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Yoga and Headache


What is Headache?

When a person has a headache, several areas of the head can hurt, including a network of nerves that extends over the scalp and certain nerves in the face, mouth, and throat. The muscles of the head and the blood vessels found along the surface and at the base of the brain are also sensitive to pain because they contain delicate nerve fibers. The bones of the skull and tissues of the brain itself never hurt because they lack pain-sensitive nerve fibers. The ends of these pain-sensitive nerves, called nociceptors, can be stimulated by stress, muscular tension, dilated blood vessels, and others triggers of headache. Vascular headaches (migraines are a kind of vascular headache) are thought to involve abnormal function of the brain's blood vessels or vascular system; muscle contraction headaches appear to involve the tightening or tensing of facial and neck muscles; and traction and inflammatory headaches are symptoms of other disorders, ranging from brain tumor to stroke to sinus infection. Some types of headache are signals of more serious disorders: sudden, severe headache; headache associated with convulsions; headache accompanied by confusion or loss of consciousness; headache following a blow on the head; headache associated with pain in the eye or ear; persistent headache in a person who was previously headache free; recurring headache in children; headache associated with fever; headache that interferes with normal life. Physicians will obtain a full medical history and may order a blood test to screen for thyroid disease, anemia, or infections or x-rays to rule out a brain tumor or blood clots. CTs, MRIs, and EEGs may be recommended. An eye exam is usually performed to check for weakness in the eye muscle or unequal pupil size. Some scientists believe that fatigue, glaring or flickering lights, the weather, and certain foods may trigger migraine headaches.

Is there any treatment?

Not all headaches require medical attention. Some result from missed meals or occasional muscle tension and are easily remedied. If the problem is not relieved by standard treatments, a headache sufferer may be referred to an internist, a neurologist, or a psychologist. Drug therapy, biofeedback training, stress reduction, and elimination of certain foods from the diet are the most common methods of preventing and controlling migraine and other vascular headaches. Regular exercise can also reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches. Temporary relief can sometimes be obtained by using cold pack or by pressing on the bulging artery found in front of the ear on the painful side of the head.

Even if you suffer from headaches only infrequently, they can dramatically disrupt your life. While some headaches may subside within a short time, throbbing migraines can cripple individuals for days, and intensely painful "cluster headaches" may recur for days or even weeks. "Tension headaches," while more common and usually less severe, also reduce productivity and can strain interpersonal relationships.

Simple Yoga techniques can serve as an alternative or supplement to other remedies for dealing with headaches, as both prevention and treatment.

A regular routine of Yoga exercises, breathing techniques, and relaxation/meditation can help prevent chronic headaches or reduce their severity. Exercises that stretch your muscles can release the tension that often causes headaches. Exercises that increase overall circulation and promote strength and balance are also helpful as they promote physical and mental balance and can strengthen your immune system. Yoga also helps to increase self-awareness, enabling you to address physical symptoms before they become severe

Eka Pada Sirsasana

Eka means one. Pada is the leg. This variation of Sirsasana is done by lowering one leg to the floor in front of the head, holding the other leg up vertically.

Technique:

  1. After staying according to your capacity in Salamba Sirsasana, exhale and mover the right leg down to the floor in front of the head.

  2. While the right leg is being lowered and is resting on the floor, the left leg should be held up vertically as in Sirsasana.

  3. In the beginning, the neck feels tremendous strain. The left is also dragged down forwards. To overcome this, keep the leg rigid at the knees and stretch the muscles at the back of the thighs of both the legs. Also tighten the muscles of the lower median portion of the abdomen.

  4. The knees and toes of the both legs should be in a line and should not tilt sideways.

  5. Stay in the pose from 10 to 20 seconds with deep breathing. Exhale and lift the right leg up to Sirsasana.

  6. After staying in Sirsansana for some time, lower the left leg to the floor and after keeping it on the floor for the same length of time, exhale and go back to Sirsasana.

  7. while lowering and raising the legs, keep them straight and do not bend at the knees. If the knees are bent one loses the head balance.

Effects:

This is a difficult pose, so it may not be possible to touch the floor in the beginning. Gradually as the legs become more elastic and the back gets stronger, the legs will touch and then rest on the floor without loss of the head balance. This asana strengthens the neck and also the abdominal walls. The abdominal organs are contracted and made to function well.

Inverted postures, or those where the head is lowered briefly, increase oxygen to the brain and can reduce headache-causing strain.


This article has been written by Dr. R. Nagarathna, Dean, Division of Yoga & Life-sciences, SVYASA
This article is published online courtesy
www.vyasa.org
and Arogyadhama


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