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Yoga for Tension Headaches
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Yoga for Tension Headaches

Has anyone ever tried yoga to get relief of tension headaches.  I hate giving my daughter motrin everday if there was a more natural approach.
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Avatar_dr_f_tn
Hi,

There are several ways to curb headaches.Given that the headaches have been ascertained to be due to benign causes like migraine and tension headaches, then alternative forms of medical therapy like acupuncture and forms of exercises like tai chi and yoga will be beneficial. Choose a form of therapeutic exercise that appeals to your daughter. Allow her to choose so she may look forward and enjoy each exercise. With regards to the medications,discuss this with your physician prior to putting her off the medications.
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What kind of headache is it?  I take certain herbal supplements sometimes and they help.  Other suggestions... well balanced diet, avoid chewing gum, consuming ice cream or beverage that are cold, avoid salt and guard against excessive sun exposure.  Eliminate aspartame, MSG and other preservatives.  Yoga will help, but don't practice arm balances or inversions.  Stick with a quiet practice.  Acupuncture is extremely helpful for headaches.  Also, eat small meals about 5 times a day to regulate blood sugar.  Is she on birth control?  If so, you can talk to your Doc about switching to a low estrogen one.  May be a B vitamin deficiency.  Allergies can also cause headaches.  Regular exercise is good.  
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Thank you all so much for all of your valuable suggestions.  I have been taking her to an acupuncturist for a month now.  She is finally getting relief of her headaches.  She was a non-believer before her first visit and protested about going but after a few sessions she had to admit that her headaches are disappearing.  She has not taken motrin since we started the acupunture and her headaches are few and far between.  This is a girl who suffered everyday with headaches!
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Keep it up!  Sounds like you are on the right track.  Make sure her diet is nutritious as well and that will support the healing process.  
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It's funny that you mention yoga , my daughter's neurologist said aerobic exercise is better than yoga for tension headaches.  But my daughter never feels well enough for aerobic exercise.
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I disagree strongly with that doctor.  Considering my entire family is in the health care biz, and my dad's a hospital administrator who actively promotes alternative healing methods including yoga, I do have a bit of insight on that.  It sounds like he or she is naive on what is out there and also likely doesn't want his business taken from him.

There are different poses and practices that serve different purposes.  A strong flow class is not where someone with headaches should likely be, however a quiet practice... Iyengar, gentle, restorative, Yin yogas etc will be a place of healing for ailments such as headaches and are quieter practices.  Most forward bends, some of the less intense back bends and hip openers should be excellent relief for headaches.  Inversions and arm balances are discouraged for headaches.  My research and experience leads me to suggest several poses of which would be beneficial for headaches... see below for a quick list, but this is not exhaustive.  

When someone goes to a class and has an ailment, it is right to talk to the teacher beforehand to request modifications where needed.  The teacher is properly instructed, or should be, on anatomy and is well aware of the benefits of each pose.  

If a headache should occur during a practice, one should rest in child's pose or a meditative easy-pose, which is a simple cross legged seated position and close their eyes and breath quietly.  Most of the time I have found that any aches I've experienced going into practice have been relieved by the asanas... including headaches.  Of course, I do almost all traditions of yoga, so I'm aware of how my body feels and can tailor what I'm doing accordingly.  This comes with practice and body awareness which any beginner will grow into.

Long story short, I do believe that doc was naive and I would not listen to that person.  Sorry to criticize him/her.  

For Headache

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)
Calms the brain and rejuvenates tired legs.

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog)
One of the most widely recognized yoga poses... an all-over, rejuvenating stretch.

Agnistambhasana (Fire Log Pose)
Stretches the outer hips intensely, particularly the piriformis, which is often the main culprit of sciatic pain.

Halasana (Plow Pose)
Plow Pose reduces backache and can help you get to sleep.

Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana ((Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose))
There are two interpretations of the Sanskrit Janu Sirsasana, Head-to-Knee and Head-of-the-Knee. The former emphasizes the forward bend. The latter refers to the "head" of the bent knee that you use press away from you to assist the forward bend.

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
Uttanasana will wake up your hamstrings and soothe your mind.

Savasana (Corpse Pose)
Savasana is a pose of total relaxation--making it one of the most challenging asanas.

Uttana Shishosana (Extended Puppy Pose)
A cross between Child's Pose and Downward Facing Dog. This pose lengthens the spine and calms the mind.

Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Forward Bend)
A forward bend for all levels of students, Janu Sirsasana is also a spinal twist.

Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose)
Intensifies the stretch in the thighs and ankles of its upright version.

Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)
Paschimottanasana can help a distracted mind unwind.

Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Forward Bend)
The pose as described here is technically known as Prasarita Padottanasana I.
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Avatar_f_tn
Furthermore, a large part of yoga is breathing... pranayama.  This is a practice which I highly recommend instruction at first... here is a small tid bit from an article on headaches and yoga.  

"Breathe Away Head Pain

Richard Miller, Ph.D., a practicing clinical psychotherapist who has published widely on the subjects of yoga and pranayama, concurs with Dr. Holiday that headache sufferers often have upper respiratory, shallow breathing. They may also be unconsciously hyperventilating. He feels that pranayama (breath control) can be very helpful in reducing headache.

"There are many pranayamas that are appropriate for people experiencing different headaches. Each pranayama is adapted to the individual headache sufferer. The first step is simply observing and noting the breath before any intervention takes place," says Miller. "Each pranayama is categorized according to its energetic impact on the body/mind. For instance, Sitali incorporates the components of long, left-nostril exhalation, a cooling inhalation through either curled tongue or open lips, and relaxing head movements."

Another pranayama that is often recommended for chronically tense people is Nadi Sodhana, or alternate nostril breathing. "Even the traditional practice of Nadi Sodhana is adapted for headache sufferers," notes Miller, "by practicing Nadi Sodhana in Savasana, with an elevation under the chest and the arms at the side." In this manner of practicing Nadi Sodhana, air is inhaled and exhaled alternately through the left and right nostrils without using the fingers to block off the air flow."
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There are many great books out there on this, but you may visit a bookstore and just flip through one of these:

Relax and Renew would be an excellent resource for both of you.  

Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times by Judith Lasater, Ph.D., (Rodmell Press, 1995).

The Breathing Book: Good Health and Vitality Through Essential Breath Work by Donna Farhi (Henry Holt, 1996).

Yoga Remedies for Natural Healing: For Beginners, available from YJ's Book and Tape Source.
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Avatar_f_tn
Hi,

Yes yoga can be very beneficial for headaches. Please remember to make sure she does it under expert supervision.
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