Tension headaches are potentially strong headaches that can cause pain throughout the neck and back. Hatha Yoga is a natural approach to remedy tension headaches. Hatha means "insistence" and, in terms of yoga, is geared toward making a consistent effort of healing the self using simple postures and exercises, called asanas. Hatha yoga emphasizes a strong, flexible spine and prana (life force), a consciousness of breathing that improves the quality of the blood, organs and overall general health.

The following is a simple plan to introduce yoga into your life, and specifically to relieve tension in the head, neck and back. Yoga is meant to be gentle, so do not force or overdo the poses. This will ensure you do not hyperextend your muscles, which can cause more pain and damage. Simply take your time, and allow yourself to practice for at least a few weeks to really notice the results of an unwinding calmness.

Key Hatha Yoga asanas for tension headaches associated with headache, neck pain, and backache
Level: Beginner
Time needed: 20-30 minutes.
Perform all of the following exercises in this order:

1. Complete Breath Standing (Warm Up)
Stand with arms at sides. Place heels together in a slight ‘V’ for balance. Breathe normally through the nose. Slowly sink your head down into your chest. Let go of all tension in your head, neck and arms for one minute. Slowly raise your arms toward the ceiling, palms up, as you simultaneously raise your head and eyes toward the ceiling, inhaling. Exhale as you slowly move your arms back to your sides and head down. Release all tension from arms and head, and repeat exercise four more times.

2. Head Twist
Lie on stomach, preferably on a mat. Bring arms forward and rest forearms on mat. Lift your head supported by your hands and elbows, placing hands on top of head, and gently push head inward. Breathe slowly through nose, and hold for a count of 10. Use hands to shift head left. Left hand is under chin, and right hand on top of head. Pull gently and hold for 10. Repeat center pose. Shift to right, left hand on top of head, right hand under chin, gently pulling toward the right. Hold for a count of 10. Repeat center pose and rest head flat on mat, forehead facing down, and arms at sides. Relax muscles completely for about one minute.

3. Cobra
Maintain position from Head Twist, and relax limbs. Place hands in front of your head, fingers horizontal and facing each other, as you gently lift your head and neck. Raise only a few inches and hold for a count of 10, making sure you support the lift with arms and hands. Slowly release down and rest on chin, arms at sides. Release any muscle tension. Stay in this resting position for one minute, until all muscles are relaxed.

4. Back Stretch
Assume sitting position with legs extended in front of you, arms at sides, palms down on mat. Take a deep breath through the nose as you bring arms up over head, hands side by side above you, and palms facing feet. Travel hands and arms down toward knees and grasp them, thumbs facing each other inside, fingers outside. As you breathe slowly through the nose, bend elbows out without moving your hands, allowing you to stretch down more. Hold for a count of 10. Raise arms back up over head and straighten to sitting position, arms to the side, palms down on mat. Repeat entire routine once.

5. Alternate Nostril Breathing (Closing Breath)
Remain in cross-legged position. Breathe through nose slowly for one minute, arms at sides, releasing all muscle tension. Slowly bring right hand towards face and place index and middle finger on forehead center. Take thumb and place on right nostril. Place ring finger on left nostril, and do not press the nostrils yet. Take a few deep breaths through the nose. Proceed to press right nostril, while other finger is not touching left nostril. Inhale slowly and deeply through left nostril, holding for a count of 5. Switch fingers and exhale through right nostril. Inhale through right nostril, hold for 5, switch fingers, and exhale through left nostril. Repeat entire routine twice more. Place hands at sides and relax muscles for two minutes.

When practicing yoga, do not skip more than one day of practice, in order to keep muscles conditioned and flexible.

Copyright © 2005 Carrie Soneji. All rights reserved.

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Carrie Soneji is the editor of eMetaphor magazine at www.emetaphor.com and is a professional writer and licensed teacher. Her teachings help guide others in their achieving goals, with a major component focusing on self-realization. For more information on her mind/body courses, visit www.bodymorphosis.com. Disclaimer: Always check with your physician before beginning an exercise program. The author assumes no liability for the contents of this article, and is provided for informational purposes only.

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