My migraines can start in my shoulders, this is where I hold a lot of tension and tightness. And I do mean a lot! When I have trigger point acupuncture, the knots have no sooner been released than they have returned to a state of tightness. For me this is an ongoing battle, to try to relax my upper body and cutting off the start of the head pain at its source.
It all starts with awareness, noticing where you hold tension and tuning in when that tightness is rising. This is where our mindfulness practices come in, they help us check in and be aware of our body on a moment by moment basis. When we know what’s going on inside and how our physical body is reacting to the outside world we’re beginning to take control back.
Each day I incorporate shoulder/neck/upper back stretches into my yoga session. This helps my head to feel looser and gives me the feeling of doing something good for myself to combat how my body has naturally started to process stress.
Here are my top 3 poses to ease upper body tension. Let me know how you get on and if you’d like to practice along with me, then check out the 10-minute video at the bottom of this page.
Traditionally we would practice cat/cow on all 4s but this seated version allows you to incorporate it into your day. Inhale to take the chest forwards, gazing up towards the ceiling and arching the back. On the exhale begin to tuck the chin into the chest and round the back stretching into the shoulder blades. Move in time with the breath and hold/stay in any places that feel they need an extra stretch.
Take arms straight in front and cross right elbow on top of left. As you bend your elbows, reach the right arm further forward, creating space for your right palm to meet your left fingers. Drop shoulders and raise elbows and take up to 5 slow breaths.
Can’t wrap the arms, then press the forearms together, drop shoulders and raise elbows.
Repeat on opposite side.
Extended Neck Stretch
Go carefully with this one and always work in a pain-free range. Drop left ear towards left shoulder, hold for a few breaths before extending the right arm out to the side. Try raising the arm and lowering it, noticing any changes this makes to the neck stretch. For an additional layer you can place the left hand onto the side of the head – don’t push your head down, this is a gentle additional weight.
Come up on the inhale and repeat on the opposite side.