If you’re halfway through the semester, you’ll already know the stresses of being a student. Student life forces you to sit down for hours on end and live off energy drinks to get you through the long sleepless periods. It’s not uncommon or healthy to suffer headaches, especially at this time of year when stress is higher than ever. To help combat headaches, many of us knock back the painkillers and drink way too much coffee, usually in vain. However, unbeknown to some, the most recommended way to relieve these tension headaches is by engaging in some low-impact cardio or yoga.
Yoga is ideal for headache relief because it helps to untangle stress in the body while relaxing the spine and neck. These areas are prone to tension, especially in situations where individuals are sitting for an extended period of time. By engaging muscles a little more, the body begins to pump more blood and bring more oxygen to the brain, relieving those gripping headaches.
Obviously, this doesn’t mean as soon as you get a headache you should leave class and head to the nearest park to start practising yoga. When you do get the time to practise, below are some easy moves for you to try that can provide instant relief. The moves can be practised whilst sitting on a chair but you’ll get the most out of them if you’re standing. To maximise results, practise every move a minimum of two or three times.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and make sure they’re firmly positioned on the ground. Lift your arms above the head and grab one wrist with the opposite hand. Gently pull on the wrist, moving your arm to the opposite side. Hold this position for 30 seconds, bending the arm a little more every time you exhale.
Standing with feet hip-width apart, position your arms behind you and grab your opposite elbows. For better results, you could also place your hands in prayer position behind you, ensuring all fingers are facing upwards. In either position, ensure your jaw is loose and relax your neck. You may even want to try closing your eyes. Breathe in and out steadily as you hold this position for 30 seconds.
Seated Spinal Twist
Bring one leg up to towards the chest. Fit your elbow of the opposite arm to the raised leg by holding it on the outside of the thigh. Gently twist your torso in the same direction of the raised arm and leg. Every time you breathe out, try and twist a little more, ensuring there is no strain on your back. Practise this move for 30 seconds at a time, twisting each side.
Roll your shoulders back and lengthen your spine, making sure the neck is relaxed. Place your arms around the torso, like you’re giving yourself a hug. Lift up your hands, allowing the highest elbow to rest of the elbow joint of the other arm. Make sure your hands are facing inwards with your palms together. Then with eyes closed, keep breaths steady and constant. Hold this pose for 30 seconds, switching the arms over and repeating when you’re done.
Place both feet about six inches apart, keeping both legs as straight as possible without your knees locking. Tilting from the hips, your torso should bend down towards the ground, while you breathe out. If you can, hook both the middle and index finger around the big toe, holding that pose with your thumbs. Carefully press all fingers into the ground. Then, as you breathe out, tailbone raised, you should feel a much deeper stretch. Hold again for 30 seconds.
Whichever one of these poses you try, it’s so important to remember to look after your body. This means ensuring you’re hydrated and eat when you’re hungry. It’s recommended that you drink around 250ml of water before attempting these exercises and that you have a drink every 30 minutes. Pre workout, make sure you eat something substantial such as wholesome carbohydrates and proteins. An example of this would be pieces of fruit, a serve of Greek yoghurt or some oats. These foods are easily digestible and will help to prevent nausea when working out.
Next time you have a headache and you feel the urge to sink a large, sugary coffee or a painkiller or two to try and combat it, give your body the nutrients it needs with lots of water, good food and activity instead. You’ll soon find that when you return to studying, you’ll feel much more relaxed, clearer and so much more productive.