How can yoga help headaches and shoulder pain?


Man with headacheUp to three quarters of adults have had headache in the last year, with more than 10 million people in the UK experiencing headaches regularly – making them one of the most common health complaints.

In this interview Centre Director and Iyengar yoga therapy teacher Frances Homewood explains how yoga can help.

What made you decide to organise a workshop on headaches?
I’ve been noticing that more and more students come to class complaining of recurring headaches. I feel sure this is partly to do with our lifestyles for example having to use computers and being sedentary, which creates a lot of tension in the neck/head area.

I was in France last year on a yoga holiday with Annie Ciekanski, a senior teacher who’s assisted the Iyengar family (in general and in therapy classes) for many years. She taught a very useful sequence for headaches and neck and shoulder stiffness so I decided to invite her to teach in Sheffield.

Are there particular yoga poses that are good for headache?
There are a number of good poses to release the neck and create space, which can relieve headaches. It’s best for these to be shown by an experienced teacher.

In Iyengar yoga we often use props such as bolsters, blankets and bandages etc. How can these help with headaches?
A bandage wrapped around the forehead and the eyes is really helpful and resting forward over bolsters eases tension in the head.

What about stiff shoulders?
Again, it’s often lifestyle, for example through computer use, driving and poor posture, that creates this stiffness. Unless we consciously address it, it can turn into pain or injury and Iyengar yoga gives such perfect tools to keep the shoulders moving. I have seen that when students learn these poses and practice them regularly there is a distinct improvement.

Frances adjusting a student

Frances adjusting a student

One of our students, Balvinder Kaur, said: “Since starting Iyengar yoga a few months ago I have felt a difference in my neck, shoulders and arms in which I was experiencing problems and pain. I have felt a gradual improvement over the months.” 

Annie Ciekanski is no longer able to run the workshop, however there will be a yoga workshop for headaches and neck/shoulder pain with Frances Homewood on Saturday 1 July from 1-3.30pm at Sheffield Yoga Centre.  All attendees will receive a free downloadable copy of the workshop sequence.