A tension headache is often a sign that you are not getting enough oxygen. When anxiety and stress trigger the quick, shallow breathing of the fight or flight response, you may begin to hyperventilate. Hyperventilating increases the amount of carbon dioxide you breathe out. Some researchers believe that carbon dioxide enables your body to use oxygen, so a carbon dioxide deficiency may decrease the availability of oxygen in your body.
Belly breathing can help your body take in enough oxygen even when you’re tense, which can significantly reduce the frequency and intensity of your headaches. Practice the following exercise at least twice a day:
-Lie on your back with your knees bent and your legs slightly apart.
-Place your open hands around your lower rib cage with your palms at the lower part of your ribs and your fingertips touching your belly button. Keep your hands in this position throughout the breathing exercise.
-Breathe deeply through your nose, allowing your ribs to expand and contract fully.
-After 2 or 3 minutes, exhale fully through your mouth; count to 5 as you allow your belly to push the air out.
-Then inhale through your mouth for a count of 3. Work toward 4-second inhalations and 12-second exhalations. Do this for 4 to 10 minutes.
-You can also practice belly breathing while sitting or walking.
(Source: Natural Health Magazine, March 2002)