Author: Bethany Pinto, Registered Yoga Teacher RYT 200®
Headaches are common ailments that can range from occasional discomfort to chronic, debilitating pain. There are many types of headaches that are the result of psychological triggers, food sensitivities or environmental stressors. For example, you could develop a headache from a highly stressful work related or personal situation, from eating something that may trigger a migraine for you, from overexposure to second hand cigarette smoke, or from caffeine or nicotine withdrawal. It’s important to pay attention to your own body and perhaps keep a record of what may be going on in your life if regular headaches occur.
If you are suffering from tension headaches characterized by dull, constant pain and pressure all around your head, yoga may be a natural source of pain relief. This type of headache results when the muscles supporting your head become tense and tight from overuse, poor posture and unconscious clenching (like your jaw).
Try these yoga postures to gently stretch and realign the muscles in your neck, shoulders and chest to help naturally relieve tension headache pain.
Matsyasana (Fish Pose): Tension in your jaw from constantly clenching your back teeth together (or teeth grinding or cheek biting) will tighten and shorten the muscles in the front of your neck. Fish pose will relax these muscles and open up your chest.
Shashankasana (Hare Pose): Since your head weighs as much as a bowling ball, holding it up all day causes strain on the neck. Try Hare pose to lengthen the muscles in the back of your neck and create space between your shoulder blades. Also, this gentle inversion brings blood flow to your head, and creates a comforting effect from being curled up into yourself.
Garudasana (Eagle Pose Arms): Poor posture is a huge culprit for those suffering from tension headaches. Constantly hunched over a computer or slumped on the couch will surely throw your head, neck and shoulders out of alignment. The gentle binding of the arms in Eagle pose will stretch tight shoulders.
Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose Arms): Cow Face pose is another posture that will loosen up tense shoulders. You may find the use of a strap beneficial at first to guide you if your hands don’t touch in the back.
Pashchima Namaskarasana (Reverse Prayer Pose): This pose will allow you to open up your chest and shoulders, bringing much needed relief to the front side of your body. Begin by clasping your elbows in your hands behind your back, depending on your flexibility, before placing your palms together.
Initially, it may not seem like these poses are actually effective in relieving your headache, especially if you experience difficulty while practicing them. Remember, by breathing deeply while gently holding all of these poses, you will gradually soften even the tensest muscles. And as you continue to practice, you may find the occurrence of these painful headaches decreasing over time!