Not Tonight Dear, I Have a Headache!

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I remember Mr. Roper saying that to his wife Helen on Three’s Company when I was a kid and I didn’t fully understand what he meant.  I laugh to myself now that I get it.  Even though he wasn’t telling the truth, I know that it can be a very real scenario for many people. So many people are dealing with chronic headaches and/or migraines limiting them from carrying on with normal daily activities and responsibilities. This can mean time off from work that we can’t afford or even worse, missing special moments with friends and loved ones.

When we are stressed, we have a tendency to carry tension and tightness in the areas of our shoulders, upper trapezius, and neck which can cause a feeling of lingering dull pain (a tension headache). Fortunately, I’ve only experienced a migraine headache once in my life and it was truly awful. I have seen friends and colleagues who suffer regularly and I don’t even think I can imagine what that is actually like. The one I did have, however, was actually pretty scary. The throbbing pain was almost too hard to handle and there was nothing I could do to relieve it.  I tried laying in complete darkness with total silence and that did nothing to stop it.  I just had to wait for it to pass and it was definitely over four hours.  I’ve been told by others who experience severe migraines that it is also sometimes accompanied by vomiting. These symptoms and others can obviously cause interruptions and interference in the quality of our lives.

If we take a look at our stress levels as the potential root cause of our headaches then it is important to look at what we might be able to do in our daily lives to shift our experiences with stress. Yoga plays an important role in the management of stress. We gain the ability to free the physical body (our muscles and joints) from tension.  More importantly, a regular practice can give us the ability to free our mental body from tension and stress.

Working privately with a trained yoga teacher can help us to learn ways and techniques to create space in our joints and to lengthen and realign muscles so that they are working to their full capacity.  When our muscles do not fire properly and/or begin to turn off due to our lack of ability to make a connection to them when we need them, we begin to utilize other muscles in order to compensate (often the more superficial ones).  This puts us at risk for things like poor alignment, pain, and tension. If we carry this around, we are definitely prone to headaches. There are specific ways in which to use asana (yoga poses) to achieve better stability and movement.

The mind we know has the powerful ability to create these same tensions.  Focusing on the stresses in our lives, feelings of depression, or even a lack of ability to focus due to a frenzied mind can create this stress and tension to therefore causing headaches.  When we practice asana or further develop the other limbs of yoga in our daily lives we have the ability to gain a greater sense of calm and peace.  This is a constant journey, but this peace can directly influence the way that our physical body feels, which may very well have a positive effect on the reduction or even elimination of headaches.  

How amazing it would be to not have to miss out on those special moments in life because we have a headache.


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