Wednesday, February 11, 2009
It's midway through the weekly staff meeting, and -- aaaccck! Not again! It's the return of your faithful companion, the tension headache.
If you have frequent headaches, have just started having them, or if they are unusually severe, or accompanied by fever, muscle stiffness, or vomiting, you should seek immediate medical attention, as a headache can be a symptom of a serious condition. However, if you've ruled out all the scary stuff, and are still stuck with tension headaches, don't worry. You're not doomed to a lifetime of Advil consumption. Happily, there's an enjoyable, interesting, and drug-free alternative to help you zap those tension headaches for good.
The Feldenkrais Method®
of Somatic Education can help you to beat those headaches, and even to "head them off" (sorry for the pun!) when you first realize that one is starting. Chances are, your tension headache is part of a larger, overall pattern of muscular tension involving your whole self. Perhaps you've noticed that your neck, your shoulders, your low back -- even your eyes and jaw -- sometimes feel strained and tight also. When you become aware of what else
is happening in addition to your headache, you can begin to understand your habitual pattern. Change some part of the pattern, and it's likely that your headache will improve, as well.
Join me in a short experiment. Ask your secretary to hold your calls for a few minutes, or close your office door. Be willing to stop and "unplug" for awhile. After all, if you keep doing what you've been doing, how can you expect anything to change?
Sit quietly in your chair, and make yourself comfortable. Allow the chair to support you completely. Bring your attention to your breathing. Chances are, you will have the sensation of taking a big breath after holding it for awhile. Breath-holding is largely unconscious, and it's one of the primary anxiety responses. It's a left-over from our evolutionary past when we hid in the jungle and held our breath to avoid being detected (and then eaten) by a wild animal. Let your breath become slow, and light, and even. No need for heavy, deep breathing, just keep it comfortable and regular. Feel where in your back, or your neck, or shoulders, you are working hard, tensing muscles. Tense them a little more, if you like, and then allow yourself to soften in those places just a bit. As you continue to breathe easily, notice: is anything changing?
As you look at your computer screen, really look hard at these letters. Almost squint, steely-eyed, and feel the response in your neck, in your jaw, and anyplace else that gets your attention. Then, look somewhere just above your computer screen. Imagine that you are looking out a window at a beautiful vista in the distance. Let your focus become soft and dreamy. Can you feel the difference in your neck and your jaw, compared to before? Switch back and forth, gently, between the hard-edged, squinty focus and the soft focus. Can you now read the computer screen with a softer focus? Feel your breathing, your neck, your shoulders. Is anything changing? How's that headache?
Hard-focus squinting is a habitual pattern that is largely unconscious; meaning, you probably don't even realize when you are doing it! The muscles of your eyes determine the muscle tone throughout your body, especially in your neck, and in the layers of muscle that enclose the bones of your scull. Learning to feel yourself as you go into a habitual pattern can help you to reverse out of the pattern and keep yourself pain-free.
teachers can help you to find ease in daily movements, like working at a computer, walking, sitting, standing, or breathing. Relief from those tension headaches, and more comfort in everything you do, is just a phone call away. To find a Feldenkrais
teacher and classes near you, visit the website of the Feldenkrais Guild®
of North America, www.feldenkrais.com
MaryBeth D. Smith, MM, GCFP, is the Director of the Feldenkrais® Center of Houston, TX. With over 25 years of experience teaching in university, community, and business settings, she now uses the Feldenkrais Method to help people improve their self image, function, and enjoyment in movement and in life.