When we begin to feel headache symptoms our instinct is to massage our temples or back of the head and neck. It’s instinctual. We know that when the stress and tension build, it needs releasing. While our hands can do a great job, sometimes we need a little extra. Before you reach for the medicine cabinet try this somatic yoga for headache relief, using a tennis ball.
In previous posts, I’ve talked about my love of using tennis balls in my yoga practice. They are a fantastic way to massage your fascia to release tension and enable us to go deeper into poses. However, they can also help to relieve pain associated with tension, like tension headaches. If you feel a headache coming on my advice is to try this yoga for headache relief, quick 5-minute massage.
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Somatic yoga for headache relief
As with all somatic work, it’s important to get a baseline scan, so you can compare before and after. Plus, you’ll have more of an idea of where the tension is. So begin by lying on your back, with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Ponytails should be set free, so you can feel the connection of the back of the head to the floor. Then gently roll the head to the right and left.
Move slowly. Give yourself the opportunity to experience the movement. In fact, this gentle massage could be where you stop today. Things to notice include:
- Is there any pain, tension, or ‘gripping’ in the head, neck, and shoulders?
- Do the shoulders and arms want to move with the head?
- Is there more range of movement to the right or to the left?
Massaging the head with a tennis ball
Notice where the head and floor connect. That’s where the tennis ball should be placed. So take one hand to support and lift the head, then the other hand will place the tennis ball. If at any point during the exercise the ball rolls away, just bring it back. Reposition as needed.
After noticing the ball, realize that the ball is a sphere and so movements will need to be slow and small! Otherwise, the ball WILL roll out. Imagine a quarter just above your nose. Then take a small 1″ nod, up and down, “yes!”. Imagine the nose tracing a line from the top of the quarter to the bottom. Small, slow, and steady movement! Feel the ball massaging along the back of the head.
After a minute pause, take a breath. Now imagining that quarter above the nose, take the same 1″ but this time right to left in a “no”. Reposition the ball as needed.
Repeat for another minute, then pause and breathe. Again, imagine the quarter. This time take a small circular motion imagining the nose tracing around the circumference of the coin. Remember, small movement! After a minute pause, and reverse the direction.
All this should be about 5 minutes. Time to release the ball (remember to support the head!), and return the head to the floor. Repeat your baseline scan by rolling the head from right to left. Has anything changed? Repeat as needed. This is also a great exercise to do when you’ve been sitting staring at a screen for a long time. Or are experiencing “text neck”. Let me know in the comments if you found this useful!
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- Have you tried yoga to relieve tension headaches?
- Are you spending a lot of time at the computer?
- Do you struggle to move small and slow?