Saturday, April 18, 2009

Yoga for Headaches

Oof, tension headaches. I have been getting plenty, lately, due to an overloaded schedule. I keep taking stuff on and forgetting that, even though the boys are getting better at keeping themselves entertained, I can't take my eyes off of them. Let week, a deer pellet was sampled when I turned away in the backyard. I'm telling myself the little one is just building up his immunity...

But, to work on the headaches, I've been ingesting ibuprophen (need to do less of that) and working on some upper back openers (need to do more). These poses have helped a lot, by stretching out tense muscles, getting the blood flowing to the area and just making me focus on releasing tightness. Here are mine; what are your favorites?

Seated Neck Stretch: Sit in Sukhasana, making sure to have the shoulders and hips aligned and the weight of the upper body balanced over the lower. Try to keep the breastbone in line with the belly button (it's easy to end up leaning to one side). With the right hand resting gently on the head, tilt the head to the right, letting the weight of the hand help pull the head farther over. Don't force anything, just let the extra weight deepen the stretch. Rest the left hand on the mat next to the hips and slide it away from the body to increase the stretch.

Let the head roll forwards about 15 degrees, so the stretch moves off the shoulders and into the upper back. After a few breaths, let the head roll forwards another 15 degrees (not to the center) and feel the stretch next to the spine and in the back of the neck. Let the head fall gently forwards--without the weight of the hand---and lift the head back to center. Repeat on other side.
(Old Picture...I'm not pregnant)

Garudasana arms: still in Sukhasana, raise the arms so the elbows are chest height. Bend the elbows and lift them to be even with the chest. Cross the left elbow over the right and center the elbows with your breast bone. Without hunching the shoulders, interlock the palms. If you can't do this with out hunching, rest the palms on the shoulders or try and grab the right pinky with the left thumb. Repeat with right elbow over left. This releases the muscles between the shoulder blades, a common place for tension knots.

Gomukhasana arms: If you're getting tired of Easy Pose, try shifting into Virasana (Hero Pose) to stretch out the thighs a bit. Place your belt over your right shoulder. Now stretch the right hand toward the ceiling and rotate it in the socket so your elbow is facing forwards. Bend the right arm and reach that hand towards your shoulder blades. Give the right triceps a gentle stretch by pressing on the right elbow with your left hand. Take hold of the belt with your right hand.

Bend the left elbow along side the body and reach up the back to take hold of the belt, or, if you have flexible shoulders, the right hand. When you adjust the hands, make sure they are lined up with your spine. Then check the alignment of the spine; its easy to start slouching when your are focusing so much on the upper body. This pose opens up the chest and moves blood around the shoulder joints.

Uttanasana (Intense Forward Bend) Soften both knees and fold forward from the hip creases. Let the weight of the body draw you down. For added traction, cross the arms above the head and feel the increased stretch in the upper spine. This releases the whole back and lets the spine hang free. It is also a gentle inversion, so the blood flow to the head is increased, which is calming.


PetalsYoga said...

Alternate nostril breathing seems to help me a lot with my occasional tension headache. I also visualize physically letting go of anything that is pressing down on me causing pain and eventually it usually eases away.

I also like to yawn widely on an inhale and then soften the facial muscles on the exhale to release tension.



YogaforCynics said...

Two years ago, before I got back into doing yoga--and doing it far more seriously than before--I was taking at least three ibuprofen a night for tension headaches that I came to realize were coming from my upper back and neck. A yoga teacher, fortunately, taught me a "neck protocol" which soon eliminated them almost completely: once a day sit cross legged and, preferably in line with breathing:
1) neck circles 10x each way
2) look left/look right 10x
3) ear to left shoulder/ear to right shoulder 10x
4) ear to shoulder then chin to same shoulder--combining 2 and 3--10x
5) turn left twice, turn right twice, twice back diagonally from right chest, twice back diagonally from left chest, twice back straight from center chest--5x

Eco Yogini said...

wow- thanks for this :) Andrew constantly gets headaches, and he finds that yoga usually helps- except for many inversions. Since we practice at home a lot, I will definitely be incorporating these! :) (with straps lol)

Crystal Singing Bowls said...

I just found your blog. Great articles and well written. Namaste!