It happens to all of us from time to time. Our busy schedules get the best of us or we spend far too many hours at work in front of a computer screen, and suddenly our heads are pounding and it’s impossible to focus. No matter what the cause, tension headaches can definitely put a crimp in your productivity, and it’s so tempting to pop a pill to ease the pain.
The problem with pain medication is that the more you take it, the less effective it is. In the time that it takes most over-the-counter pain pills to work, you could practice some restorative yoga to fight that tension naturally! Here are some simple poses to get you started.
1. Alternate Nostril Breathing
Sit up straight either cross-legged on the floor or in your chair. Close your eyes and take a couple of deep breaths to ease yourself into the breathing exercise.
Hold out your right hand, spreading all 5 fingers. Fold your middle and pointer fingers toward your palm, so your thumb, ring, and pinky fingers are pointing out. This is the hand position you’ll maintain throughout the breathing. You can rest your left hand on your knee or thigh – whatever is comfortable for you.
Using your thumb to close your right nostril, take a deep breath in. Before exhaling, release the right nostril and use your right ring finger to close the left nostril. Repeat this cycle 4 or 5 times, finishing with a few deep breaths through your nose with both nostrils open.
2. Neck Rolls
We store so much stress in our necks and shoulders, sometimes just taking a few moments to focus on letting that out can make a huge difference! Sit on the floor with your legs crossed or in your desk chair with your feet flat on the floor. Imagine a string running up your spine toward the ceiling, drawing your back up straight.
Close your eyes, and let your chin fall toward your chest. As you inhale roll your head to the left so your left ear is directly over the left shoulder. Pause anywhere that you feel tension. On your next exhale, move your chin back to your chest, then inhale and roll your head to the right. Repeat these neck rolls up to 10 times.
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3. Shoulder Rolls
Start in the same position as the neck rolls. As you inhale, draw your shoulders toward your ears, then roll them forward and then back to the neutral position on the exhale. Repeat this 8-10 times.
Now, draw your shoulders toward your ears again on the inhale, but this time roll your shoulders back and down as you breathe out, drawing your shoulder blades together and then returning to a neutral position. Repeat this 8-10 times, as well.
4. Standing Forward Bend
Standing forward bend is excellent for releasing tension in the shoulders, neck, and spine. Stand up straight with your feet together, and inhale. As you exhale, bend forward at the waist with a flat back, and let gravity do its thing. Don’t worry if you can’t touch your toes or the floor – just clear your mind and relax in this position for 10 deep breaths.
To come out of the pose, inhale and on the exhale roll up through your spine. Once your back is straight, take a deep breath as you release your chin from your chest to come to a full standing position.
5. Child’s Pose
Child’s pose does wonders for tension and also helps combat eye strain from too much computer use. Start out sitting on your knees. Put your palms on the floor by your knees, with your fingers pointing away from you. Slowly walk your hands out further in front of you, until your forehead is on the floor and your belly is resting on your thighs. Stretch your arms, and then relax into the posture. You can hold this for as long as you like, breathing deeply.
Folks have been known to doze off in this posture, and that’s alright, too. Just listen to your body and feel that tension melt away.
Do any of you have favorite yoga postures for beating a headache? I’d love to hear them in the comments!
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by sharris