Just over a month ago I joined my local yoga studio in the hope that it would help reduced the severity of my headaches. So far it seems to be working. At first I tried mostly regular yoga classes, doing about 5 a week. It was too much for me; after a few days I was starting to feel faint during the class, so I backed off and switched to the yin yoga classes instead.
Yin yoga feels much better to me as it is primarily restorative so I don’t end up overdoing it. Rather than moving through a fairly rapid sequence of postures as you do in regular yoga, the yin variant involves holding a supposedly restful pose for about 5 or so minutes and basically meditating there. Then we rest completely for a couple of minutes before the next one.
I say “supposedly restful” because the postures still involve quite a bit of stretching for my inflexible body. After a couple of minutes I start to feel increasingly uncomfortable and the idea is to relax into the discomfort and breathe through it.
One of the women in the class described the process as “the next best thing to childbirth”. The teacher said that staying with the posture and learning to tolerate the discomfort “rewires the brain”. Sounds familiar!
The classes finish with a short meditation. The local studio has yin & meditation classes most nights, and my body seems to cope well with 5 classes a week.
I’ve also been meditating for 20 minutes every morning over the last month using Ashok Gupta’s Meaning Of Life Experiment app. I think the added benefit of yin yoga is that the postures helps get me out of my head and put my attention more on my body. Learning to tolerate the discomfort of the postures should also increase my pain threshold. Doing it in a class is more social than doing it at home alone and I’ve met a few new friends in the local area as a result. It’s an all round winner.
A few days ago I woke in the middle of the night with a 7 out of 10 headache, which is close to the point where I’d normally take a painkiller. This time I reasoned that the pain was due to tension in my head and neck, held in place by anxiety. So rather than panic about whether the headache would ramp up and get worse like my old migraines did, I just told myself “It’s OK to feel anxious”.
This is an affirmation I gave one of my coaching clients who was feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, and it worked remarkably well for her. Each time I told myself that “It’s OK to feel anxious”, I felt the muscles in my head and neck relaxing and the pain subsiding a little. I got through the day without resorting to painkillers even despite the family lunch that day.
Yin yoga, meditation and acceptance of anxiety seems to be working with the headaches, and I’m interested what strategies other people have for dealing with them?