The Secrets of Marma

Marma Therapy

Marma are the vital areas of the body. The word Marma comes from Sanskrit origin word ‘mri’ meaning   death. The Sanskrit phrase, ‘Marayate Iti Marmani’, also  means  death or serious damage to body or health after infliction to the point of their situation .  Hence  these areas are called Marma. In siddha system of medicine they are called Varma.

Marma in Sanskrit means hidden or secret. By definition, a Marma point is a junction on   body where two or more types of tissue meet, such as muscles, veins, ligaments, bones or joints.

During ancient times, knowledge of Marma was known to kings and warriors. It was applied in battle fields to hit and achieve maximum lethal effect on enemies. This science was used both in warfare and surgery. From common ailments to serious neuromuscular diseases, all can be treated by Marma therapy.

Common ailments like headache, bodyache, faulty spinal alignment, pain in the joints can be rejuvenated through Marma Chikitsa, which involves Swedana, Abhayanga, Pizhichil, and Kizhi (bolus) treatment. Kizhi treatment is a therapy wherein herbs are slightly fried, wrapped in muslin cloth and tied to make a bolus, heated in medicinal oils in a frying pan and placed on the area to be treated. This is followed by specific massage   using   fingers, heel or palm. The pressure application varies according to the nature of ailment and the point of application.

Sushruta Samhita describes 108 Marma points in body. In Tamil traditions, 108 Marma points are enumarated, and in Kalari tradition of kerala 365 Marma points are in practice. Major marma points correspond to   seven Chakras, or energy centers of the body, while minor points radiate out along the trunk and limbs. The points cover both the front and back of the 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 own name based on their anatomical position.

The human body, needs shodhana(revitalisation) in order to perform its function normally and efficiently. In Ayurvedic system, especially in kerala, Marma massage is performed as a routine in preventive medicine. A professional therapist isolates Marma points and tone them  by increasing   blood flow to   affected part of the neuro-muscular junction. They also aim to tone the surrounding muscles.

History of Marma Massage

Marma-point massage dates back to southern India year 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 point  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 armour to protect their horses’ Marma points while riding into battle.

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  injuries. For blow to  intestines, for example, the Marma point on the back of  calf, which correspond    with the transverse part of  large intestine, is massaged to trigger  flow of energy to induce healing.   Ayurvedic physicians, all over India learnt the importance of this art and hired kalari masters in hospitals to teach  . Soon, Marma-point  training became mandatory for surgeons, who worked around specific points to prevent risk to life. Today marma-point massage is still a respected component of Ayurvedic healing.

Classification of Marma

  1. SADYAH PRANAHARA MARMA : When a Marma   point is injured, due to the spontaneous loss of   Prana vayu , death is certain.
  2. KALANTARA PRANAHARA MARMA : These Marmas result in kalanthara (gradual) loss of life ( pranahara), after  lapse of some time.
  3. VISHALYAGHNA : The word shalya refers to a foreign body. When a foreign body pierces these varieties of Marma, the injured person survives as long as the foreign body remains at the place of injury. But on removal, it results in   death of the individual.
  4. VAIKALYAKARA : These varieties of Marma when subjected to injury, cause  deformity of those organs which are dependent on that particular Marma for their energy distribution. The word Vikalya or Vaikalya means deformity.
  5. RUJAKARA MARMA : These Marmas neither result in deformity nor cause death, but results in excruciating pain (ruja), when injured.

A Gist of Certain Individual Marmas used in treating diseases

  1. KSHIPRA MARMA: It is pronounced as ‘Xipra’.It is totals four in number (two in the hands & two in the legs). In hands, it can be easily felt between   index finger and  thumb  , whereas in foot, it lies between the big  and the second toe. The width of this Marma is said to be one centimeter, by Acharya Sushrutha. On analysis, the structures present beneath this Kshipra Marma are supposed to be, a branch of Radial nerve in the hand.
  2. MANIBANDHA MARMA: Are two in number, one for each upper limb. It falls under the category of Sandhi (Joint) Marma. It can be easily located on the ventral aspect of the wrist joint. Beneath this two to three centimeter width of Manibandha Marma, lies the Inter-carpal ligaments and nerves.
  3. KATIKATHARUNA MARMA: Being an Asthi (Bone) Marma, of width of one centimeter, the Katikatharuna lies on either side of the spine in the waist region  adjacent to the sacro-iliac joint. The structures beneath it are analysed to be iliac bone, iliac artery & ligaments of the sacro-Iliac joint.

Five Basic Catagories of Marma Points

  1. Mamsa Marma(Muscles) 11 Points
  2. Asthi Marma  (Bones) 8Points
  3. Snayu Marma (Tendons &ligamants)27Points
  4. Sandhi Marma(Joints)20Points
  5. Shira Marma(Nerves,Veins&Arteries)41Points

Tradditional Marma Recognises three categories

  1. Shakha Marma(Legs&Feet)
  2. Madhyamanga Marma(Trunk)
  3. Jatrudhara Marma(Neck&Head)

Role of Marma

There are four basic purposes of Marma:

  1. It remove  blocks in energy channels called shrotas.
  2. It pacifies vata dosha, (air and space elements ), bringing it to its normal path— especially vyana vata, (a sub-dosha which controls the autonomic nervous system.)
  3. It creates physical, mental and emotional flexibility.  Because of ama (toxins) and because of vata, human beings after 35 or 40 years of age become rigid — and this happens to animals and plants as well.  As vata increases in   body, it leads to degeneration.  This rigidity  means becoming fixed in ideas, emotions and physical movements.
  4. This gentle treatment creates an opportunity to experience powerful and dynamic transformation at the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level  by building a positive link with the unconscious mind.  Many a times, people are not able to go outside their ‘comfort zone’.  They think they have absolute limitations.  After Marma is done, they can start taking positive risks.

Therapeutic value of Marma

Marma is beneficial for many conditions, including the following:

  1. Muscular and joint pain
  2. Frozen joints
  3. Muscular strain
  4. Respiratory conditions
  5. Digestion and elimination problems
  6. Nervous system disorders
  7. Headaches and migraines
  8. General aging problems
  9. Glandular tissues
  10. Anxiety and depression
  11. Stress response, fears and phobias
  12. Confusion, memory loss and mental focus
  13. Low energy and fatigue
  14. Breaking through limited belief systems

Diseases Curable & Manageable By Marma Chikitsa

To name a few diseases in which Marma chikitsa is highly appreciated in giving cure are :

  1. Paralysis
  2. Sciatic pain
  3. Migraine
  4. Tremors
  5. Diabetic neuropathy
  6. Muscular twitching & cramps
  7. Trigeminal Neuralgia
  8. Facial or Bell’s palsy
  9. Urinary incontinence
  10. Lumbar Spondilitis
  11. Lumbar Spondilolisthesis (Disc bulge or prolapse)
  12. Cervical Spondilitis
  13. Cervical Spondilolisthesis (Disc bulge or prolapse)
  14. Frozen shoulder (periarthritis)
  15. Carpal tunnel syndrome
  16. Muscular and joint pain
  17. Frozen joints
  18. Muscular strain
  19. Respiratory conditions
  20. Digestion and elimination problems

Marma Chikitsa is an important aspect of  Ayurvedic  treatment  where the application of pressure on these Marma points induces the flow of vital energy (prana) along a complex system of subtle channels called (nadis). Based on the knowledge enumerated in Dhanurveda ( dealing with knowledge of bow and arrow fights), 108 therapeutic Marma points are recognised by   Ayurveda. The injury to some of these lethal Marma points can lead to instant death. Massage is widely applied in the treatment of Marmas.

Marma Massage Today

In summary, stimulating or massaging   Marma points give  benefits to the area of their location  and improves the function of the connecting organs.   The Marma massage   is approximately of 60 to 90 minutes of duration, followed by steam bath or warm shower.  Given above is only a brief outline of Marma massage . Ideally, Marma massage  should be   performed by experienced therapists, in consultation of a qualified ayurvedic physician. The Marma massage can be used as a part of a rejuvenation therapy or it could be used as preventive measure from unwanted conditions. Either way, Marma massage is  really useful  to help improve or maintain a healthy balance.

Thus healing through Marma abhayangam affects the chakras, Physical health and   doshas. The purpose of   Marma Abhayangam is to stimulate the various body organs and systems.

Marma therapy focuses on energizing the body to relieve occupational illness and stress related diseases. Often, it helps the couples to re-establish harmony in marital life. Here, Kalari master is the spiritual Guru, Counsellor and physiotherapist all rolled into one. Marma Chikitsa (therapeutic treatment  ) is an offshoot of   Kalaripayattu; Kerala’s martial art.

School of Martial Arts

In Kerala, Marma therapy joins the streams of Siddha & Kalari. Marma Chikitsa brings equilibrium between  tridosha vatta, pitta and kapha. These three elements form the essence of life.

Marma Chikitsa is basically a neuromuscular and orthopaedic science. Oil therapy or Snehana is an important part of Marma chikitsa. Warm, medicated oils are applied in large amount all over the body, the medicated oils are used on specific body sites such as on  Chakras and Marma points or at specific affected spots . The body is then massaged using these oils.

Marma treatment encompasses healing, massage and physical flexibity and is available  in Kerala only.   One can learn this art in  two to three years. Though this ancient art is gradually finding its way back into the mainstream of life, it has retained its exclusivity through a strong guru-disciple tradition. However, post independence, Government of India constituted Udupa committee for the development of Ayurveda and that committee gave its recommendation for the popularisation of this therapy amongst all Ayurveda physicians in the country.