While the holidays are festive and joyous, they are also stressful and busy. We still have the same workload and personal responsibilities AND shopping, wrapping, socializing, creating traditions with family and friends.
With the frenetic hustle and bustle of the holiday season comes an increase in tension headaches. The exact cause of tension headaches is unknown, but stress (physical or emotional) IS a known factor.
Emotional and physical stress can contribute to tension headaches. Emotional stress can lead to tight muscles in the neck and upper back. If you live in an area where shoveling snow or cutting firewood is a part of daily life, you are familiar with tight muscles. Cold winter weather adds to this by contracting muscles. This muscle tightness in the upper body causes the neck muscles to pull on the skull. This causes a feeling of a tight band around the head. This is a tension headache.
You can treat the pain/ache with an over-the-counter medicine or you can try massaging your neck. I”d opt for the neck massage! Use a liniment that promotes warmth and penetrates into the muscles (i.e., Tiger Balm). Rub this on your neck and upper shoulders and massage the muscles of your shoulders, neck, and base of skull (or ask someone to do this for you). Cover your neck with a piece of clothing like a scarf or turtleneck and relax. Let the liniment absorb and penetrate the deep muscles. As the muscles relax, the tension headache should be reduced.
There is magic in a neck massage!
Eluding the Home Practice – Again!
Every time I left a yoga class taught by a favorite teacher, I would think, “Wow, I can do this at home!” Then, tomorrow became today and I just didn’t have 90 minutes, or I couldn’t remember the sequence, or I didn’t want to do that video again, and I just didn’t do asana practice. I’d feel guilty about that.
A few years later, I learned the 10-minute rule: Unroll your mat, start your practice. If after 10 minutes you aren’t benefitting, roll up your mat for tomorrow.’ Well, that was the key rule – 10 minutes WAS enough to feel the positive effects of my practice so the practice extended to 15, 20, then half an hour!
It was during my yoga teacher training that I was guided into very regular home practice – my teacher gave us permission not to do a full ‘class’ or ‘flow’ of yoga. “Just work on one pose,” she said. If my hips were holding me down because of tightness, I did a few hip openers. Sometimes I would flow through 3-5 sun salutations. Soon, I’d find myself wandering off into other standing poses.
Lately, I’ve stumbled upon a simple flow. Begin in mountain pose and simply breathe your arms overhead and release them by your side – do this a few times. Bow into forward fold and breathe, heart lifting half way up, fold in deeper. Straight leg lunges on each side follow, then side angle pose and triangle. Now that I’m warmed up, a couple of sun salutations before a few of hip openers, like half pigeon, and a low back release like bridge that also let’s me feel the openness in my shoulders. A spinal twist or two, then a few moments just lying on my back in svasana.
Yum...it’s just enough to light me up inside!