Almost everyone, at one time or another, has suffered through the affliction of a painful, throbbing, or disabling headache. We can’t always avoid them, but oftentimes we can relieve the problematic symptoms as soon as they start. And we can do that in a healthy and natural way: For ages, yoga has been known to cure a number of ailments, including headaches!
As an author, I spend several hours per day in front of the computer. The combination of staring at the bright screen and the intense concentration required for composing books and articles is the perfect recipe for eye strain and a pulsating skull. To counteract and address this constant threat, I have designed a simple yoga sequence that is the perfect prescription for curbing a headache before it gets too out of control.
To banish throbbing head pain, it is vital to calm down, deepen the breath, and reverse the blood flow in the body. Yoga poses that encourage you to turn inward, like child’s pose, or turn upside down, like in a standing forward fold, are the keys to relieving tension buildup. Deep breathing instantly calms the body. When you practice inversions and place your head below your heart, you begin to reverse the flow of the blood in the body. Combining calming deep breaths with yoga postures that are designed to flood your head, neck, and shoulders with freshly oxygenated blood is practically guaranteed to provide you with relief.
Instead of reaching for that bottle of Advil the next time you feel a headache coming on, try this yoga sequence instead.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Separate the knees so that they are a little wider than hip-distance apart, with the big toes touching. On an exhale, slowly fold the torso in between the legs and stretch the arms out in front of you. Rest your forehead on the mat. As you settle into the pose, continue to work on getting the butt closer to the heels. Feel the stretch in the shoulders, back, and hips. Spend as long as you want here!
Cat Pose (Marjaryasana)
Start in tabletop position by kneeling on the hands and knees. Make sure the wrists are directly in line with the shoulders and that the hips are directly in line with the knees. On an exhale, round the spine and slowly drop the head and neck down. Take several deep breaths.
If you want to open up the spine a little more while in this posture, you can simply pulse back and forth between cat and cow poses. To come into cow pose, on an inhale, bend the spine in the opposite direction by arching forward and opening up the chest. Repeat several cycles by moving into cat on the exhale, and then inhaling back to cow.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Start by lying flat on your back. Place the bottoms of the feet down, hip-distance apart. Place the heels close enough toward the butt so you can just touch them with the fingertips. Keep the arms down by your side, palms flat on the mat. On an exhale, press the feet into the floor and lift the butt and hips off the ground. Distribute the weight evenly into the feet, arms, and shoulders. You can keep the arms down by your side, or you can interlace the fingers underneath you. Take several deep breaths in this posture.
Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Start by kneeling in tabletop on your hands and knees. Tuck the toes under. On an exhale, push back into downward-facing dog. Make sure the feet are hip-distance apart. Try to get the heels as close to the mat as possible. Keep the arms strong and supportive while you work on lifting the hips toward the sky. Melt the upper back toward your thighs. Let your head and neck hang. Make sure to distribute the weight evenly so there is not too much weight in either your hands or feet.
Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Stand in tadasana (mountain pose) with the feet together and the big toes touching. On an inhale, sweep both arms up to the sky, arch your back a little if you like, and then slowly dive down into a standing forward fold. Make sure to fold forward from the hips, not from the waist. You have the option of letting the arms hang in this posture, or you can grab opposite elbows and allow the torso and head to hang free. Feel the lower back release and the hamstrings lengthen as you focus on putting more weight into the toes vs. the heels.