Gentle Marma Massage for Tending the Heart
Ayurveda offers us so many ways to nourish and care for the heart, which can be a powerful component to any self-care routine—especially for those of us who feel things deeply, are sensitive to our environment, and tend to take on the weight of the world.
Ayurveda’s tools for tending the heart include such things as incorporating a nourishing sattvic diet with awareness of how food affects our emotional state and using heart-healthy herbs and rasayanas that affect the cardiovascular system and regulate blood flow. There are also yoga asanas that work on opening the chest area, pranayama practices to affect the way prana (life force) flows through the nadis, and mantras that vibrate in the heart space.
Another way to rejuvenate and open the heart is through Ayurvedic self-massage with oils infused with heart balancing herbs, or with a basti during panchakarma—saturating the heart in a pool of warm oil. And there is marma chikitsa.
Learning self-care protocols to stimulate these points is a wonderful way to open the chest and receive innumerable benefits. It alleviates tightness in the chest area, clears stagnation in the lungs, enhances pranic flow and easeful breathing, supports breast health, soothes the heart, and balances emotions.
Marma Points for a Happy Heart
There are five sets of paired bilateral marma points close to the midline of the chest that all benefit the heart, lungs, and breasts. These pairs are called Apasthambha, Hrid 1, 2, and 3, and Stanya Mula. In addition, Hridayam (which means “heart” in Sanskrit) is a point on the midline that can be combined with these 10 points to create a heart-balancing protocol.
*Note: Anguli is the unit of measurement for the marma points and equal to the width of the middle finger.
- Apasthambha: Means “the pillar for the heart and lungs” because it acts to stabilize prana. It is located 1 anguli bilateral from the midline of the chest in the second intercostal space.
- Hrid 1, 2, and 3: Three paired points that are just inferior to Apasthambha. Hrid means “heart.” They are 2 anguli bilateral from the midline and sternum. Hrid 1, 2, and 3 are located in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th intercostal spaces respectively.
- Stanya Mula: means “the root of the breast.” It is slightly superior to the xiphisternal junction (very bottom of the sternum) and the center of the xiphoid process. It is 1 anguli bilateral from the midline of the chest.
- Hridayam is on the anterior midline at the level of the 3rd intercostal space and level with Hrid 1.
Herbs and Techniques to Support the Heart
Working with all five sets of paired marmani (multiple points) combined with Hridayam is an effective way to support the health of the heart, lungs, and breasts. Stimulation of these points can occur through multiple mediums of touch, vibration with tuning forks, color therapy, breathwork, or meditating on a marma point.
Massaging the marma points with a warm herbal oil can help to balance any affected dosha, or you can even create a paste made of the heart tonic arjuna for a deeper effect. Simply mix water and arjuna powder and apply as you would a mask to your face.
In my own self-care routine, I prefer to use Banyan’s Breast Care Balm when I work on these points. Made with tulsi and palmarosa, this balm is excellent for supporting respiratory and lymphatic health. I apply some of the balm to my fingers and then gently massage it onto my chest and breasts before stimulating the individual marma points.
It is common for these points to be tender or sensitive to the touch. Blocked prana can result from emotional obstruction and deep-seated emotions that have yet to come to the surface.
A Healing Ritual of Self-Care
Marma chikitsa utilizes the healing power in our own fingertips to support ourselves with simple and effective self-care routines. The following ritual brings the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda into your daily life, offering an invitation to honor and care for your heart simply because you deserve to feel nurtured and loved!
Follow along with these steps and watch the accompanying video demonstration for a simple marma protocol to massage and nourish your heart. This ritual can be done daily to unwind pent-up emotions and bring peace and balance to the heart.
- Start by counting down the intercostal spaces of the rib cage starting at the medial end of the clavicle near your sternum. When you find the second intercostal space, stimulate Apasthambha marma by holding for 5 slow, deep breaths.
- Find Hrid 1,2, and 3 and stimulate these points all together while holding for 5–10 breaths. If there is tenderness, simply lighten your touch.
- Find Stanya Mula and hold this point for 5 slow, deep breaths.
- Repeat this process, working on these 5 sets of paired marmani and lengthening the stimulation time with longer, deeper breaths.
- Once these 10 energy points have softened and opened, you are ready to go deeper and finish with Hridayam marma at the center of the chest. I call this a master marma point because it is a powerful pranic reset point, influencing both body and mind. It offers deep emotional release—whether it is from stress, anxiousness, grief, heartbreak, rage, or sadness—and creates more space in the heart for joy, hopefulness, and peace.