Have you been suffering from more headaches than usual recently?
I have. It feels like a constant pressure in my head and stiffness in my neck and shoulders, most likely a tension headache. I have had migraines in the past with visual disturbances, called aura headaches. These are weird and generally, for me, hormone or stress related. According to The Migraine Trust a migraine is “an inherited tendency to have headaches with sensory disturbance” often accompanied by intense pain, visual disturbances and nausea. There is a wealth of information on their website about headaches and how they can be treated.
It is interesting that both types of headaches can be triggered by stress, lack of sleep and our environment. This article focuses on how adding simple techniques to your yoga practice can help heal recurring headaches caused by emotional tension.
How emotional tension manifests
Right now so many of us are suffering from excess emotional stress. We may feel overwhelmed trying to juggle working lives with no childcare; guilt at not managing to do or be ‘enough’; battered by constant social media noise; scared at our lack of control and confused about what is happening with major parts of our lives.
In our house, my children are totally nailing overuse of the word ” Mummy”. I love them dearly but, at times, the noise and demands feel overwhelming.
As we slump over screens, our posture deteriorates, putting pressure on the neck and shoulders. We naturally turn to self-soothing, whatever form that takes for us – food, alcohol, work, cleaning, online shopping. Addictive behaviour that comforts us and gives our frazzled minds temporary relief.
It is really helpful to notice how your behaviour reflects what is going on inside your body and vice versa.
What is your addiction and have you noticed an increase in your soothing behaviour?
Just say no
Headaches are signal from your body that you need to prioritise your health and wellbeing.
Stop. Rest. Be responsible.
Notice your behaviour and take action to care for your body, prioritising nutrition, rest, exercise and sleep.
Being responsible also means a heightened awareness of how we are feeling and allowing ourselves to experience those feelings, rather than repressing them. Only then can we move forward towards healing.
Simple techniques to let go..
The recurring theme of my yoga classes since lockdown has been to release emotional tension by reconnecting with our bodies. We are conditioned to ‘keep calm and carry on’ but repressed emotion shows up in our body eventually. In class we have been regularly using the practices below to encourage release of physical and emotional stress:
- A longer, slower breath to bring our nervous system back to a state of “rest and digest”;
- Compassionate touch, gently stroking and tapping on our body so we more fully notice physical sensations. Try tapping on the breast bone and over the head and neck to release stress and anxiety. You can read more about EFT tapping here;
- Using our voice vibrations, either humming, chanting or simply sighing loudly. Sounds weird but it feels really good to let it go;
- Free movement, moving into the areas of the body where we feel our tension. This means adapting our poses to fit our body and how it feels in that pose, then making creative movements to delve deeper. This will look different for everyone and no need to feel embarrassed as no-one can see you online!
I have mentioned this many times before but the main reason I started a yoga practice was to have time to myself and that is still true today. It is the only time in my week I am on my own. It is so important to give yourself some time off, to shut the door on your family and to say “no, this is my time”.
If you are suffering from headaches and would like a short simple practice to help release the neck and shoulders, incorporate the above techniques into this 14 minute gentle practice.
I would really love to know how you get on.