5-Pose Yoga Fix: Headache Relief

Kelly DiNardo
by Kelly DiNardo
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5-Pose Yoga Fix: Headache Relief

Stress, tightness in the neck and shoulders, eye strain from too much time in front of your computer — there are so many reasons we get headaches. Yoga’s ability to loosen stiff muscles, relieve tension, calm the mind and boost circulation can make it a powerful natural remedy. Next time you feel one coming on, try these headache-curing poses.

1. EASY SEATED POSE

Come into an easy seated pose and try these three variations, a relief to tired eyes and sore necks.

The move: Sit with your legs crossed, spine long and shoulders over hips.

  • Palming: Close your eyes, bring your hands together in front of your sternum and rub your palms together vigorously, creating heat. Cup your palms over your eyes and let the warmth relax tired eyes.
  • Head circles: Slowly rotate your head in one direction 3–5 times. Pause and notice any particularly tight spots in your neck and hold the stretch there for 3 breaths. Repeat in the opposite direction.
  • Neck release: Place your right hand on the left side of your head and gently tilt your head to the right. Deepen the stretch by extending your left arm and flexing through the hand. Switch sides.

2. CAT/COW

This pose relieves tension in the shoulders, neck and spine and boosts circulation in the upper body.

The move: Start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees so your palms press into the ground and your knees rest under your hips. Make sure your wrists, elbows and shoulders form one straight line and your knees and hips form another.

As you exhale, press into the ground with your hands and round your back like an angry Halloween cat. Gently bring your chin toward your chest and activate your abdominals, pulling your bellybutton toward your spine.

On your inhale, come into cow by arching your back in the opposite direction. Broaden your chest and lift your tailbone to the sky so your belly sinks toward the floor.

Hold each pose for several breaths or find a gentle flow between the two so that with each exhale you round into cat and with each inhale you open into cow.

3. CHILD’S POSE

This pose calms the mind, relaxes the entire body and releases tension in the back and shoulders.

The move: To begin, kneel down and sit on your heels with your knees and feet together. As you exhale, bend forward, placing your forehead on the floor. Bring your arms to the floor next to your thighs with your palms up. Relax and let gravity help release your shoulders toward the floor. Rest your forehead on a block to alleviate neck pain and ease headaches.


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4. EAGLE ARMS

Take just the upper half of eagle to release the shoulders and upper back.

The move: Cross your left arm over your right so the elbows rest on top of one another. Bend your elbows, wrapping the forearms around each other, palms facing each other, and fingers pointing to the ceiling. If your palms don’t touch, rest one palm against the opposite wrist or forearm. Deepen the shoulder stretch by lifting the elbows and taking your palms away from your face.

5. PUPPY POSE

This pose, which looks like a cross between child’s pose and down dog, is a headache-busting hat trick: It relieves stress, stretches the spine and loosens the shoulders.

The move: Begin in tabletop position, with your knees under your hips and your wrists under your shoulders. Gently walk your hands forward, drop your chest to the ground and rest your forehead on the floor or a blanket. Press your palms into the ground and send your hips toward your heels. As in child’s pose, avoid compressing or crunching your neck. If you find you have an arch in your neck, use a blanket or block under your forehead to keep it long. Breathe here for up to a minute and then slowly sit back.

Using a block, blanket and bolster can make puppy pose more restorative. Place a rolled up blanket or bolster between your thighs and calves to protect your lower back. And rest your forehead on a blanket to help your neck relax. Hold supported puppy for a minute or longer.


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About the Author

Kelly DiNardo
Kelly DiNardo

Kelly is a journalist, author, runner, yogi, skier, globetrotter and dog-lover. She has been teaching yoga since 2002 and is the owner of Past Tense, a Washington, D.C. yoga studio where her team reminds her how much fun it is to be a little twisted and encourages an upside-down approach to life. She is also the author of Gilded Lili: Lili St. Cyr and the Striptease Mystique and the forthcoming Journaling the Sutras.

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