Author Topic: Please help- Headaches  (Read 2727 times)


  • Member
  • Who are you?
    • Goenka Vipassana
Please help- Headaches
« on: January 21, 2019, 05:41:25 PM »

I am new to this forum and also meditation!

Last month I attended the ten day retreat at the Dhamma centre in Suffolk. It was ten days of Goenka meditation.

I had never meditated before this with only a fleeting ten minutes at Mindfulness. I went with an open mind which worked out well as I had no preconceived ideas before I attended.

It was brutal to be fair and I had a hell of a ride. It was also life changing for the good reasons of changing my life style and discovering who I am. Here is the issue though. One month later and I continue to meditate morning and night for an hour each time. I sit there and remain equanimous. I sit and observe and focus on points in and around my body. Just recently I have been getting really bad headaches which just sit there. Temples and inside my head. Almost like tension. I can dissolve these through equanimity but they come back. They only disappear if I stop meditating for a couple of days. Am I straining too much through meditation? I try and sit there without passing judgement but it’s alnosr like everything goes into my head. If I focus on another pain or feeling in my body it dissolves but seems to go to my head?

Is this common? Do other people suffer from ongoing headaches through Vipassana?

Like I say I am a novice and would like some reassurance or some tips or advice if you could offer please?

Thanks in advance

With love.



  • Member
  • Just be a witness.
    • Vipassana as taught by Mr. Goenka - Switched to Shamatha
Re: Please help- Headaches
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2019, 12:04:53 AM »
Hi Kevin,

Welcome to the forum. Yes, you are straining your mind that is causing you headaches. The mind's nature is to move so it can relate to the surrounding environment in order to keep you alive. When you stop the mind forcibly by concentration, it rebels and gives you a headache.

I suggest you follow the meditation technique provided on the front page of this forum website. It is likely solve your headache problem. If you wish to continue body scanning technique, then you may want to try random scanning i.e observe any body part your minds takes you to. Don't stay in one place longer than your mind wants to. Just observe the mind and let it do its thing. But always bring back the wandering mind from any other thinking process.

Hope this helps.

Take everything I say with a grain of salt.


  • stillpointdancer
  • Member
  • Retired teacher, deepening understanding of Dharma
    • Insight meditation
    • Exploring the results of 30 years of meditating
Re: Please help- Headaches
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2019, 11:07:30 AM »
Hi Scrabble3444. Middleway has excellent advice there. I have never tried Goenka meditation, but from what I hear it is indeed pretty 'brutal'. Although it may be useful to some people, others, such as myself, find a kinder, more gentle approach is useful in developing a regular practice which can be maintained over a long period of time. It's the difference between, say, breaking a horse and gentling a horse. Both ways end up with a horse to ride, but which way would you prefer if you were the horse?
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka


  • Member
  • Who are you?
    • Goenka Vipassana
Re: Please help- Headaches
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2019, 05:37:05 PM »
Thanks guys for the advice. It was very helpful.

I will take what do said onboard and adapt my meditation. I hate getting the headaches!

With love



  • Member
  • less is more
    • Vipassana, Zen, Chan
Re: Please help- Headaches
« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2019, 06:40:37 PM »
Interestingly, there is currently another post from someone suffering meditation-related headaches, and also many comments about Goenka's approach being forced and "brutal". I personnaly have never had such headaches, so my opinion is not worth much, but it seems to me they have to be caused by tensions. So when so say you're being equanimous, well maybe equanimity isn't quite what you think it is, because then you couldn't be tense... At least this is my experience/understanding of it...

Now about Mr Goenka, I have to say that although I'm very critical of many aspects of his teachings, I have not experienced his approach as brutal. Actually I have to thank him for discovering patience and gentleness as the key to meditation, on the first days of my first course there. I suspect that those who missed that very important point in his instructions were being revolted about other aspects of the course, which I can easily understand!  I must also say that I find the instructions for calm-abiding meditation on this forum are very much compatible with Goenka's! Of course he recommends precise, focused attention and Matthew here recommends wide awareness. Just in my opinion (and experience ) again, both are useful at their time. It's usually easier to relax with wide awareness, but precise attention doesn't necessarily cause tension. I find it's possible to learn to stay calm, relaxed and... equanimous  :) also while being precisely attentive to the nostrils or elsewhere.

Of course I fully agree, to deal with those headaches, Matthew's instructions might be the best approach to try! Wishing you all the best with your practice...

dharma bum

  • Member
  • Certified Zen Master (second degree black belt)
    • vipassana
Re: Please help- Headaches
« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2019, 11:05:30 PM »
If you are getting a headache, please check if you are breathing with a natural rhythm. If you're artificially breathing too shallow as it happens in a retreat, you might be starved of oxygen.
Mostly ignorant


  • Member
    • vipassana
Re: Please help- Headaches
« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2019, 01:40:26 AM »
I'm certainty no professional but I got headaches in the beginning as well. Here's exactly what happened;

First of all I because I never follow directions/instruction correctly I wasn't practicing proper vipassana or any tradition really. I would focus on a point (with eyes open or with eyes closed focus on a black point in my dark field of vision) and go into a trance which often led to very weird (but sometimes cool) feelings. This eventually led to a continuous migraine that was near debilitating.
As long as I follow the rules/do as I'm told (which I learn over and over again I'm really bad at!!!  ::) ) that is; I focus on my breath and ignore weirdness/try not to become attached to anything that happens because of meditation; my headaches are gone  :) .
I also only meditate for 10-15 minutes per day. I also don't meditate on a day if I'm overly tired; I take a nap instead. Everyone may not be the same here but I would suggest trying something like this or just making a small change and seeing if this does something. If not; try something else Personally I think any pain is your body telling you something is wrong and that's not good.

You might be able to pass this aside as irrelevant but I can't help but feel it is related; I discovered recently listening to a lecture by Terrance McKenna that he had chronic migraines. He eventually died rather young from seizures and strokes. Now, he took a ridiculous amount of mind altering drugs on a regular basis. He tried meditation but did not meditate regularly. Supposedly they found no connection of his death to the drugs but it seems awfully suspicious to me. My headaches occurred after real consciousness changes. The feelings during this was like being in another dimension/reality; words cannot describe it. I'm quite certain if I kept this up (this type of meditation everyday) I'd still be in that awful pain (or perhaps worse  :( ).

What dharma bum said sounds very reasonable. When I was doing the above I was also breathing very shallow (unintentionally). I breath normally when doing it the 'proper' way.
I've been reading a great book by Micheal Pollen (how to change your mind) which said MRI's have revealed that meditating indeed directly alters blood flow in the brain. I read elsewhere that migraines may be caused by bloodflow problems in the brain.

--it's also occurred to me recently that I've always had breathing problems. For example when I'm playing guitar and if I'm really focused on a difficult part or I'm nervous; I begin breathing shallowly and often suddenly find myself having to 'catch my breath'.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2019, 01:43:24 AM by mobius »
"Not knowing how near the truth is, we seek it far away."
-Hakuin Ekaku

"I have seen a heap of trouble in my life, and most of it has never come to pass" - Mark Twain

Kerry Murphy

  • Member
  • Who are you?
    • practice
    • Yoga Geek
Re: Please help- Headaches
« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2019, 12:20:48 PM »
I would suggest you Mindfulness Meditation. It may help.
Hi, This is Kerry Murphy from the USA. I'm a frequent traveler, yoga geek and content writer by profession at


  • Member
  • Rainbow sister
    • Goenka's Vipassana
Re: Please help- Headaches
« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2019, 09:18:23 PM »
Hi Kevin,

Happy you found the 10 day retreat life changing and you were so diligent in keeping the daily practice! It's a huge acomplishment that not so many meditators achieve! As some others have said, you might be over doing it, so maybe try to relax and do some Anapana instead of body scaning. See if that changes your headaches. Also, don't despair. Pain takes different shapes. It comes and goes. Don't give up the practice because of it. It seems it's something that will not pass, but that is exactly the lesson of meditation, anicca, anicca, anicca!

Another thought: when you're scaning you body, are you keeping your eyes in the same position or moving them along with the respective body part? If it's the latter, that might be the reason for the headaches. Try to relax your eyes and not move them, even if closed. Take it slowly, remember, middle path!

All the best for your practice!
I do not need to become anything. I already am everything.


Related Topics

  Subject / Started by Replies Last post
19 Replies
Last post October 02, 2010, 08:39:36 AM
by Matthew
14 Replies
Last post February 11, 2011, 06:33:29 PM
by Morning Dew