08/20/2012 08:06 am ET Updated Oct 17, 2012

Meditation for Headache Relief

Tension headaches affect many of us from time to time. If you've ever had one, you'll know the signs -- mild to moderate pain and a tight band of tension surrounding the head that can make it difficult to focus or concentrate. While researchers disagree on the exact causes of this uncomfortable condition, many agree that heightened degrees of stress can make the situation worse.

Learning how to consciously relax the body can help you release the physical effects of stress and can lessen the intensity of your headache. The next time you feel a headache coming on, take 10 minutes out to practice this short meditation to head off the pain:

1. Find a Relaxing Posture

Come to a comfortable seated position or if possible, lie down. If you've chosen to sit, lengthen upward through the crown of your head, and let your shoulders slide down away from your ears.

2. Breathe Deeply

Close your eyes and take 10 really deep breaths. Focus on making every inhale and exhale as long as possible. Relax as deeply as you can every time you breathe out.

3. Mentally Scan Your Skull for Points of Tension

Hold your body still, and shift awareness upward to the crown of your head. Mentally seek out points of tension. When you find a point that feels tight, imagine the tension breaking up like a crumbling pile of sand. Work through the crown of your head systematically releasing tension as you scan. Once you can feel the top of your head softening and relaxing, use the same technique to release tension in your forehead, eyes, and jaw.

4. Scan Downward Through the Rest of Your Body

Scan your neck and shoulders for individual points of tension and imagine the tension crumbling away as you move your awareness through your body. Continue on through your arms and hands and downward through your torso and legs. Once you've made it to your feet, reverse the process and scan all the way back upward to the crown of your head.

5. Calm Your Mind by Focusing on the Sound of Your Breath

Once you've finished mentally relaxing your body, calm your mind by redirecting your focus to the sound of your exhales for two to three minutes. When your mind wanders elsewhere, draw it back to your breath.

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