Yoga is an ancient philosophy, science, health maintenance system, and a way of life. Yoga is often associated with ancient Indian thought. Its global appeal and practice is universal, widespread, and timeless. Yoga’s popularity is, in large, due to its many benefits such as toning muscles, increasing flexibility, gaining peace of mind through meditation, and even fighting off illness.
Outside of India, Hatha yoga is the front runner of all forms of Yoga. Hatha yoga incorporates every branch or “limb” of Patanjali’s yoga, even though it is often mistakenly referred to as exercise or physical movement. Hatha Yoga’s physical side is practiced through slow stretches or poses (asanas), meditation, and breathing or relaxation procedures (pranayama). This type of Yoga focuses on clearing the mind in preparation for more intense meditation.
One of the many benefits that comes with practicing Hatha Yoga for headaches is prevention. About 65 million Americans suffer from chronic headaches, and approximately 20% of the US budget goes to fund over-the-counter painkillers. One theory for migraines and headaches states that the intense pain is a result of stress and muscular tension causing blood vessels in the brain to widen and dilate, thus causing increased blood flow. Also, arteries leading to the brain tighten due to the increased muscle tension, which would cause pressure in the head. Hatha Yoga is an ideal way to relieve the pain of severe headaches because it emphasizes balance between opposing forces, relaxing the mind, and purifying the body through slow poses. It relieves tension in the head, neck, shoulders and entire body, which lessens anxiety.
Hatha literally means “sun” and “moon,” and has a greater meaning of bringing balance to opposing forces. Hatha Yoga is a style which can be therapeutic through the practice of postures, purifying the body, meditation, balance, and training the mind. This goes hand-in-hand with relieving the different muscle and vascular tensions involved in a headache.
There are a large number of Hatha Yoga poses that can relieve headache pain. As a general rule, only poses or asanas that do not require the head to sink lower than the level of the heart should be practiced. Helpful poses include but are not limited to Cow Pose, Cobra Pose, Reclining Pose, Table Pose, and Corpse Pose. While asanas can be performed at any time, the standard recommendation is that Yoga sessions should be practiced three times a week to gain all of its physical and mental benefits.