Finding What Feels Good
Tried it? Never tried it? Like the idea? Already in love with it? Would you be interested if I told you it can help reduce headaches?
I'm going to do my best not to get all gushy here. I know yoga is not for everyone, but I wanted to share how it has helped me - especially with coping with headaches, migraines and stress. And just with life in general!
I’ll be honest - I'm not an amazing yogi, super flexible or super strong. Handstand? Headstand? Nope can't do that... yet. BUT there is plenty of time.
It’s certainly fun to do those but you need to work with your body and not race into poses and injure yourself. I know I will get there one day, and build up to it when I'm ready for something more physically challenging.
For me at the moment this isn't what my yoga practice is about. It is about tuning into my body and what I am feeling. Helping to relieve tension, work through emotions and to get myself geared up for the day or to wind down for bed!
All those years ago when I attended a class in my first year of university I couldn't believe how relaxing it was to just lie on the floor in ‘shavasana’ and just be. Being able to relax into the time and just be still and silent.
My yoga practice was very sporadic until the beginning of 2017. I’d do a few sessions here and there using videos online, and I also did a 30 day challenge in January 2016 which I loved, but didn’t keep up with after the month was over. Yoga hadn’t been a regular feature in my routine until this year.
During the 30 day challenge I practiced at the start of 2017 something clicked. The consistency helped me to see changes in my body, and I found it really fun and relaxing at the same time. It was as if I knew this is what my body and my mind needed, and gave me something to look forward to as I wasn’t enjoying my job at that time.
After the challenge I probably did one or two sessions a week. Which doesn’t sound like a lot, but I kept up with it consistently. I began to turn to yoga when I noticed I felt upset by something, or when I wanted to change my mood if I was feeling negative.
Whilst on my travels in the spring I saw a girl on a train reading the book “Yoga Girl”.
I don't know why I couldn't take my eyes off the book. I could see the words on the front cover;
"Finding happiness, cultivating balance and living with your heart wide open".
It stuck with me, and the next weekend I saw the book whilst wandering around a shop. I bought it.
I read it sooo quickly and finished it within a few days. I was fascinated with Rachels story and what she had overcome. And I think what impressed me the most was her beautiful mindset about life and it’s challenges.
She began the #yogaeverydammday challenge. This is and isn’t as tough as it sounds. Basically it is about getting yourself to your mat everyday. Being consistent. You don’t have to do a long or active sequence, it could be for just 5 minutes. Or two minutes of sitting with your eyes closed focusing on your breath, being present. Taking time to show yourself some love. When you take care of yourself and fill your own cup, you can help others better.
Rachels attitude and her every damn day philosophy made me want to make yoga and meditation a bigger part of my life.
Shortly after, while suffering a particularly bad headache/migraine episode I discovered a fascinating article about using yoga as a treatment/therapy to improve migraines. The research and results inspired me to up my game and practice everyday. Basically the study found that practicing yoga everyday helped reduce the intensity, duration and frequency of migraines in the participants. Their practices focused on the neck and shoulders as tension can build up there, leading to headaches.
Both Rachel’s book and learning the results of the study helped motivate me to keep going with my practice everyday. This consistency helped me to see changes in my body quite quickly. I felt stronger, could hold poses for longer, and lean a bit deeper into stretches.
Keeping a regular practice has hugely helped my headaches. I have seen a reduction in them, which I think this is down to reduced tension/stress levels because I have been consistently relaxing. It makes a difference when you properly unwind from the day rather than carry thoughts and tension around with you one day to the next to the next.
I had a particular ah-ha moment a few months ago when I had a horrible headache induced by a day of travelling. I felt like I didn’t want to move much, so I chose a stretching sequence to follow (online) and by the end of the 45 minutes I realised my headache had gone! I’d just let myself get into the practice, forgot about my headache and stayed present and focused until the end, and ta-dah! Headache gone! This was such a powerful moment for me. That sequence is now one of my favourites and I do it regularly, not just when I have a headache.
Yoga has brought me other benefits though, not just its amazing power over my headaches! It has helped me to accept things that I can’t change, adopt a healthier mindset and has taken me to a new level of self-appreciation for my body and mind and what I can do!
And you can have so much fun with yoga! Using your body and building up to all the different poses you can do! The first time I ‘flew’ in crow pose felt amazing! I find it really playful and almost childlike... just do a happy baby and you’ll know what I mean! As much as I’d like to, I haven’t tried a handstand yet - I feel I need supervision and I know I need to work up to it to avoid injuring myself.
I do want to mention that this doesn’t have to be expensive with lots of classes... I have got to where I am now with only going to a few actual classes, the rest has been online tuition, via YouTube. All free! Yoga with Adriene is a great start! I can recommend others too if you’re interested. I do suggest going to some actual taught classes though if you are a complete beginner.... I don’t want you to do yourself any damage!
Sometimes getting to the mat everyday is a challenge, especially if I’m busy, but I just promise myself I’ll sit and meditate, focus on my breath, being present. Or I'll do a few flows to get me moving. Just to take some time. Five minutes can make all the difference! Initially I began with short, gentle practices and have now built myself up to doing longer sequences when I can.
Ok, so that’s about where I am up to now, using yoga to help me work through my days, whatever they bring. I’m starting to get more energetic and adventurous when I feel like it, whilst still keeping it chilled when I need to!
I hope you find this post helpful. Yoga has made such a difference to me. I hope it can inspire you to investigate into the practice more. If you are curious about anything I have mentioned please send me a message here or via Instagram.
Peace, love and yoga ✌️