Many people are cautious about using industrially-formulated solutions to their medical problems. This is why headaches are one of the most common areas of concern. Tension headaches or migraines are often caused by stress, so it is important to change the way you handle stress. Long-term solutions may not be available if we are in the grips of migraine or headaches. We need immediate relief. If we don’t feel like taking drugs or don’t have the time, we can use bodily techniques to treat the problem.
It’s almost as if our whole body is being affected by a headache – our entire life! The pain can cause us to lose our focus. It can be focused in the temples, around the top of the head, or through the eyes. Our experience is physiologically correct. The blood vessels in the brain are dilation, which allows more blood, and more neurological pain messages, to reach the cortex.
The pain is feedback. It is a message from the brain telling us to pay more attention to our whole selves and to re-balance. This explains why a headache is a bodily reaction. It makes sense to do “body work” to counter it. Let’s start with the most basic: how we breathe.
Is your breathing helping you or hurting? Breathing is the most important thing in life. It’s something that we take for granted and most of us don’t think about. How we breathe has a huge impact on our well-being. Here’s one example. When we are afraid to express our strong feelings, headaches can often occur. This is not necessarily a bad thing. There are many situations in which it is wise to not say everything.
Even with the best intentions, holding back creates tension between what you want and what you feel you must. Many of us hold our breath when we hold our tongues. However, if we don’t know how to breathe properly, we won’t be able to dispel emotional tension when we face it. This is why headaches are a common outcome. This is something that few of us notice. Many people, especially women, also habitually inhale in a way that causes tension in their necks and shoulders.
Are you correct in your breathing? Here’s how you can tell. Place your hand on your stomach, standing or sitting. Take a deep breath. As you inhale, do your shoulders and chest rise? Is your hand moving away from the ribcage, or outwards? If your hand doesn’t move or doesn’t move at all, then you are “chest breathing.” Your neck and shoulders will tighten with each breath.
Natural breathing requires movement of the stomach and not the shoulders. The diaphragm, a thin sheet of muscle that sits at the bottom of the lungs like a parachute, allows the entire lung to fill. It is not just the top. Even though it may feel strange at first, every breath taken in this way brings more oxygen to your bloodstream and requires less effort from your musculature. Believe it or not we should all be using our diaphragms all the time.
There are many cultural reasons why we learn to breathe incorrectly. But what is important is that you use your breathing to help you when you get headaches. You should set aside at least twenty minutes. You can either sit quietly or lie down on the floor or bed. Do not lie in a position where you might get a chill. If it is cold, either have something to cover you or keep it close by. Place one hand on your stomach, just below the point where your ribcage and stomach meet. Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed and breathe in deeply.
Next, gently push the hand out as far and as comfortably as possible without straining. Hold the breath for five counts. Take a deep breath and pull the stomach back slowly, until the hand returns to its starting point. Continue this for approximately fifteen minutes. Remind yourself to let go of any tension in your neck, shoulders, or neck. As you breathe out, tell yourself that the floor/bed/chair will support you. Then, surrender to it with each out breath. It is a physiological fact, that you will relax if your breath is full and you exhale fully. This can be repeated for ten minutes, or longer. If you are really short on time, twenty breaths can cause headaches. However, if you get lost in the sequence, you can always start over until you can do twenty consecutively.