We all know about Chinese acupoints. And most of us have heard of Chakras, usually associated with yoga.  But ayurvedic vital points?

Yes! Ayurveda has 107 vital points, known as Marmas. According to the class notes,”these points are the seats of life or life concentrated in these points. [Their locations are defined by] the anatomical sites where muscles, veins, ligaments, bones and joints meet [and nerves may be present, as well]. The word marma means vulnerable or sensitive zones. These specific points on the body are related through channels of prana [breath or life force] to various internal organs.”

Here are a few features of marmas:

  • Classified according to: location, number, size with what body structure they are associated, and result when injured
  • Located on the surface level, deeper inside joints/ligaments, and inside the body (e.g. mouth)
  • Have distal as well as local effects, physical as well as mental-emotional effects
  • Respond to massage and acupressure

What I found most fascinating about this topic is that some are in the exact same location as Chinese acupoints.  (In fact, some I was labeling by their Chinese name to help remember their location.) But in most cases, the marma‘s location includes an area much bigger than a single acupoint. I was trying to find a chart showing both sets overlaying on each other to show their true similarities or differences, but it seems til now no one has made one and posted it online (hint-hint). Looking at the diagram above next to this one, you can still seem the overlap I was referring to.

My second fascination with this topic was how Ayurveda targets and acts on the marmas. While massage (for 5 minutes per point) is the primary way, they also advise acupressure: press, hold briefly, and release; repeat. The third element in stimulating marmas is the application of herbs usually in the form of medicated oils, decoction, or paste, and often combined with sweating.

While not a novel approach, this additionally confirms that certain key points on the body can be stimulated for positive internal effects without the use of needles (as in acupuncture).  This should make needle-wary people happy and support the notion that at-home self-treatment with acupressure or massage can have beneficial effects. The trick then becomes learning the uses and combinatory results of the points.