Energy Points of Yogic and
Dr. David Frawley
Many secrets of yogic healing can be found through the study of
Ayurveda, the traditional natural medicine of India. In fact classical
Yoga relies upon Ayurveda for its language and methodology of
healing both body and mind. Traditional Yoga therapy was included
in a greater Ayurvedic context of the healing arts, including
the use of diet, herbs and bodywork. A number of these factors
of Ayurvedic healing are now becoming introduced into the Yoga
community. Marma therapy is another important approach common
to both Yoga and Ayurveda, which deserves a greater examination.
‘Marma’ is a Sanskrit term for sensitive or vulnerable
points on the body. Injury to marmas quickly affects the health
and vitality of a person and in the case of some marmas can even
prove fatal. Another term used for marma points is ‘varma’
points. Varma refers to protective material or armor. Marmas are
regions of the body that were protected in battle in order to
safeguard the life of the warrior.
Marmas are commonly used in Indian martial arts (Dhanur Veda)
much like sensitive body points in Chinese and Japanese martial
arts. Certain marmas, touched in a specific manner, can confuse,
incapacitate, paralyze, or even kill an opponent. Dhanur Veda
trains a warrior how to recognize marma points as well as the
different blows that can be used to affect marmas in various ways.
Yet besides their usage in martial arts, marmas have an important
role in Ayurvedic medicine, which will be the main focus of our
discussion here. Beside ‘lethal marmas’, which are
of more interest to the martial arts, are ‘therapeutic marmas’,
which are more important in Ayurveda. However, these two types
of marmas do overlap and all marmas have some therapeutic value
as well as some degree of physical vulnerability.
Marma Points and Acupuncture Points
There is a tendency to equate marmas with acupuncture points,
which they do resemble. Marmas are points or areas on the body
that can be manipulated with either acupressure (done commonly)
or needles (only practiced by some Ayurvedic doctors in South
India and Sri Lanka, where it is called ‘marmapuncture’).
Marmas vary in size from _ finger lengths or digits (the most
common) to four finger lengths or about the width of the hand.
While there can be a close degree of correlation between smaller
marma points and acupuncture points, this is not always the case
relative to the larger marmas. Acupuncture points are usually
smaller in size and more specific in location.
Marmas in turn are not related to the meridian system of Chinese
medicine but to the chakra, nadi and srota-systems (channel-systems)
of Yoga. For example, chakra points like the top of the head (adhipati
marma) or the third eye (sthapani marma) are also important marma
points. Similarly, the end points of various nadis like the palms
of the hands, the soles of the feet, the corners of the eyes,
ears or nostrils are important marmas as well.
Ayurveda also treats marmas with massage, oils and aromas more
commonly than with either acupuncture or acupressure. So while
we can draw a comparison between marmas and acupuncture points
and their treatment, we should not confuse the two either.
Nature of Marma Points
Marmas are of various compositions relative to the tissues that
make them up, defined as bone, tendon, muscle, nerve or vein,
including relative to channels that carry the doshas (biological
humors) and channels that carry thought and emotion. Many marmas
are a combination of several such factors. In this regard, all
major joints like the elbow, knee, wrist and ankle contain significant
While many marmas are on the surface of the body, like points
on the hands or feet, others are internal like the heart and the
bladder, which are large marma regions. Blood vessel marmas, likes
those in the neck, are another type of internal marma.
Many marmas are on peripheral regions of the body like the arms
and legs. The head has the greatest concentration of marmas, with
special marmas governing the eyes, ears, nostrils, mouth and brain.
Yet marmas can also be found along the front and back of the trunk
Yet besides anatomically defined marmas, which are the same in
everyone, other marmas unique to an individual’s special
anatomical structure also exist. These can result from injury,
from postural distortions and other changes in our physical structure
brought on by various factors from our life-style to the aging
There are 107 prime classical marmas according to the Sushruta
Samhita, one of the oldest Ayurvedic texts, which also mentions
marmas relative to the practice of surgery. However, besides these
primary marmas are many other marmas, up to 360 according to some
healers. To some extent, any sensitive point on the body of a
person is a kind of marma or vulnerable location. The skin itself
can be regarded as a greater marma zone in which all the other
marmas are contained.
Marmas are also locations in which the doshas of vata, pitta and
kapha can be held, along with their subtle essences of prana,
tejas and ojas. As sensitive zones, marmas can hold various emotions
like fear (vata), anger (pitta) or attachment (kapha), as well
as the gunas or primary qualities of sattva (calm), rajas (aggression)
and tamas (inertia). In this regard the concept of marmas goes
beyond modern medicine and its purely physical definitions to
the main principles of mind-body medicine.
Marma and Prana
Marmas are most closely connected with prana or our vital energy.
They serve as ‘pranic control points’ on the body,
where the energy of prana can be treated, controlled, directed
or manipulated in various ways. This is perhaps the key to their
Many strictly anatomical marmas are still important pranic zones,
like points by the heart or the head, because our anatomy is created
by and serves to hold prana. Prana and vata dosha (which is connected
to prana), for example, reside and accumulate in the empty spaces
in the body, particularly in the spine and the joints. So many
marma points are located in these regions. Even in a particular
marma area, the main pranic point in it may shift or move over
time, which means that the prana at a marma is more important
than the general structure of the marma itself.
In addition, just as there are special marma points unique to
a person’s anatomical structure, there are also marma points
that are unique to a person’s energy patterns, expression
or psychology. There are non-physical marmas located in the sphere
of prana around a person, in the aura, like certain points above
or behind the head. Even the more obviously physical marmas are
an expression of a deeper energy that is the most important factor,
not simply their anatomical location. Besides the classical fixed
marmas, we must also recognize such variable and changing marmas.
We should view marmas and marma therapy more in terms of prana
and energy than in simply physical location or physical manipulation.
Marmas are important diagnostic as well as therapeutic points.
The pulse itself is one of the prime ‘vessel’ (shira)
marmas in the body, where the patient’s energy can be read
and understood. Ayurvedic practitioners routinely palpate various
marma points for diagnostic purposes during patient visits. Marma
points are important regions for gauging the doshas, their level
of accumulation and their possible disorders, particularly relative
to vata dosha, which governs pain and trauma. Any painful point
on the body becomes a kind of marma as long as the pain exists.
Marma therapy is an important tool of both disease prevention
and disease treatment in Ayurveda. It can be used to balance the
doshas, to increase agni (the digestive fire), for detoxification
(reduce ama), as well as to promote energy (vajikarana) and aid
in rejuvenation (rasayana). It can be part of special clinical
methods (like Pancha Karma) but also part of self-care and our
daily health regimen. For example, massaging marma points on the
head, like those around the eyes, ears, nostrils and mouth, is
an important way to stimulate one’s mind and senses in the
morning. Relative to diseases, marma therapy is particularly good
for arthritis and other structural problems, as well as for treating
any type of nerve pain or paralysis.
The treatment of marmas, though having many methods, is primarily
a matter of therapeutic touch. Ayurveda employs massage and pressure
(like acupressure) to marma points. It has various techniques
for massaging marma points either by themselves or along with
partial or full body massage (usually the best procedure) In its
typical fashion, Ayurveda uses special medicated massage oils
or tailas, generally herbs prepared in a sesame oil base, of which
dozens of different formulas exist manufactured by various Ayurvedic
pharmacies. Certain massage oils applied to specific marmas will
result in special therapeutic effects to increase energy, reduce
toxins, create flexibility or bring about the changes necessary
for true healing to occur.
The use of aroma therapy is another important tool for treating
marmas, either with massage oils or by themselves. Aromatic oils
have a strong ability to influence Prana and alter our energy.
Marmas can be massaged or anointed with different aromatic oils,
as per the location and conditions. As marmas are sensitive points,
they are regions that aromas can penetrate easily and influence
the entire body through them.
Stimulating oils like camphor, eucalyptus or cinnamon are used
for opening up energy at marma points, while cooling and sedating
oils like sandalwood or khus serve to calm or consolidate the
energy. Applying camphor, menthol or eucalyptus to the marmas
at the side of the nostrils to remove congestion is such a stimulating
marma therapy, while applying cooling and calming sandalwood oil
to the third eye to treat headaches is such a sedating approach.
Marma Therapy, Yoga and Prana Therapy
While much of marma therapy consists of massage and direct touch,
another significant portion consists of energy treatment or pranic
healing, in which touch may be light or even indirect. In this
regard, the prana of the healer is as important as the physical
manipulation of the marmas. We can compare this to the martial
arts in which a master with a strong chi or prana can stop or
knock down an opponent with his own energy, using only a light
touch or no touch at all. An Ayurvedic healer with a good prana
can have a strong healing effect by his prana alone, even without
using any significant touch or physical manipulation. This more
subtle or sattvic form of touch is often best for treating the
mind, emotions and deeper consciousness of the person.
A good marma therapist must therefore cultivate his or her own
prana. This requires Yoga practices for the creation of additional
prana (pranayama) and the ability to withdraw or focus prana on
to a particular point (pratyahara), which may be a point in the
body itself or even outside the body. A yogi with an awakened
prana can easily become a good pranic healer and will intuitively
find the appropriate marmas on the patient by the very power of
his healing energy. Just as water flows to a lower level even
in the absence of any other stimulus, so too the prana of the
healer will naturally flow into the weak pranic or marma points
of the patient.
Marmas enter prominently into yogic thought and yoga therapy.
As marmas carry the energy that develops from the chakras and
nadis of the subtle body, they can be used to energize the physical
body from within. As we practice Yoga, particularly pranayama,
we will naturally become aware of these pranic control points.
Great yogis have always known the secrets of marma as part of
the greater science of Yoga. Many yogis practice pranic concentration
on specific marmas to aid in the opening of the chakras and nadis
or to simply aid in relaxation and purification of the body. In
this regard, marmas can become important points in the practice
of Tantric Yoga and the arousing of the Kundalini.
Marma Therapy Resources
Marma therapy is usually included in the curriculum of Ayurvedic
training programs, of which there are several in the United States
and in the state of California. It is taught along with Ayurvedic
massage and is often used along with Pancha Karma therapy, Ayurveda’s
special detoxification approach. Many Ayurvedic centers offer
marma therapy either by itself or as part of other therapies.
A good resource in this regard is the National Ayurvedic Medical
Ask your Ayurvedic therapist about it and experience marma therapy
for yourself. There is probably no person who cannot benefit from
marma therapy in some manner or another. Often it is a transformative
tool for both treating disease and improving energy.
the book Ayurveda and Marma Therapy (Frawley, Ranade, and Lele
– Lotus Press 2003) for more information. Images in this
article reprinted with permission from Ayurveda and Marma Therapy
by Dr. David Frawley, Dr. Subhash Ranade and Dr. Avinash Lele,
Lotus Press, PO Box 325, Twin Lakes, WI 53181. ©2003 All
Dr. David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri), Director of the American
Institute of Vedic Studies, is a widely recognized teacher of
Ayurveda, Yoga and Vedic astrology. He has written over 20 books
on the various Vedic Sciences and Vedanta. He can be reached through