Marma Massage

Kalari marma massage is a traditional Ayurvedic massage for stimulating vital points. This is a traditional Kerala ayurvedic massage using herb infused ayurvedic oils, performed by the therapist using his hand and feet, applying appropriate pressure to specific vital points/parts of the body. Marma abhyanga not only relieves back pain, stiffness and sports injuries but also stimulates various bodily organs and systems.

Marma are certain vital areas of the body. The word marma comes from Sanskrit origin mru or marr. The Sanskrit phrase, Marayate Iti Marmani, means there is likelihood of death or serious damage to health after infliction to these places and hence these areas are called marma.

Marma is also thought to be a Sanskrit word meaning hidden or secret. By definition, a marma point is a juncture on the body where two or more types of tissue meet, such as muscles, veins, ligaments, bones or joints.

Yet marma points are much more than a casual connection of tissue and fluids; they are intersections of the vital life force and prana, or breath. The word marma can also be associated with terms such as tenderness, secretion or vital places.

Marma therapy is an important part of ayurveda, as it involves the conditioning of these vital areas. Effective conditioning of these areas can improve and maintain a good health balance.

Prana is a form of vital energy. Prana pervades each and every corner of the body, and it nourishes, guides and controls the functioning of the cell and systems. When these marma (junctions) are affected or ruptured, the organs linked with prana channels become starved with lack of prana and some organ becomes diseased, crippled or paralysed or depending upon the quantum is of prana being lost, it may lead to slow or sudden death.

The idea behind massaging the marma points is to cleanse blocked energy, also called chi, by either arousing or calming the doshas. Like a television with three channels, each marma point has three receptors that align with the three doshas. During a marma-point massage, the points are stroked in a deliberate sequence using specific essential oils.

There are total 107 Marma in the body. In Tamil traditions they are 108 Marma points, and in Kalari tradition there are 365 Marma points. The points were mapped out in detail centuries ago in the Sushruta Samhita, a classic Ayurvedic text. Major marma points correspond to the seven chakras, or energy centers of the body, while minor points radiate out along the torso and limbs. The points cover both the front and back body, including 22 on the lower extremities, 22 on the arms, 12 on the chest and stomach, 14 on the back, and 37 on the head and neck. (The mind is considered the 108th marma.) Each has its onw Sanskrit name given by Sushruta, one of the founding fathers of Ayurvedic medicine.

They are classified for better understanding according to the physical components:

  • Mansa marma - muscle
  • Sira marma - vessels conveying body fluids and impulses
  • Sanyu - tendons
  • Asthi - bones
  • Sandhi - articulate points specially bone joints

The marma are also grouped on the basis of their similarities in the features particularly on the basis of vulnerability:

  • Sadhya Pranhara Marma ~ Sadhya means sudden or immediate. These marma are vulnerable for the loss of life immediately after injury or insult.

  • Kalantara Pranhara ~ Kalantara means after the lapse of some time, Pranhara means loss of life. After infliction to these marma, loss of life results gradually after some time.

  • Vishalyaghana ~ Vishalya means being the foreign body removed. This category of Marma is named on its surgical importance. Vishalyaghana indicated death being the foreign body removed. When injured the person survives as long the foreign body remains in place.

  • Vaikalyakara ~ Vilkala means deform or cripple.

Marma massage involves a full body massage with warm medicated oil and stimulating or massaging the marma points on the body. According to psychosomatic constitution or disease, different oils are selected for marma massage. Marma massage is a soft flowing massage can be done by two people massaging in synchronize rhythm or with a ingle individual. This massage encompasses the techniques developed in keeping the knowledge of channels and nadi location in priority. Marma massage stimulates or generates the energy resources and helps the flow of vital energy in the individual. It removes blockages form the marma points giving physical and psychological relaxation and strength.

Marma massage benefits (summary)

Some of the benefits of the marma massage include:

  • increase in protection from vata disorders
  • nourishement of the body
  • marma massage encourages good sleep
  • improvement of physical stability.

History of Marma massage

Marma-point massage dates back to southern India circa 1500 BC. Masters of kalari, an ancient martial art, first discovered the power of marma points. In battle, kalari fighters targeted an opponent's marma points as a way to inflict pain and injury. According to kalari lore, people have 12 marma points that, when hit with a knockout blow, can cause instant death. These areas were so important that soldiers even used armor to protect their horses' marma points while riding into battle.

Along with their ability to kill, however, comes an ability to heal. Wounded kalari fighters were nursed back to health with marma therapy. Practitioners used marma-point massage to stimulate healing in areas that corresponded to the soldier's injuries. If a warrior suffered a blow to the small intestines, for example, the marma point on the back of the calf, which corresponds directly with the upper intestine, would be massaged to trigger a healing flow of energy to the injury. Eventually, Ayurvedic physicians around India learned of the technique's powers and brought kalari masters into hospitals to teach the art. Soon, marma-point training became mandatory for surgeons, who would take great pains to work around specific points lest they risk a patient's life. Today marma-point massage is still a respected component of Ayurvedic healing.

Marma massage today

In summary, simulating or massaging the marma points gives benefits to the area of their locations and improves the function of the connecting organs.

The marma massage itself is approximately 60 to 90 minutes of duration followed by steam bath or warm shower.

The above is only a brief outline to marma massages. Ideally, marma massages should be first consulted with a qualified ayurvedic physcian and performed by experienced therapists. The marma massage can be used as a part of a rejuvenation therapy or it could be used as preventative measure from unwanted conditions. Either way, marma massage is a really useful way to help improve or maintain an individual's health balance.