Practice These Yoga Poses to Relieve Headaches
Whether it’s from stress, tension, or an all-out migraine, when you get a headache, the only thing on your mind is how to get rid of it. Yet the question mark behind the headache is what caused it. Often, stress and physical tension are the main headache culprits, and while pills can give you instant relief, yoga can relieve your headaches naturally and effectively.
Blood circulation is a key aspect to our overall health and wellbeing. In our society’s sedentary lifestyle, the blood is flowing down towards our feet, but it also needs to flow up towards the brain. When we practice yoga, we increase the blood supply to the brain, which ultimately provides relief from stress, tension, and . . . you guessed it, headaches!
Here are 8 yoga poses and techniques you can practice to relieve your headache and help prevent them in the future:
Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Forward folds are an easy and very basic pose to help you get rid of a headache. Uttanasana revitalizes the nervous system by increasing the blood supply to the brain which in turn soothes the mind.
How to do it: Keep your feet hip-width distance apart, hinge forward from your hips and allow your head to hang heavy. Next, grab opposite elbows, and hang like a ragdoll for ten deep breaths. Remember to keep your head and neck relaxed. Pro tip: Shake your head yes and no a few times to help relieve tension and tightness.
Any pain, tension, or tightness in the neck can also lead to a headache, which is why it’s important to give your neck some love and spend time gently stretching it to provide relief from tension headaches. This is particularly crucial for the many of us who spend hours hunched over a computer each day.
How to do it: Sit comfortably, and keep your spine straight and neck lengthened. Bring your left hand to the right side of your head and gently tilt your head toward your left shoulder. Stay here for a few breaths and then slowly come back to center and switch sides. Repeat this gentle stretch several times per side.
Psst! Want to do a 5-minute neck stretch video to learn the techniques and do them along with us? Watch it here.
The combination of Cat/Cow helps increase the blood circulation and oxygen between the head and the lower areas of the body. They’re also a great pose duo to practice linking breath with motion in a natural rhythm, which helps calm the mind and facilitate deep, conscious breathing. Performing Cat/Cow extends and contracts the spine – a nice way to hydrate the spinal column and keep it healthy and flexible.
How to do it: Come into a tabletop position with hands below your shoulders and knees below hips. As you inhale, lift your gaze and your tailbone skyward as you drop your belly towards the mat for Cow. As you exhale, round into your spine and draw your forehead towards your tailbone for Cat. Repeat this simple flow for five full breath cycles.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s Pose is a resting, restorative pose that calms your mind and opens up the back, shoulders and hips. It’s a nice way to slow your heart rate and reduce stress while relieving tension in the cervical spine.
How to do it: Bring your big toes to touch and spread your knees apart as you relax your seat down towards your heels. Stretch your arms forward and rest your forehead on the mat. Take ten or more deep breaths and relax.
Legs Up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
This is a simple pose that’s refreshing and soothing for mind and body. Legs Up the Wall helps increase blood circulation in the upper body and head and refreshes your body and soul if you are fatigued or stressed out. This pose is a yoga teacher favorite for stress-reduction.
How to do it: Starting on your back with your mat up against a wall, lift your legs skyward and rest the back of your thighs on the wall. Bring your hands to rest on your belly, or spread them into a T-shape with palms pressing into the mat. Pro tip: You don’t need a wall – this pose can also be done at the center of your mat with your legs extended directly over your hips.
Headstand Pose (Shirshasana)
Headstand is often referred to as the “King of Asanas” and with good reason – it is a very effective pose for increasing blood circulation in the body and supplying fresh, oxygenated blood to the brain.
How to do it: Interlace your fingers and place the top of your head on the mat, so the back of your head rests against your palms. Slowly lift your legs skyward and try to stay for at least several breaths. Pro tip: If Headstand is new to your practice, this pose can be done against a wall and/or assisted by your yoga instructor.
Want to learn the ins and outs of Headstand? Check out All About Headstands and 7 Tips to Do Them Safely.
Reverse Prayer (Paschim Namaskarasana)
Reverse Prayer has many unexpected benefits. It opens the chest and abdomen to allow for deeper breathing. It also creates space in the shoulders, neck, and upper back and improves blood circulation.
How to do it: Sitting in a comfortable position, relax your shoulders and bring your palms behind you, working to join them together at the center of your spine with fingertips facing downwards. As you inhale, turn the fingertips upward in a prayer (Namaskar) position. Try to push the pinky edge of your hands into your spine and press the palms together (or towards each other if that’s not yet available). Take ten deep breaths here.
Pranayama is a conscious breathing technique that aids in massaging the nervous system and warming and clearing up the sinuses. Practicing Pranayama also releases toxins and generates heat and blood flow in the body.
How to do it: Find a comfortable seated position (preferably in Lotus pose, or Padmasana, if available). Keep your hands on your knees with palms facing up. Begin with a few rounds of exhaling and inhaling as you normally would. From there, begin to constrict the back of your throat and inhale. Now you should audibly hear the breathing like the waves of the ocean or Darth Vader (Ujjayi Pranayama is often referred to as “Ocean Breath” or “Darth Vader Breath” for this reason).
Yoga is a stress buster and doing it regularly brings with it a wide range of benefits. The yoga poses and techniques in this article work to stretch and open the muscles of the neck, shoulders and back and help increase circulation and specifically blood supply to the brain.
The next time you have a headache, try a few of these yoga poses before turning to the medicine cabinet. You’ll be surprised just how effective this holistic approach to relieving headaches can be.