Headaches are one of the most common and aggravating health problems we experience. More than 40 million Americans suffer from serious or chronic headaches sometime during their lives, and Americans consume over 30,000 tons of over-the counter painkillers each year!

Co-written by an experienced medical doctor and an acclaimed professional yoga teacher, Yoga Therapy for Headache Relief is the first book that uses yoga as a comprehensive, permanent alternative solution to the standard-often only marginally effective-treatments.

Topics covered include: the different types of headaches and how to tell them apart; how yoga can help them; two safe, effective routines—one short, the other longer—detailing which yoga postures to use for best results; additional alternative techniques that may be helpful; other prescription and non-prescription medical therapies worth considering; and a bibliography for further reading.

Effective Solutions for Overcoming Headaches

Yoga Therapy is a revolutionary new approach to working with some of the most common physical and mental ailments. Combining yoga postures with the latest in conventional and alternative medical treatments, each book in the Yoga Therapy series presents a fresh, effective approach to healing.

Yoga Therapy for Headache Relief contains extensive information on how to use yoga postures as an aid in healing, useful conventional and alternative treatments to supplement your practice, plus a variety of additional tips, techniques, and tools. Yoga Therapy is easy-to-use, succinct, and requires no prior knowledge or practice of yoga.

Gyandev McCord

Nayaswami Gyandev (Gyandev Rich McCord, Phd) is the worldwide Director of Ananda Yoga and the Ananda Yoga Teacher Training programs at The Expanding Light Yoga & Meditation Retreat. He has a Ph.D. from Stanford University in Applied Mathematics and has taught internationally on the subjects of yoga, meditation and yoga philosophy for over 16 years. He also served as General Manager for Ananda Publications and Dawn Publications for three years and as a Management Consultant for four years in the Silicon Valley.

Nayaswami Gyandev has served on the Board of Directors of the Yoga Alliance, the group of yoga schools and traditions which has recently developed comprehensive standards for yoga teachers in the United States. He is also an accomplished storyteller, focusing on epic dramas from mystic traditions.

Nayaswami Gyandev's philosophy about yoga practice is that, "It should give valuable benefits on many levels - physical, mental, emotional - and that its highest purpose is to tune practitioners into their own body's subtle energy flows. This allows a practitioner to experience the full spiritual dimension of each posture, thus expanding the benefits of yoga beyond the body, into the mind and soul."


Chapter 1: The Nature of Headaches

Chapter 2: Conventional Headache Treatment

Chapter 3: When to See Your Doctor

Chapter 4: How to Practice Ananda Yoga for Wellness

Chapter 5: The Ananda Yoga Difference

The Ideal Headache Treatment

Chapter 6: Ananda Yoga Headache—Prevention Routines

Chapter 7: Ananda Yoga Headache—Intervention Routines

Chapter 8: Next Steps

Appendix A

Summary of the Main Routine

Medical Bibliography

Who wouldn’t like to toss the medicine bottle for an effective and natural alternative to treating headaches? An alternative that not only prevents or gets rid of headaches, but slims your thighs—which it can if you keep with it—and enables you to see and act and live more rightly and with more joy.

No one wants the side negative effects that can arise from headache medications, or the worry about long-term use of certain drugs. And so many of us are tired of being dependent on daily medication to function, still not knowing when the next headache will hit. There is also the high cost of prescriptions for headaches, especially for those of us who don’t have adequate health insurance. These concerns affect our day-to-day lives—even the length and quality of our lives, and they are the lenses that bring the value of yoga practices into unmistakable focus. Yoga techniques have no negative side effects, only the vast potential of better health and well being on every level, inside and out.

The wide array of yoga exercises provided in this book can help prevent recurrent headaches or ease a headache in progress. Based on the well-known Ananda Yoga system, these exercises emphasize relaxation, stretching, breathing, and positive affirmation to break the headache cycle. Although physicians often suggest these kinds of stretches and relaxation exercises, they seldom teach them in a way that actually encourages someone to use them. Ananda Yoga offers a simple step-by-step guide for those who would like a medication-free way of living without headaches.

The Nature of Headaches

Daniel leaned forward over the edge of his chair at work, elbows on his knees, careful not to move too fast or bend too
far over. His next customer was due in twenty minutes but the nausea hadn’t reached its peak. He rubbed his temples to
calm the piercing pains that kept a constant pulse of their own. He had never been able to predict when a migraine
headache was going to strike.

Six days had passed since his last migraine—far longer than usual. This one had lurked for hours with stark white
lights shooting through his head. He had taken something for it, but not in time. He looked at the calendar above his
desk, his vision so out of focus the numbers appeared double. He longed for a cool, dark, quiet cave to crawl into until
his symptoms disappeared.

Daniel has endured migraine and tension headaches since he was a youngster, and he is far from alone. As many as 10%
of all males and females may have some form of migraine headache, often beginning in childhood or early adulthood. We
don’t really know how common migraine headache is because many sufferers do not report their conditions to their physicians,
or they go undiagnosed. Surveys show that physicians diagnose less than half of all migraine headaches. Half or so of all
recurrent headaches that physicians do evaluate turn out to be a form of migraine or a mixture of migraine and tension headache.

We do know headaches are somewhat more prevalent in women than men. Some women develop them only after menopause.
For others menopause increases the frequency of their headache events. Most people average about 12 attacks a year but a
migraine headache can strike more frequently—as often as several times a week.

All Too Common Problem

Almost everyone has experienced some kind of significant headache at one time or another, and more than 40% of us
have endured a severe headache at least once in our lives. For most individuals, it’s an occasional problem associated
with a case of the flu or a particularly stressful day. Yet for more than 15% of the population, recurrent or chronic
headaches are commonplace. Headache is one of the chief reasons Americans visit the doctor, and more than 5% of adults
are currently receiving medical care related to headaches. Americans swallow over 15,000 tons of aspirin a year to quell
headaches, and truck loads of ibuprofen and acetaminophen (Tylenol). Untold millions of hours of work are missed each
year because of headache related problems. Migraine headaches alone are thought to result in up to 17 billion dollars
worth of lost annual productivity.

Individuals with chronic headaches are also more likely to experience decreased emotional, social, and physical health.
Those with recurrent migraine headaches are three times more likely to suffer from depression. Many of those plagued with
headaches never seek medical care for diagnosis and possible treatment—they simply suffer, often in silence and isolation.

What Kind of Headache?


The cranial arteries dilate during a migraine episode, often resulting in a multitude of symptoms besides a headache.
The whole head can be involved or only one side, often with throbbing or pounding sensations. Exercise tends to worsen the
pain, which can last a few hours to well over twenty-four. Worse yet, an episode can produce nausea with vomiting and
extreme sensitivity to light and noise.

Cause of Migraine

Although the exact cause of migraine headaches has not yet surfaced, we know that genes play an important role for
some people. More than half of all migraine sufferers has a family history of the disorder and the frequency of migraines
attacks is in three times higher in women than men. A whopping one out of every five women may be affected.

There are also dozens of different events that can lead to recurrent headache, ranging from the development of high
blood pressure to side effects from various medications taken for a multitude of health reasons.

Our knowledge of the actual events that occur in the brain during a migraine headache has improved in recent years.
It seems likely that an imbalance in the brain’s neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, touches off a cascade of events
that can lead to a migraine headache: inflammation and irritation in the brain, accompanied by swelling of the blood
vessels that produces a painful stretching of the vessels.

Migraine Warning Signs

A migraine can either strike without warning or produce early symptoms such as bright visual flashes of light or
geometric patterns, confusion, weakness or tingling in an arm or leg, or even difficulty speaking. These pre-headache
symptoms are called an aura and usually last less than 30 minutes, most often ending with the beginning of a full-fledged

Migraine Triggers

Many things can provoke migraine headaches. Psychological stress or emotional upsets are common triggers. Some women
have migraines only around the time of their menstrual period, most likely set off by hormonal changes. Foods such as
red wine, certain cheeses, nuts, and chocolate are common culprits, as well as changes in sleep patterns, weather, high
altitude, and strong odors. Some individuals who take frequent doses of pain relievers develop headaches whenever they
miss their usual dose.

Common Tension Headaches

Tension headache is the most common kind of headache, and the one that most people have experienced at least once during
a time of stress. For some individuals, tension headaches become recurrent. Physicians have found that approximately half
of the individuals who seek medical help for recurrent headache suffer from the tension headache, sometimes in combination
with migraine.

Pain common to a tension headache can be just as severe as from a migraine but is more often described as band-like
and aching on both sides of the head. The pain will be dull and steady and exercise can often lessen the discomfort.
Some people complain of neck stiffness with pain at the back of the head that radiates toward the front. Tension headaches
tend to come on slowly over hours and may persist for days or even months.

Tension Headache Causes

In the past, we thought that the cause of pain from a tension headache was completely due to unrelieved muscle tension
in the scalp and neck that cut off the normal blood circulation to that area. We now understand that in addition, there
are substantial changes in the brain’s neurotransmitters and blood vessels. A build up of specific irritants and inflammation
in the scalp muscles can cause excruciating pain. The tenderness and sensitivity is often out of proportion to the singular
muscular tension involved. Sometimes the scalp can become very tender to the touch. Scientific researchers now find that both
migraines and tension headaches can cause somewhat similar changes in brain functions and that both are likely more related
than we suspected.

Tension Headache Triggers

Anxiety, depression, life’s emotional and psychological stresses, missed meals, under-sleeping, and exposure to cigarette
smoke, are all common triggers for tension headaches. Poor posture or sitting in one position for too long—as many of us do
hunched over our desks day after day, as well as leading sedentary lifestyles predisposes us to tension headaches.

Other Kinds of Headaches

Approximately 90% of the chronic headaches that physicians evaluate turn out to be tension or migraine headaches, but
the remaining 10% have a broad range of causes, few of them serious. Often those with recurrent headaches assume they are
caused by eyestrain, yet new glasses rarely help. Only in rare instances do visual problems cause chronic headaches.

Physicians may sometimes mistake both tension and migraine headaches for sinus headaches, which are actually quite
uncommon and usually involve some facial pain over the sinuses.

Side effects from some medications can cause headaches, such as ones to treat high blood pressure and oral contraceptives
for women. An abrupt halt to drinking coffee may cause a caffeine withdrawal headache painful enough to drive an individual
into an Emergency Room. Dehydration, even when mild, is another common headache cause.

Less Common Sources of Chronic Headaches

Sinus Inflammation
Post-concussion Headache
Brain Tumor
Brain Aneurysm
Trigeminal Neuralgia
TMJ Disorder
Drug Abuse
Subdural Hematoma
Temporal Arteritis
Cluster Headaches
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Significant Untreated High Blood Pressure
Brain Abscess
Lyme disease

"I have suffered from headaches ever since I was a child. They call them ‘clusters’—several headaches over a few days ranging from a dull ache to a full-blown can’t-bear-the-light, vomiting migraine. Looking down the Pain Relief aisle at the grocery store, I am clearly not the only one suffering from this issue. But you can only take so many aspirin, Tylenol, Advil, Excedrin cocktails before you realize that you have to find a more holistic approach to healing your own pain. Yoga can help back pain, creaky hips and hurt knew—but headaches? This book answers that question with a resounding ‘Yes!’ Not just for stopping headaches right as they begin, but to help prevent them with better techniques of posture and improved flexibility in the neck, shoulders and back areas. Breathing deeply, there are also basic techniques of meditation and stress management. These slow, simple exercises are easy for anyone, certainly necessary for anyone computer or desk bound, and essential for someone who is prone to headaches like me. Less pills, more relief, all in this little book."

Vision Magazine