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Marma is a type of massage based in the traditional Indian practice of ayurvedic medicine. It is a physical and spiritual practice which aims to balance the body with the manipulation of pressure points in a fashion similar to Chinese acupuncture, but without penetration of the skin. The massage focuses on the junctures where tissues connect in the body, including bones, joints, and muscles. There are numerous primary pressure points in marma practice, each of which are each related to one of six vital elements. Manipulation of these points is believed to encourage the flow of energy throughout the body.
Three of the vital elements of marma are known as gunas. The first is Rajas, which is connected to dynamic energy, the second is Tamas, which stands for inertia and darkness, and the third is Sattva, which symbolizes balance and purity. Other vital elements include Teja, for bile, Soma for phlegm, and Marutha for air.
Marma is a Sanskrit word used to describe fragile or sensitive body parts. For this reason, the study of marma points can be used not only to heal, but as a method of incapacitating an opponent. They are an important element in the instruction of Dhanur Veda, or Indian martial arts. The two kinds of Marma are know as lethal and therapeutic and occasionally both varieties intersect, so it can be helpful to understand both applications, whether or not the focus is on only one purpose.
Pressure points can be manipulated solely with massage or with the aid of oil and aromatherapy. The marmas are in locations primarily based on the Indian system of chakras, which are energy centers at specific places in the body. Some points that are also chakra points include the corners of the eyes, top of the head, and soles of the feet. Most points range in size from the width of one to four fingers.
The most commonly accessed marmas are close to the surface of the skin. They include all joints and the muscles and tendons around them. There are also several points that extend deeper inside the body which can be manipulated. These include the blood vessels, bladder, and heart.
According to traditional Indian ayurvedic texts, there are 107 primary marma points. While these are the most commonly manipulated and closely aligned with the chakras, many practitioners believe there are as many as hundreds more points. They include both smaller and large portions of the body, and any place that can be described as sensitive.