Yoga to Relieve Your Headache
- Written by Staff Therapist
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Dealing with tension headaches? Try these yoga poses.
Headaches can be caused by tension in the jaw, face, neck, shoulders, and back.
Headaches can be caused by tight and restricted neck muscles, and a seated neck release will stretch the scalene muscles on the neck. Sometimes headaches are caused by back pain that’s radiating up the spine.
Try these simple poses to release tension that may be givign you a headache.
Supported Child's Pose
Supported child’s pose will help you find some relaxation through your neck, shoulders, and back to ease tension that may be causing your headache. Begin on all fours. Sit the glutes down toward your heels and rest the forehead on a yoga block or bolster. Lightly push your forehead into the block/bolster while you walk your fingertips forwards, towards the top of the mat. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
Supta Baddha Konsana
Laying in a restorative version of supine butterfly will calm the nervous system, which may help with the pain and anxiety associated with a headache. Begin in a seat on the floor. Place a pillow under each knee and bring the soles of the feet together. Lay back onto the yoga mat, if your neck is tight, you may place the head on a pillow as well. You can cover the eyes with a scented eye pillow and relax for 5-10 minutes in this position.
Legs up the wall: This restorative yoga pose will instill a sense of calmness. All you need is a wall. Sit as close as you can to the wall. If this is uncomfortable, prop your bum and lower back on a folded blanket. Keep the legs together or spread them wide in a straddle. Just close your eyes and breathe, staying as long as you'd like.
Seated neck release
Headaches can be caused by tight and restricted neck muscles, and a seated neck release will stretch the scalene muscles on the neck. Beginning in a comfortable seat, drop your right ear towards your right shoulder. If you would like a deeper stretch, you can float your left hand off your lap just to the left of your left thigh. For an even deeper stretch, place your right hand lightly on the right side of your head, at the temple and let the weight of the arm stretch the neck muscles further. Hold for 3-5 breaths and then slowly switch sides. Repeat on both sides a few times.
Happy baby pose
Sometimes headaches are caused by back pain that’s radiating up the spine. Happy baby pose will help relax the muscles of the glutes, pelvic floor, and low back. Begin by laying on your back and hug the knees towards the chest, if you are flexible enough, place the hands on the outside of the calves, ankles, or feet. Gently roll the tailbone down towards the mat and rock side to side to massage the low back and sacrum.
Forward folds will stretch the fascia and muscles along the spine and back of the neck, which may be adding tension to your headache. This pose will also calm the nervous system. Begin in a standing position, with feet hip-width distance apart, slowly roll the spine down vertebra by vertebra, pausing at “sticky” spots for a breath or two to help the muscles relax and stretch. When you are at the bottom of your forward fold, allow the head to hang heavy like a bowling ball. You can grab opposite elbows, and hang like a ragdoll, keeping the head and neck relaxed. You can gently shake the head ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to further decrease tension. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths and slowly roll back up, stacking the vertebra one by one.
Setu bandha sarvangasana
*This pose is contraindicated for certain neck injuries, please avoid if you have ongoing neck issues and practice only with the guidance of an experienced teacher*
Bridge pose will stretch the shoulders, thoracic spine, and back of the neck, easing any tension that may be making its way up to your head and causing your headache. To begin, lie supine on the floor, with a folded blanket under your shoulders to protect your neck. Bend your knees and set your feet on the floor, close enough to the bum that you can graze the heels with your fingertips. As you exhale, press the feet into the mat while pushing the arms into the floor, bridging the pelvis up off the mat. The glutes will be active but not clenching together. If your shoulders allow it, clasp the fingers under the sacrum and extend through the arms towards the feet. Stay in the pose for 5-10 deep breaths.
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This article is for informational purposes only. Please consult with your doctor or a physical therapist for an individualized session and exercises.