Yoga for the Headache Prone

I have frequent headaches. I have a genetic predisposition to them; my father also suffered from them regularly. On occasion, they blossom into full-blown migraines, with all the fun things associated with them: sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and blinding, debilitating pain. I was in fact first drawn to yoga in an effort to get my headaches under control, at a period in my life when they were intractable, almost daily events. On the off-chance that there might be another chronic headache sufferer out there who hasn’t tried yoga to ameliorate his or her pain, I offer these suggestions.

The most common, well-known type of headache is the tension headache. It typically begins with muscle tension in the shoulders and neck which then spreads to the temples and forehead. Sufferers feel that there is a band tightening across their heads. It is very difficult to concentrate with this kind of nagging pain; it feels as if the pain is at the center of your being, demanding your attention.

Try sitting down and taking three deep, mindful breaths.

This alone begins the healing process, because the painful areas are crying out for more oxygen.

Next, lie down on your stomach and go into a Cobra position:

This is wonderful; it stretches your neck and back muscles, going right to the root of the tension headache. Hold the position for four full breaths.

From there, move into Downward Facing Dog:

You’ll feel blood rushing toward your neck and head, bringing more much-needed oxygen to the site of the pain. Hold for four breaths.

Next, stand and go into Tree Pose:

Be sure to stretch your hands high, and switch feet. Hold each for four breaths.

Next, reach back and take your right ankle in your right hand. Stretch out and hold for four deep breaths. Then switch to your left ankle in your left hand, and repeat the posture on that side.

Now, drop both hands in front of you and bend at the waist as far as possible without pain. Hold for four breaths.

Drop to your knees, going into Child Pose. Hold for four breaths.

Sit up into a Lotus or Half Lotus Pose, and conclude with ten minutes of meditation.

I’ve used this series of poses for years with excellent results. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself free of that nagging headache and suffused with a feeling of clarity and well-being. You’ll be able to get by taking fewer painkillers. This series of asanas is excellent for back pain and stiff neck as well as headache. Our bodies know what they need to heal themselves;  we just have to allow them to do so.

All the best,

William K Ferro

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