I just happen to know a thing or two about yoga and a LOT about headaches as I’ve suffered them most of my life. It was actually my headaches that got me started with yoga. I’ve gone from having chronic daily headaches to maybe just one or two a month and I attribute it all to yoga. For all those headache sufferers out there who are tired and fed up, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Gentle yoga, relaxation and meditation can be really natural cures to chronic tension headaches.
Learn how to relax
My biggest piece of advice is learning how to relax. It sounds so easy but for someone in pain or with chronic tension it is frustratingly hard to do, but it can be done. Start with being aware of your body and where the tension resides. Consciously relax your jaw, this is a biggie for Temporo Mandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) sufferers. You also need to be aware of your shoulders rising up towards your ears and make a conscious effort to draw your shoulder blades down your back. Posture is another biggie, if you’re constantly slouching, you’re constantly straining your back muscles which will create tension headaches.
Ditch the panadol and roll out your yoga mat
These poses are more for prevention and should be done daily if you get daily headaches. If you need to take pain killers, go for it (they’ve certainly been a life saver for me) but they’re just a band aid, prevention is much better.
1. Get upside down either in Uttanasana or Wide-leg standing forward fold. The leg position is just personal preference, but the goal here is to decompress your upper back and neck. Do this for 20 deep breaths and really let your head hand and your neck relax. This is not recommended for pregnant people and if you feel dizzy, come out sooner.
2. Neck stretches. Gently drop one ear to the shoulder and reach out with the opposite hand to feel the stretch into the whole neck and upper arm. Be gentle, but hold this pose for 30 breaths.
3. Shoulder release. You can do Eagle Arms (with elbows crossed in front of your face to stretch the rhomboids and trapezius) , Cow Face Arms ( being one hand between your shoulder blades with the elbow pointing up and reach around with your other hand behind your back to either grab your fingers or your clothing, then puff your chest open) or interlace your fingers behind your back and open the chest.
4. Cat and lion – so simple yet so effective to release tension from the spine.
5. Melting heart pose with the elbows bent and palms to a prayer behind your head.
What to do when the headache has started
Once the freight train of a cracking headache is heading to your station, you might want to try these things:
1. Have a drink of water
2. Put a heat pack on your neck or shoulders
3. Give your temples, jaw or the back of your head a massage
4. Ground your forehead in child’s pose
5. Try out one of Cranio Cradles on sale at the studio.
Help for chronic pain sufferers
I’m gauging interest from people with chronic pain conditions such as TMJ, migraines, headaches, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia to see if they’d be interested in a four week Relaxation and Stress Management course at the studio. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested.