Tension headaches commonly arise from strain in the sub-occipital muscle group. This is a band of four muscles located at the base of the skull. Our activities of daily living may be the biggest culprit. With text neck, now, an epidemic now in our culture, tension headaches are on the rise.  Any activity that keeps the head looking down and forward of the spine too frequently and for too long contributes to chronic neck and shoulder tension. Luckily, this musculoskeletal problem responds well and quickly to targeted Yoga practices. Below you will find one of my favorite quick cures for tension headaches.

Here is a simple restorative pose that will help you melt away your sub-occipital tension in less than 10 minutes. Take a break from your screen, do wonders for your posture, and give it a try.

Restorative Yoga Cure Tension Headaches

Set up two blocks and two blankets as shown in the picture below.

Yoga props for yoga class
Props needed for relieving tension headaches with yoga

Using foam blocks are best.  If you have cork or wooden blocks, just place a small towel over the top edge.  Lay down along the support and place the top edge of the block at the base of the skull. Land where the attachment of the sub-occipitals lie (see the red line). This is the position to begin the cure for tension headaches.

Yoga Anatomy for headaches
Occipital Ridge

Use Your Intuition

You can be somewhat intuitive about the location as there often is a deep sense of well-being when you land in the right spot; just ensure that your chin stays aligned and perpendicular to the floor so the cervical spine maintains its natural curve.  The common misalignment here is allowing the head to fall back too far placing the neck in hyperextension. Intuitively guide yourself as you cure your tension headaches

Black and white of Molly Masaoka on yoga mat, blanket and blocks
Cure for tension headaches with yoga

With your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, lift your hips slightly and draw the hips forward toward your feet, gently pulling traction on your spine. Keep that and release the hips back down to the support.

Then, very slowly turn your head to the right side as far as feels appropriate in your body. Breathe and let go.

Headache relief with yoga
Yoga For Tension Headaches Practice

Make small and very slow micro movements staying turned to the right side and allow the body to melt, surrender and give way. After a few minutes on the right side, realign the spine to neutral, pause and then turn the head to the left and repeat.  This work helps to relieve chronic tension patterns.  It realigns the head to its anatomical neutral orientation with the spine while releasing the fascia (connective tissue) of the superficial back line. The result is a wonderful sense of well-being in the body and mind.

Breathe deep & let go.

I hope you have enjoyed and gotten relief from this, one of my favorite cures for tension headaches.

Om Shanti,
Liz Heffernan, E-RYT 500
C-IAYT Yoga Therapist

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