When was the last time you were aggravated by a headache? Perhaps you have a tension headache at work right now and that’s why you found this guide. Headaches are so common that we often have the same response. We either try to battle through in the hope it will ease or we take some painkillers. Neither option is ideal, especially when there are other factors at work.
Will yoga help with my headache?
An alternative solution is to try yoga for headaches. The right poses and breathing practices can help to alleviate the symptoms of headache and the underlying causes.
Why do we get so many headaches?
Headaches are a common ailment and pretty much anyone can get them in some form. That is because there are many types of headache. They can range from small stress headaches or mild tension headaches to debilitating migraines. There are two categories of headaches in traditional and alternative medicine.
1) Primary headache disorders
2) Secondary headache disorders
A primary headache disorder is one that originates within the brain with no noticeable external physical cause. These headaches tend to relate to brain function, mental health and similar conditions. Migraines are a common example of this primary headache as they begin within the brain. Some migraine conditions are difficult to treat because the actual root cause is so difficult to determine. Stress-related headaches and tension headaches are also in this category.
Secondary headaches are those where the pain in the head is a result of another condition. This could be a headache generated by dental/oral health issues such as jaw clenching or toothache. Many people with sinus conditions also end up with headaches as a secondary symptom. Other examples include headaches from neck stiffness problems or from substance abuse/withdrawal.
The importance of finding headache relief that works.
Headache conditions aren’t something that we can always cure easily. Secondary headache disorders can be fixed with appropriate care for the primary issue. However, primary headache disorders can be a little more difficult. The persistence of headache and their frequency across vast demographics means that many now turn to alternative therapies for headaches. Acupuncture may be too extreme for some. Yet, there is always the option of yoga.
How can yoga help headaches?
Yoga can help with headaches in many ways. This is why the practice is such a good tool the next time you feel that familiar throbbing sessions or sharp pain. The right yoga poses can target some of the possible causes of the headache and relieve the symptoms.
1) tension in the neck or shoulders that causes headaches as a secondary issue
2) addressing poor circulation to reduce pressure in the head
3) relaxation to lower stress and related stress headaches.
Tension in the neck or shoulders:
Your headache may be the result of pain or tension in your shoulders or neck. A trapped nerve, muscle tightness or any other issue here can cause further pain in your head. The right poses and transitions in yoga can help to improve those problems. By dealing with that primary disorder, you could then see relief for the secondary disorder headache. Other issues here can come from poor posture. You may get neck pain frequently from working at a desk or what is known as text neck from using a mobile device. Regular yoga sessions could help with this long-term issue.
A good starting point here is to alternate between the cat and cow poses. Start on your hands and knees with your knees aligned below your shoulders and hips. Roll your neck down, bring in your hips and arch your back while focusing on your breathing. After 5 breaths, raise your neck, raise your hips and bring in your spine. This basically reverses your posture. Do this for 5 breaths and return to the cat pose. These motions help to correct issues along the spine and around the neck.
Improving circulation for headache relief:
Some headaches can be the result of poor blood flow to and around the brain. In fact, some migraine drugs will constrict blood vessels to regulate circulation. Many yoga poses can help with circulation and blood flow around the body. A combination of these may help to improve the symptoms of migraine or other primary headache conditions.
One pose that is great for increased circulation to the brain is one that pretty much everyone has heard of. Even complete novices know the name downward dog – even if they have never tried it. This is an accessible, adaptable pose that can really help. Start on your hands and knees and make sure your hands and knees are correctly aligned with your shoulders and hip. Bring yourself up so your elbows and knees are extended and your weight is on your hands. Don’t worry if you can’t extend your knees fully on the first go. Go as far as you are comfortable. Also, don’t worry about putting your heels on the floor. That’s for those that have done this for years.
Relaxation to reduce stress:
Finally, there is the benefit of yoga for stress relief. If your headache is the result of stress, find a way to deal with that rather than the pain caused. A reduction in stress will reduce the subsequent tension. The breathing practices of yoga help here. You can focus on your breathing and holding your pose to such a degree that you don’t think about the stressful situation. All the negative energy about a bad customer, angry client or late report can disappear as you concentrate on something else.
One pose that works really well here is child’s pose. This is a simple pose that you can adapt depending on your flexibility and comfort levels. Kneel on the floor so that you are sat on your heel and focus on your breathing. When you comfortable, let your upper body lean down towards the floor with your arms extended on the ground. Hold this pose and watch your breathing to reduce stress. Ideally, you want your knees as wide apart as possible and your head on the mat. However, only go as low and wide as is comfortable.
Additional benefits of yoga for headaches are as follows:
1) User-friendly exercises that anyone can try
2) Accessible enough for use at work or at home
3) Completely natural with no need for pharmaceutical drugs
The simplicity of yoga for beginners:
There is a common misconception that you have to be a certain age, a certain size or at a certain level of fitness to do yoga. This probably stems from all the stock photos on blogs and websites of skinny young women contorting their bodies into difficult poses. Yoga is adaptable so it can suit anyone – no matter your weight, age, flexibility or underlying conditions. Look for beginner poses and focus on a safe, comfortable practice with a good breathing technique. You don’t have to fold yourself up like a pretzel to ease a headache.
The accessibility of yoga for anyone: The other wonderful thing about yoga poses is that you can do them almost anywhere that you have a peaceful space to do so. You could sit out on the grass in your garden and correct your posture while listening to nature. This will only add to the stress relief. You can put down a yoga mat in a living room and practice poses with privacy. You could even ask to use an empty room at work for 5 minutes.
The chance to do away with painkillers:
This last point is one that we can’t overlook. It is second nature to turn to painkillers and other chemical drugs whenever we feel any pain or discomfort. It is a quick fix with some dangerous potential side effects. Dependency is a big issue with opioids and we need to promote alternative therapies as a means of combating this issue. Yoga is a great choice. It is natural and highly beneficial for all.
Give yoga for headaches a try the next time to feel one coming on.
The next time that you feel a headache coming on, take a few simple steps toward a calm, beneficial form of relief. Appreciate the symptoms for what they are, step away from your situation and take a deep breath. Then, find a safe spot to carry out some yoga for headaches for a short time. You could soon find that the change in posture and breathing help to reduce stress and improve blood flow. There is also something psychological in merely walking away from the negative space you are in. When you return your desk or another task, you could find that the pain has eased significantly.
It is also important to remember that you can turn to this practice at any time instead of instantly reaching for the painkillers. Use this process as your primary aid against headaches. Let the poses and calm state ease your mind and promote better health. Don’t assume that yoga isn’t for you or that you can’t do it. Adapt the poses where needed, find a private space to do it and open your mind to the potential.