In a previous blog post I mentioned how physical exercise could be a possible trigger to headaches. This is true for some people especially if the exercises are too strenuous or causes you to over-exert yourself and increases tension. However, exercise that involves pain-free, repetitive movement may prove to be beneficial to you.
In general, exercise stimulates your body to release natural pain controlling chemicals called endorphins and natural anti-depressant chemicals called enkephalins. So participating in a well balanced exercise program like Pilates could help relieve your headaches. Pain-free movement will actually calm the nervous system and the repetitive movement will increase blood flow throughout the body. This is a parasympathetic response very similar to what happens when getting a massage.
When performing the mat exercises I would suggest focusing on BREATHING. Joseph Pilates stated “to breathe correctly you must completely exhale and inhale, always trying very hard to ‘squeeze’ every atom of impure air from our lungs in much the same manner that you would wring every drop of water from a wet cloth." Proper breathing is cleansing to the whole body (including the brain). I would also recommend doing Pilates exercises that provide stability to the neck and shoulders. Feel free to use a small pillow or a rolled towel to support the head if needed. Here are some mat exercises to consider:
One Leg Circles
Swan with Neck Rolls