Many years ago before I started practising yoga I used to suffer from headaches. They could be a daily occurrence and at times they were so bad that they tipped over into the excrutiating pain and sickness of migraine, which would wipe me out for 24 hours, during which I had to take to a darkened room.
At the time I had retrained to teach modern languages in a school where the head of department was less than supportive and I was going through an acrimonious divorce with two small children to look after -so I had bucket loads of tension and stress.
Sometimes we can’t ditch the stress but there are ways of coping with it, so our health isn’t adversely affected. I was reminded of that yesterday when I was attending a day of yoga with Joan Stonehouse. Joan remarked that yoga isn’t just what we practise on the mat- it also offers us a ‘tool box’ for daily life: we can select the appropriate yoga tools at times of physical, mental or emotional need. I find that very reassuring.
Here are some the useful tools from the yoga toolbox for reducing tension headaches:
Pause and take time out by breathing calmly -allow the exhalation to draw out so it’s twice as long as the inhalation and let the breath become smooth and steady.
Be aware of posture -stand and sit tall, but relaxed, shoulders away from ears and unhunched (Being round shouldered is unhelpful, as the further forward the head is, the heavier it is to support). Poor posture affects your respiratory system and blood circulation to the brain; which can cause muscle tension—resulting in a headache.
Relax your jaw and rest your tongue gently in the mouth rather than clamping it to the roof of the mouth.
Gentle neck exercises keeping shoulders still.
Chant – maybe not when you have a headache!- but the healing power of chanting is well recognised and the sounds YA YOU YAI can help release tension in the jaw.
Stress is unhelpful for so many things and has recently proved to be a key factor in ageing badly. I can vouch for the fact that yoga definitely helps reduce stress. (Please feel free to contact me for other suggestions for reducing tension headaches with yoga.)