Exploring Wisdom: Revathi Raghavan on Marma
When combined with panchakarma, the practice of marma can help you find a profound sense of rest and release. We recently spoke with Revathi Raghavan, Marma Chikitsa Trainer, Ayurvedic Practitioner and Art of Living retreat host, about her journey with marma, and why she thinks it’s an essential addition to your panchakarma experience.
AOLRC: Can you explain what, exactly, marma is?
R: The word marma literally means mortal, sensitive or vulnerable. The term comes from the suchi veda, a part of Ayurveda, and it said to have origins in the martial arts and used on the battlefield to defeat enemies. Another theory is that it originated from Dhanur Veda, one of the four “upavedas” along with Ayurveda, Gandharva Veda (Music) and Staapatya Veda (vastu). Warriors wore protective armor to guard their vital points. Marma points are hidden, secret and vital. Hidden because you can’t see them, they are both inside and on the surface of the body. They’re anatomically thought of to be present at the junction of muscles, ligaments, bones, joints, tendons, and nerves. They’re sort of between mind and matter – that’s why they’re hidden. These points are also full of prana, or consciousness, which is why we refer to them as vital. It was also kept secret so that it is not misused – the knowledge was guarded and passed on mainly within families or through teacher-disciple relationship.
Sometimes we hear stories of people who are in accidents, and who may not have sustained any external injuries, but they die. Often, it’s because their vital marma points have been hit. There are points that can cause death or injury. When the same points are used therapeutically they bring enormous healing benefits.
According to Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, it is one of the most restorative therapies. The practice of Marma or Marma Chikitsa is through gentle pressure or stimulation of these vital points. This releases any stresses or blocks held in the nadis for a long time and allows for free flow of prana or energy, thereby bringing deep relaxation and rejuvenation. It is one of the most direct ways of harmonizing prana in an individual. I like to think of Marma Vidya (Science of Marma) as the grandfather of acupressure.
AOLRC: And what are the benefits of marma?
R: The practice of marma has benefits on the body, mind and spirit. On the bodily level, it brings about hydration, nourishment, hormonal balance, pain relief, balances doshas, revitalizes organs, balances digestion and elimination, relaxes muscles and is generally cleansing. On the mind level, marma strengthens, balances the gunas, helps the mind be more in the present moment, improves perception, understanding and communication. Of course it helps us clear emotions and release stresses and achieve a deep state of relaxation. It also helps clear out any fogginess thus bringing clarity.
We live in a very stimulated environment today. People are constantly engaging their senses and there is enormous pressure to be someone and achieve something. There is also a overuse and misuse of our senses and we end up spending countless hours on television, ipads, kindles, laptops, and you-name-it gadgets. Everyone has goals, naturally, but there is so much pressure, hurried movement and competition that we’ve begun to live in this “vata” aggravated environment. Marma gives us a break from all of this and helps release some of the stresses brought on by the overuse/misuse of the senses.
AOLRC: What inspired you to learn and teach marma?
R: I had a wonderful experience receiving marma in Bangalore ashram once, and I’ve been fascinated ever since. I’ve been an Ayurvedic practitioner for many years now, and during my training, I delved into many panchakarma therapies, including abhyanga, shirodhara, nasya, swedana, virechana, and bastis. But I felt like my Ayurvedic training wasn’t complete without learning about marma chikitsa. I had the opportunity to learn from Ann Revington, the director of the Sri Sri Ayurveda programs in Canada, in our Texas ashram, which is where my journey with marma began.
AOLRC: In your experience, what is the common experience that participants have with marma?
R: It’s amazing to see how marma affects people. Even just doing a few points, people go into such a deep state of rest or relaxation. It’s wonderful to see the stress and tension just melt away. People have reported and shared healing of all kinds. They are able to sleep better at night, let go of anxiety, relief from body aches/pain, rest like they have never gotten in years, also have a deep meditative experience. Marma is safe for all ages and groups of people. It is beneficial for post-shock and trauma, illnesses (including cancer), injury, surgery, anxiety, insomnia and many other conditions.
It’s important for the practitioner to be on a regular sadhana practice, so that they’re stress-free and centered themselves. Giving someone an experience of marma is a very meditative experience, and both the practitioner and the recipient tend to achieve a profound state of meditation, and a deep sense of intimacy and oneness with each other and the universe.
AOLRC: Why the Art of Living Retreat Center?
R: When I’m here, I feel home. I don’t feel like going back to my real world! Everyone takes such wonderful care of each other here. The kitchen staff, the office, event organizers, the teachers, the participants – so courteous and sincere and go out of there way to make you feel comfortable. You can tell that everyone here is very passionate about what they do. I feel so comfortable here, so welcome. And yes, of course, the food is delicious!!
Experience the deep and restorative practice of marma at one of our many Panchakarma Retreats, and/or join Revathi for our next Marma practitioner training in July or October. You can also join her for a skin and beauty workshop “Beauty From Within” in July or October.
Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
Exploring Wisdom: This is Me Dancing
My heart felt achy; heavy in my chest. It was a strange yet familiar feeling, a combination of an ice block in my core right alongside a sensation of longing. I could feel my arms, legs, and hips move with the rhythm of the music. With each step, reach, bend I felt like I was melting that ice away, opening deeper into my experience of myself. What is this feeling?
Loneliness… sadness… heartache…“that’s it,” I thought to myself, and all the while my body kept pulsing, moving, kept expressing this deep sadness via the way my limbs crumbled, extended, folded, and launched my body through space. Here I am. I am heartache. This is me. I am dancing.
Dance is Expression
Dance has always been a way for us to express and connect. An ancient way to find a mate, go to war, celebrate birth and death and get in touch with so many wordless aspects of the human experience. I postulate that dance in its most sincere form is not just about connection to another, it is also about fostering an intimate connection with ourselves as well. Movement is a way to experience and communicate those deep emotions that well up from the insides of us. The ones that we may have a hard time processing with language alone.
For me, heartache is one of those hard to feel and hard to share emotions. What I mean is to share from a place of feeling, not just talking. I can report about my sadness or loneliness to you in words, but there’s a way this content-driven means of communication can feel hollow for me, and maybe for you, too, as the listener. We are hard-wired to communicate our feelings through the subtle and unsubtle movements of our face, hands, and every other part of our body. When I allow my body to move out my grief through the vehicle of dance to an evocative song, or off the dance floor when my movements and facial expressions tell you how I feel as my voice is silent…that is when we can often feel the most deeply touched by the experience of another.
Dance is Healing
The healing trick for me here is this. Attunement. Attunement to self, then another. The first step in the process is to allow ourselves to first become aware of our own felt experience. Once we are in touch with those feelings, we can choose movements and gestures to help us land even deeper into our experience. When we are embodied, fully connected to our felt sense we can then move in a way that feels alive and congruous. Dance and expressive movement is a way that I get to know me better, and then share me with others in a way the feels soulful and rich.
Throughout my life there has been nothing quite so healing as having the dance of my truth. Whether that’s sorrow, joy, power, or softness with others who are dancing their truth. It has been particularly sacred when my fellow dancers and I echo and mirror movements…then I know they get it. They get me. My pain is their pain and vice versa. “Just like me….” This seeing a reflection of my movements, this feeling of unison, of community through dance can often blast through my frozen heart in a far superior way than words. As my fellow dancers and I fall into moving together a connection forms like no other off the dance floor.
Dance is Connection
Turns out that this feeling of peace and well-being after dancing isn’t just my experience or the experience of a finite group of people. While listening to NPR’s Morning Edition earlier this summer I heard a report on a recent research study out of the University of Oxford on the profound health benefits of group dance. They found that people who danced together in synchrony had a higher pain threshold than those who didn’t dance, or those who danced without mirroring others.
Dance is a way that we connect, that we attune to each other, that we feel felt by another. Humans are a social species. Our survival, growth, and evolution are dependent in part upon our ability to connect with our community. Dance has been and continues to be an integral part of the human experience. My suggestion is that when we add self-attunement with dance, this is a recipe with endless healing potential.
So the research is in. Dance. Get out there and do it. Whether you go sign up for ballroom, get your best friends together in your living room, or come to one of my Shake Your Soul classes, dance is a powerful way to befriend your body, other people, and create a sense of well-being and peace inside and out.
– Heather Bilotta
Heather Bilotta, RSMT
A passionate believer in the healing power of self-expression and the importance of connection to community, Heather is a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist, Certified Shake Your Soul® Instructor, SomaSoul® Practitioner, and Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra® Teacher. Heather teaches at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, Cranwell Golf Resort, and beyond. Read more of Heather’s thoughts on her blog.
Express, connect, and heal at Shake Your Soul: The Yoga of Dance, from June 23 – 25, 2017. Click here to learn more.
Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.
Exploring Wisdom: Illuminating the World With KiMani Divine
Self-love is so important, and here at the Art of Living Center, you can cultivate that at the deepest part of your being, and begin to recognize and remember that you are loved. The presence of God lives inside of you, so you are worth your own time, your own attention, and your own devotion. That’s the message of Art of Living Center guest facilitator KiMani Divine’s work; making time for yourself, taking time to go within. We recently spoke with KiMani about the far-reaching effects of self-love.
We have all struggled with learning to love ourselves exactly how we are. The most powerful lesson I’ve learned through self-reflection is that I don’t need any fixing. I am a simply a vessel for the light of the universe. When I deny that light, when I do not honor myself just as I am, I am denying my purpose.
The Light That I Am is the Light That You Are
When we all understand that our own light is bright enough, just as we are, then we empower others to find their own light as well. We are all one light. The light that I am is the light that you are. There is only one, and in that oneness, we can illuminate the world.
When you are restless, or feeling negative, or focusing too much on the outside world, the first thing you must do is to become aware. You can’t make any significant changes in your life until you’re aware of your own negative patterns of behavior and thought. This is why self-reflection is a huge part of meditation.
The Power of Prayer
Spending time in prayer and meditation is the foundation of my life. It’s like breathing. I can’t get along without it. Every thought, every word becomes a prayer. And when I retreat to the silence of my own mind, I receive answers to those prayers. I receive answers through how I think about myself, how I think about others, how I think about experiences. And when I begin to understand the answers to my prayers, I can put them into context – knowing that when I give out love, I receive love. When I think loving thoughts to myself, when I’m quiet within myself, that is where the love I’m seeking can be found. In this way, I’m truly able to give love without needing anything in return.
I find that it’s helpful to journal about your inner state – I have journals that go back all the way to 1990! When I go back over them, sometimes I’m astounded that I thought the things I did. Journaling is an act of release. It gets the thoughts out of you, out of your mind, and onto paper, where you can begin to understand them from a new perspective.
Humanity is a Diamond
We are all on a wonderful and sacred journey, and every single journey on the planet is leading to the One. The one space, the one time, the one journey – the One. Unity. Humanity is like a diamond. There are so many facets, so many peaks and planes, and we tend to conceptualize ourselves as different, separate points of the diamond. We think of ourselves ans individuals, but really, we are part of a whole. If a single peak of the diamond is illuminated, the rest of the diamond is as well. One point of light can echo through the entirety of the diamond. In this way, we are truly one. When we connect, when we show compassion, our level of love, and acceptance through self-love, transforms the whole of humanity.
Learn more about KiMani Divine here.
Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.