I’ve been a long-time sufferer of headaches since I was about 14 years old. I missed the last four weeks of my 8th grade year due to intense migraines which caused me to become nauseous and kept me from feeling able to get out of bed. I absolutely believe that without yoga in my life, this pattern would be occuring much more than it has since I started practicing.
But I still do get headaches. I also am stubborn when it comes to medicine. My philosophy is that when you’re in pain – you are feeling that pain for a reason, and if we constantly mask the pain with medication – we’re missing the big picture, and could be affecting our overall health in the long run. For example – if you’re getting headaches because of poor posture, and instead of correcting your posture you continue to pop 3 advil… you will forget the pain is there, you will not notice that your posture is affecting your headaches, and many years from now… you will be stuck with poor posture and a host of other correlated health problems such as tension headaches, bone spurs, herniated discs, shallow breathing and back pain.
As an alternative to pain meds, I have adopted a lifestyle and diet that has helped me at least keep the headaches at minimumm (compared to where they used to be). If you are someone who gets headaches regularly – I highly suggest getting tested for food allergies. I found out this summer that I was intolerant to gluten and dairy. Since adjusting my diet, I have noticed not only minimal headaches, but also higher energy levels. Since practicing yoga almost daily, I also have few headaches. When I stop practicing, they pop up again.
Here are a few poses I recommend to those suffering from headaches…
The flowing motion of breath through the spine here will help release tension from the neck and your upper back. Try to really emphasize rounding the spine and tucking in the chin to chest.
Twists will help increase circulation through the spine. The twisting motion in the upper spine (cervical region) often alleviates tension coming from the scalene muscles of the neck (anterior aspect). From my personal experience many of my headaches are a result of tension in the neck.
Sometimes tension in the back is a result of muscle dominance in the front of the body (slouching forward). Expanding the chest and front shoulder muscles helps break down muscular imbalances and frees the tension coming from the neck.
Eagle arms can be expressed simply standing in tadasana, in a warrior pose, or even sitting in a chair. The asana of the arms will expand your back and reach into the mid/upper region targeting the problematic muscles around your shoulder blades and base of the neck. Hold the pose here, squeeze, slow the breath, and remember ot repeat on both sides (once with right arm under left, once with left arm under right).
A gentle flow of blood will circulate to the head helping relieve tension. Remember that you should feel comfortable here. If your neck is strained place a pillow beneath you or extend the arms out infront of you.
Take savasana. Meditate. Do what you need to do to just relieve some stress which is likely a major cause of your headaches.
Here is also a useful youtube video that goes through a few more exercises you can do to relieve headaches. The key is to stay on top of whatever your regimen is. Don’t wait until yo get a headache to decide to stop eating so much sugar, or to correct your posture. Prevention is key.