Beat that headache with yoga!

Beat that headache with yoga!

Headaches can prove to be chronic ailments and can sap us completely. Some victims know the triggers, especially with migraines, and learn to avoid foods, situations or stressors that set off a headache. Where the trigger is psychosomatic yoga can offer immense help in preventing or relieving a bout.

Other headache triggers involve a weak neck, bad posture, work conditions that are not ergonomic, eyestrain (especially due to bad lighting or squinting) or weak eyesight that has been neglected.

Congestion in the respiratory system is yet another common cause. Some athletes or exercise freaks also suffer from a sudden attack from over-exertion. Such physical causes are naturally offset by a regular yoga sadhana.

Sometimes the causes for a headache may be hidden. Bad eating habits, including skipping meals, can trigger headaches caused by plummeting blood sugar levels. Overeating and chronic constipation may be other causes.

Certain medications can also have an allergic reaction that sets off a pulsating pain in the head. Any unusual physical activity done suddenly may set off a headache, called exertional headache. Certain foods like cheese and MSG used in Chinese food are also known triggers in chronic cases.

In such cases being aware of the trigger may help avoid it. Involving a medical practitioner would help you locate the cause faster. Once conventional therapy has been started, you may consider complementing it with a regular yoga sadhana which powers the body against such attacks.

Shameem Akthar, yoga acharya trained with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, Kerala, leads you through five yogic practices that help relieve headaches.

Brahmari (Humming bee breath)

Sit up straight in any meditative pose. Shut your eyes and place the index finger of each hand in the respective ear to plug it.

Inhale and exhale a few times. Inhale deeply. While exhaling, hum gently, making a 'mm' sound with closed lips. Feel the sound vibrate in your face and the rest of your body, further involuting the mind. This is one round. Then inhale deeply, exhaling to repeat about five to ten rounds.

Points to note: Do not exert while humming. Beginners usually do so to increase the length of the humming. That will happen with regular practice. Also doing any pranayama, particularly Brahmari, while lying down.

Benefits: It is the most healing of all pranayamas, with least contraindications. It is extremely calming. It clears the sinus cavities in the face. It is used before meditation to induce mental calmness. Used in migraine relief and prevention.

Nadi shodhana (Energy channel cleanser)

Sit in any meditative pose. Place left hand in chin mudra, with tip of index finger touching the tip of your thumb. Place the right hand in nasagra (nosetip) mudra, using the remaining fingers to shut and open the nostrils as instructed.

This is a simple version. Shut your right nostril with right hand thumb. Inhale from the left for four counts. Exhale from left for four counts. This is one round. Do up to ten rounds.

Repeat by shutting the left nostril, and inhaling from the right nostril for four counts. Exhale from the same nostril for four counts. This is one round. Repeat up to ten rounds for the left nostril also.

Benefits: This balances both brain hemispheres, bringing inner harmony, removing inner conflicts that can set off psychosomatic disorders in the body. It belongs to the set of cleansing, healing practices with the least contraindications. Also used to relieve tension headaches.

Tadasana (Palmtree pose)

Stand up straight, feet a foot apart. Place hands at your sides. Inhale to raise yourself on your toes. Simultaneously raise hands overhead to interlock fingers, turning them outwards to face the ceiling.

Hold the pose, breathing normally, for as long as you can. Focusing your eyes on some spot in front you helps you maintain balance in this pose for longer. Exhaling, lower hands to side, while lowering heels back to floor.

Benefits: This is a therapy for most ailments and is safe. The full-stretch releases tension knots in the body. It sets the stage for repair in ailments like chronic headaches.

Mahasirs mudra (Large head mudra)

Sit in any meditative pose, with eyes shut. Touch tip of thumb to tips of index and middle finger. Press down ring finger so it touches base of thumb. Extend little finger. Do for each hand. Sit with this mudra for three minutes or more for headache relief.

Benefits: Mudras are said to work by tapping the biological map of the human in the brain (called homunculus). This particular mudra relieves congestion, removes anxiety, calms the mind by balancing both brain hemispheres.

Yoga nidra (Sleep of yoga meditation)

Lie on your back, legs slightly apart with hands away from the body, palms facing upwards. Shut your eyes and focus on your breath for a few seconds to help calm down.

Then progressively take your awareness to different parts of the body, starting with your hand, moving up the arms, down the waist, along the leg. Do this for each side. Then focus on important organs in the torso. Finally move to your face, becoming aware and relaxing each part of it.

The entire practice may take up to five to fifteen minutes, depending on how you pace your progressive body awareness/ relaxation. After practice is over, you may sit up and open your eyes.

Benefits: It is one of the most healing of practices. It calms the chaotic static of the reticulating activation system in the brain. This changes the brain wave pattern from the hyperactive beta mode into a relaxed, alert alpha mode. This in turn triggers a cascade of bio-neurological responses which are believed to be healing.




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