Easing Headaches – Naturally

Have you got a throbbing pain lurking just behind your eyes? Do you feel like a sharp knife has been driven through the back of your head? If you do, then you’ve got a headache.

Most people tend to reach directly for a painkiller – ibuprofen and paracetamol are the most common – but they just deal with the symptoms without addressing the underlying cause of the pain.

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Many headaches are the result of muscular tension carried in the neck, shoulders and upper back. Dominique is going to share some exercises that ease this tension and the resulting headache.

First, take a few moments to breathe and centre yourself. Notice the muscular tension you are carrying, particularly in the shoulders and neck. Use your stomach muscles to lift your ribs and elongate your spine. Notice how this simple action takes the pressure off your middle and lower back. Now relax your jaw and face.

headaches-yogInhale, retracting your skull slightly and exhale to bring your chin forward to your collarbone. Hold this position for 5 breaths, feeling the length and release at the back of the neck; the warmth and strength in the front. Inhale to return the head to centre.

Next, inhale and protract your skull. Exhale to extend the neck and stretch out the front of the throat. This will also serve to warm and strengthen the back of the neck. Hold this position for 5 breaths. Inhale to return the head to centre.

Inhale, then exhale to bring the left ear down to the left shoulder. Keep the ribs lifting, using the stomach muscles for support, and deliberately press the right shoulder down to the floor. Feeling the length in the right side of the neck and shoulder, hold for 5 breaths. Inhale to release and exhale to repeat to the opposite side. Hold for 5 breaths.

Now let’s release tension from the spine and the musculature of the middle and lower back.

forward-bendCome down to seated forward bend with your legs straight. If you have problems with your lower back, then keep the knees soft or place a folded blanket or bolster cushion underneath the knees. Hold the pose for 2 to 5 minutes and feel yourself gradually relaxing into the posture as you consciously smooth the breath. Inhale to release, slowly lifting the torso and then shrug the shoulders.

Next to an inverted pose: the downward-facing dog. This will encourage the flow of oxygenated blood to the head, neck and shoulders.

Begin on all fours with the hands below the shoulders and the knees beneath the hips. Tuck the toes under and inhale to lift the pelvis up to the ceiling. This forms an inverted V-shape. Keep the hands spread and take the weight evenly on the whole of the hands. If your hamstrings are very tight, you may bend the knees and just focus on relaxing the neck and head.

Hold for up to 1 minute, depending on how strong your shoulders are. To release, inhale to come to all fours and then relax in child’s pose for another minute or so. Keep the breath smooth and feel the space in the back of the body.

To finish, come to half-supported shoulder stand, which will open up the muscles in the neck and shoulders. Use a folded blanket underneath the shoulders to support the natural curve of the neck and walk your legs up the wall until the calf muscles are parallel to the floor and the spine is as straight as possible.

Breathe and relax here for up to 2 minutes, depending on how you are feeling. To release, simply bring your hips and back to the floor and curl your knees to your chest. Now lie in relaxation for as long as possible.

For stubborn headaches, repeat the entire sequence again, holding the postures a little longer if possible.

So don’t let headaches put a dampener on your day. Take some time out to unwind and stretch a little. Drink plenty of water and eat loads of fresh food. And if symptoms persist, don’t hesitate to see your favourite healthcare professional.