Headaches and migraines are a source of misery for millions of people and often it’s far too easy to reach for the tablets for the quick fix solution. Deep down we know this isn’t a good long term solution and sometimes, changes to your lifestyle and trying new techniques can help improve reoccurring headaches and migraines significantly.
Since headaches are often caused by held tension in the neck, shoulder and scalp, some gentle yoga can really help relieve some of the symptoms and even prevent in many cases. By adding more circulation with gentle movement you will almost certainly see some improvement, so finding some time on your yoga mat is really worth experimenting with.
Try these gentle and nurturing yoga poses and techniques as suggested by our yoga teachers here at Mary Ann Weeks Aveda Guildford when you next have a headache, or feel a migraine coming on, and see the healing qualities of this natural ancient practice. We also recommend using relaxing lavender or peppermint oil rubbed gently into your temples or simply a couple of drops on your clothes to help soothe sore head. Both of these essential oils are available to buy in Mary Ann Weeks Aveda Guildford or Walton stores.
Even if you don’t have a headache, these poses and breathing methods will really help to reduce stress and find soothing balance in your day to day life.
1. The head scrub
In house yoga teacher and resident at our wellbeing studio Cristina De Piano, shows us here about how to unclog the channels of energy using this interesting technique. Note, this may be something to use when you feel the start of a headache or migraine rather than once in full mode.
2. Seated Neck Release
The neck is a real harbour for storing tension and stress and a valuable remedy for headaches is to stretch out the neck with gentle movement. Sit comfortably and quietly for a moment, on a cushion or even a chair if more comfortable. Align your head over your heart and your heart over your pelvis. Settle the breath into a smooth slow rhythm and relax your face. Gentle tilt your right ear toward your right shoulder and drop the chin toward your collarbone. This may be enough of a release in which case stay there and take 3 slow breaths. To stretch a little more, place your right hand over the top of your head and on to your left temple, applying gentle pressure to increase the feeling of stretch along the left side of the neck. After 3 breaths, slowly lift your head and switch sides. Repeat 2-3 times on both sides until the neck feels free and complete by taking gentle neck rolls to free up any last stiffness in the neck.
3. Hare or Rabbit Pose
Hair pose works in two way to bring comfort to a tension headache. Firstly it releases the shoulders, particularly the frontal area which tends to get compressed thanks to rounding the back looking over desks and things. Secondly the pressure on the top of the head works wonders to bring blood flow and circulation to the brain, nourishing the top of the skull.
To practice hair pose begin kneeling back on the heels. Interlace the fingers behind the back, or if shoulders are tight hold two ends of a strap, belt or tie between the hands behind the back. Inhale and lift the heart gently and as you exhale start to peel the belly down over the thighs aiming your forehead toward the floor or to a cushion or block if the floor feels too far away. Simultaneously reach your clasped hands up behind you, aiming to straighten your arms without aggression or force. Once your forehead is connected, gently roll to the very crown of your head, lifting your hips over your knees.
4. Viparita Karina
Demonstrated by the lovely yogi Rosemary (Tuesdays at 7.30), Viparita Karina or ‘legs up the wall pose’ is a deeply restorative pose used in all different disciplines of yoga. It works by helping you to relax deeply and can ease a throbbing head in a very short time. The adrenal glands quieten down, helping to alleviate stress and calm the mind. To do this pose, align your mat with the short end flush against a wall (if you don’t have a mat don’t worry, but note a warm carpet will be better than a hard cold floor). Sit with your right hip touching the wall, and from there lay back flat on the mat, sliding your legs up the wall. You can always put a blanket or cushion under your head for extra comfort if you like.
See how the pose feels initially and you might wish to adjust by moving your bottom further way from the wall if that feels more comfortable. Legs can also be adjusted from touching together to just wider than the hips. Again do whatever feels most comfortable. Place your hands gently on your belly or rest them alongside you on the floor. Close your eyes and soften your facial muscles, dropping your chin slightly. Spend anything from 3-15 minutes here listening to the slow steady breath and releasing tension wherever you find it.
5. Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (alternate nostril breathing)
Breath is the perfect tool to releasing stagnant energy and remove energy blocks to open the flow. Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (alternate nostril breathing). This classical yogic breath is a wonderful tool to keep the nervous system really calm and bring balance into the brain. It works really well for headaches in releasing chronic tension, whilst keeping the mind settled and gently focus. Because of the repetitive gentle rhythm, it’s easy to find soft meditation to alleviate tension in the mind. Watch our Nadi Shodhana Breath tutorial on the studio blog to learn how or ask one of our friendly yoga teachers to give you a demo next time you’re in class. They’re always happy to help.