Yoga for Headaches


I was in a yoga class earlier this week, on the hottest day in September for 55 years. As someone who typically gets pretty sweaty anyway in class, it inevitably resulted in a very sweaty 90 minutes, and although my muscles lengthened dramatically in the heat, I had to pause regularly and come to child's pose due to light headedness and slight headaches (this may also have been related to a large lunch...). For me, gentle sips of water and little breaks was enough to carry me through to the end of class, but it did get me thinking after class about what the right or wrong thing to do was regarding yoga and headaches! For many people, headaches can be a regular occurrence and if you experience them often then perhaps you may wonder whether or not it is best to skip class or work through it. Really, I don't think there is a hard or fast rule here. Something like a headache can arise from so many different things that whether or not practicing yoga is likely to worsen or relieve your discomfort is hard to predict. However, generally speaking vigorous exercise can often worsen headaches and put strain on the body where your body may be calling out for rest.

That being said, when our body aches in any way, softer styles of yoga can be a really great way to heal and nurture your body and mind, so you don't have to write of time on the mat all together. A good place to start is to asses the cause of the headache. If it is through dehydration, then a sweaty practice may not be the most sensible option but if your headache is arising through tension, then a strong practice that helps to create some head space could be really beneficial. In that instance, a strong practice such as power yoga could give you the physicality that you might find relieves tension, but it may be that you need something more meditative and restorative to help you find a sense of calm. If the headache is a result of a big night out, then sweating is my best tip to boot your hangover. It might seem like the worst idea in the world at the time, but if you can make it through to the other side, chances are you will thank yourself later.

Then there is meditation, which has been known to both resolve and intensify headaches, so again this is really an individual thing and it may take some trial and error to asses whether or not to meditate on a sore head. Really, as ever, the key thing is to get in touch with your body. To listen and learn from yourself and to just go with the flow. If something feels good then the chances are it will but if your intuition says no, then perhaps that is the guidance you need to take a step back and have a day off. We are all so different, so only your body can teach you what will work for you.