Headaches are no fun. And while you may not think of yoga to prevent or relieve them, there are many ways yoga can help with the pain in your head. The first step in learning to practice yoga for headaches is to identify the cause of your headache.
Why do you have a headache?
The most common causes of headaches are stress, which leads to muscle tension and inflamed blood vessels (migraines). Migraines may also be caused by stress, but can be triggered by foods, hormonal imbalances, lack of sleep, and the weather.
If you have tightness in the neck or shoulders, you may get a lot of tension headaches. You’re also likely to get tension headaches from hunching over your computer keyboard at work. Difficulties with people or long hours of studying are other example stressors that can lead to tension headaches.
If you suffer from tension headaches, tailor your yoga for headaches practice toward relaxing muscles, especially muscles in the neck and shoulders.
Yoga for Headaches
Here are some yoga poses you can do to relieve headache pain:
- Gentle neck rolls
- Seated twists
- Downward dog
- Seated forward bend
- Child’s pose
- Legs up the wall
When you practice these poses, don’t “try to hard.” Notice if your jaw is relaxed or clenched, for example. The goal is to relax!
Another way to relieve muscle tension when practicing yoga for headaches is be sure you are taking long, deep breaths. Of course, you should do this any time you practice, but it’s especially important if you’re prone to headaches or have a headache while you’re practicing.
Meditation is also helpful as an antidote to headaches. Meditation can help still the chatter in your mind that’s causing you to become tense. Taking time for meditation also gives you a break from your busy schedule—another stress reliever.
Tools to Increase the Effectiveness of Yoga for Headaches
In addition to the poses, breathing exercises, and meditation, there are a few other tools you can use with your yoga practice if you are a chronic headache sufferer.
First, consider using essential oils as part of your practice or at other times during the day. Some oils that help with headaches include:
You can diffuse these oils during your yoga practice or use them to mist your mat. In fact, some mat cleaners contain one or more of these aromas. (Make sure you are using pure essential oils and not synthetic chemicals!)
Another option is to mix the oil with a carrier oil, such as fractionated coconut oil or jojoba oil. Then apply it to your temples, neck, or shoulders to relax muscles and relieve headache pain.
Doing your practice with soothing sounds that help you relax and unwind is another way to combat headaches. Once tension leaves your body, your headache pain is more likely to disappear as well. Try sound healing music with singing bowls, for example.
There you have it, headache sufferers. Now that you know how to practice yoga for headaches, you have another reason to love yoga!