Yoga for Headaches

Yoga in general is great for a number of different conditions and diseases.  This is simply because it fosters movement (which is the best kind of medicine), breath, and mindfulness (which help decrease your stress).  Healthy movement paired with breath plus the decreased stress from mindfulness can do wonders for your body.

Today we’ll look at how Yoga can really help with Headaches.  Headaches are a pretty common affliction and it’s important to note that there are a few different types. Thankfully, the fix is pretty much the same for all of them: a moment of movement and relaxation.

We’ll discuss these different types of Headaches, how they occur, and how to do some yoga to help them 🙂

Today’s info will get you from here:

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To here:

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Types of Headaches – How they Occur – How to Fix

 

Cervicogenic Headaches:

When most people get a headache it’s likely cervicogenic (from the neck radiating into the skull) or tension based.  Cervicogentic headaches occur when you sustain an injury to your neck or hold your neck/shoulder into a position for too long.  The nerves in your neck will eventually begin to radiate pain into your head.

necknerves.jpg Here are some of those nerves.  You can see how they come from your Cervical Spine and move upwards to the skull

The position that we tend to hold that really strains the structure of our neck:

uppercrossskeleton

Rounded forward “Troll Posture

These are usually fixed quite simply through restoring proper range of motion to your neck (aka moving and stretching the muscles of your neck)

Stretches:

neckstretch

For these bottom two you apply very light overpressure with your hand. In the direction of those arrows.

Important Notes:  Try to bring your head into neutral, then stretch.  Also broaden your collarbones to assure that your shoulders are set in the right spot.  (The action is rolling your shoulders down and back, like you are sliding your shoulder blades into your back pockets.)

HOLD each of these stretches for about 30 seconds

***If you experience any pain or discomfort doing these, DO NOT CONTINUE TO DO THEM, find a professional who can help you***

If done correctly, you’ll notice an almost immediate decrease in the intensity of your headache (if your neck was the cause).

Tension Headaches

Another possible cause of a Headache is tension in the fascia and muscles of your head.  Sitting in the aforementioned Troll posture can really place a lot of strain in the muscles of your head and neck.

suboccipitals.jpg

These little guys at the top of your neck and base of your skull control most of the movement of your head and neck.  They’re a very common culprit for headaches because they are often strained from our head being too far forward.

A simple exercise/stretch that can really do wonders for these guys:

Chin Tucks: Pull your chin straight back, keep your eyes even.  It will feel like you’re making a double chin.  You’ll know you have it right when you feel a nice stretch directly behind the base of your skull. (Can be done against the ground, wall, or without.  Set up your good posture with your head tall and your shoulders back before you begin)

You can do wonders with a tennis ball (or something as equally soft) too:

triggerpointsuboccipital1

Suboccipital Muscle Release: Lightly rest your upper neck/base of skull on a tennis ball.  Try to avoid objects that are too rigid as they can potentially cause harm.  Stay for about 30 seconds.  IF THIS HURTS OR FEELS UNCOMFORTABLE AT ALL DO NOT PERFORM. It’s better to work with light pressure first, then ease into deeper pressure with your breath.

Another muscle that can use some release is your Temporalis Muscle:

temporalis

Your Temporalis lifts your jaw up and helps you chew.  It’s commonly indicated with Headaches because we often clench our jaw and over strain the muscle when we are stressed.

Temporalis Release: Simply massage the area of your skull above your ear, behind your eyes, and temples with your fingertips. Make small circles and massage in an upward direction (as if you’re lifting this area towards the sky)

You’ll know you are doing it right if your head feels a little lighter and decompressed after about 30 seconds – 1 min.

Eye Strain Headache

One other form of tension/stress Headache comes from the muscles in our eyes.  We live in a world with constant stimuli bombarding our eyes.  Usually this stimuli is a lot of bright lights from right in front of us on a TV screen, cellphone, or computer.  A quick break to ease the muscles of your eyes can do wonders as well.

As you can see there’s a lot of muscles outside and inside your eye socket.

Eye Muscle Release: “Palming:” rub your hands together (after washing them) and generate warmth between your palms.  Once your hands are warm gently place your palms over your closed eyes.  The center of your palm should be over the eyes and there should be only a small amount of pressure.  Let the warm sensation relax the outer muscles and even sink deeper to release the inner socket muscles.  Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat after rubbing your palms again for a second round.

palming-1

That moment of darkness plus the heat will help reset your eyes and allow you to continue with what you’re doing strain free.  Take this moment to deep breathe and allow yourself to destress from your work, or whatever you’re doing.

Light pressure on the eyes also engages your Oculocardiac reflex.  This is a fancy way of saying that gentle pressure form your hands, or a towel, over your eyes helps calm your heart.


Final Note

You’ll notice that most of the exercises and stretches I detailed above are for structural based Headaches.  That is because these are the most common types.  If you are experiencing a headache try each of the exercises/stretches I outlined (even if you don’t think you have that problem) and I’m sure you’ll find that your Headache has lessened.

One of the types of Headache that I didn’t mention is Migraines.  That’s because these are from genetic changes in the brain and surrounding vasculature and often triggered by bright lights, certain foods, etc.  Yoga actually helps a lot with migraines.  The practice of yoga helps lower the intensity and frequency of migraine type headaches.  The above stretches (especially the Palming Exercise) can be pretty beneficial if you are experiencing a migraine headache.

If your Headache is crazy intense, or is constantly reoccurring it’s really important that you seek medical aid.  Chiropractors do wonders with all types of Headaches as we tend to be very good at restoring range of motion and decreasing tension and stress in the body with our adjustments.

Water is also HUGE when it comes to Headaches so make sure you’re properly hydrated!

The best way to keep a Headache at bay is good posture.  So sit tall, breathe, and move your body.

If you experience a Headache:

treatyoself

To some movement to help alleviate it 🙂

-Dr. YG

Other ways to de-stress and take out tension in your Head/Neck:

  1. Mindful Walking
  2. Restorative Backbends to Alleviate Mechanical Stress & Back Pain
  3. 3 Yoga Poses for Thoracic Spine Mobility
  4. Unlocking the Front Body via the Coracoid Process

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