Generally, tension headaches are caused by the static and prolonged contraction of the muscles in the head, jaw, neck and shoulders. Makes sense! We have statically contracted muscles - tension - in a tension headache.

We always have some degree of contraction in our tissues. Muscle tone maintains posture. If we didn't have some muscle contraction, our heads would be flopping around on our necks and our mouths would always be open. Not a pretty sight. But, when enough becomes too much, TONE becomes TENSION, and tension can become headache.

What is your typical sequence of events when you have a headache? Most people take over-the-counter medications. Get headache, take something; headache goes away ... until the next time, and then the pattern becomes a habit. You start buying larger and larger bottles of meds. We might even start taking something if we think we are going to get a headache. We might not take meds, we might meditate, bathe, see a chiropractor, apply ice while singing old reggae songs or we might just tolerate the pain with a growl, grunt or grimace.

We are treating the labeled problem (headache) and its symptoms (pain) but doing nothing to solve the underlying issue (tension). If we are doing something to treat a problem, the problem must already exist or we are projecting it is going to. Our attention is on the result of the tension instead of the tension itself.

What if we could identify when tone begins to shift to tension? If we had the self-awareness tools or discernment to detect the change in state (tone-to-tension), we could be proactive. When we can sense our neck beginning to tighten or the desire to clench our teeth arising, we can take action. We could loosen our shoulders, jaw and neck with targeted, effective movements. If we act before the muscles are in a death-clench it is easier, doable, and effective.

If we could learn to fully and subtly perceive our physical state, we could use that ability to ensure that tone didn't become tension .

If tension never happens, tension headaches never happen. Never.

Like tension-preceding headaches, anger, addiction, stress, frustration, jealousy, blame, poor relationships, stalled career, or depression all have pre-symptom and pre-result states.

The pre-symptom and pre-result states of our dysfunctions have components, just like the parts that make up a tension headache. If we start to investigate what was present before we got emotionally dysfunctional (angry, sad frustrated, etc.), we can begin to alter those components. I call this deconstruction, finding the parts of the dysfunction and determining which of them, or which combinations of them, put us into a state of being overwhelmed, leading us toward fear, reaction and dysfunction.

When we have an understanding of the components, we can start looking for solutions. Some will be simple; others will take some willpower. If any of the components seem too overwhelming to change, deconstruct them and alter one or more of the subcomponents. It is a process and a practice, but it works every time.

What I've found is that ALL of my tension (and stress) was a presumption of future pain, not actual pain. I was worried about what might happen or not happen at some point after right now. Worry put me into a defensive posture. Worry was the creation of mental stories about how I might be attacked. The preparations included tensing my trapezius muscles and jaw, which led to headaches. I learned to feel for the change in state - transition - from relaxed to not-relaxed. The sooner I can discern a change, the easier it is to relax.

When we are able to discern our transitions, we can forestall dysfunctions. If we can feel ourselves moving toward getting mad or sad, we can make adjustments. Adjustments keep us balanced and moving in the direction we want to go.

Jeff Sanders is a Sisters-based yoga and energy healing practitioner and the author of "The Discomfort of Happiness." Visit Sanders' website at