7. Halpern, Marc. Ayurvedic Marma Therapy. Course Supplement, 2004 – 2012.
8. Murthy, Prof. K. R. Srikantha. Illustrated Sushruta Samhita, Vol 1,2,3. Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India: Chaukhambha Orientalia, 2010.
9. Chopra, Deepak. Perfect Health. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1991
10. Muley, SK, Associate Professor and Head, Department of Sharira Rachana, Government Ayurved College, Nanded, Maharashtra, India, Study of Vaikalyakara Marma with special reference to Kurpara Marma: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22661839
11. Niharika Nagilla, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusamdana Samsthana (S-VYASA), Bangalore, India, Effects of yoga practice on acumeridian energies: Variance reduction implies benefits for regulation: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3573545.
12. Caraka. Caraka Samhita. R.K. Sharma and Bhagwan Dash translation. Varanasi, India: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office, 1976.