Whether from dehydration, stress, tension, a hangover, or anything else, headaches can really put a dampener on anyone’s day. Luckily yoga can help. Breathing deeply is always good for easing tension—headache or otherwise—while opening the neck, shoulders, and spine help blood flow to your head more freely.
The next time you feel that pounding in your head, try doing these nine yoga poses. Hang out in each of these for at least 10 deep breaths, or longer if you have time. If you can’t commit to all nine, do as many or as few as you like—you will still reap the benefits.
Standing Forward Fold: With feet hip-width apart, bend forward, relaxing head toward the ground. Grab opposite elbows, soften knees, and hang like a rag doll. Relax head and neck completely, and breathe here for 10 deep breaths.
|Cat/Cow: Come to all fours with hands under shoulders and knees under hips. On an inhale, look up and arch spine, rolling shoulders away from ears for cow [not pictured]. As you exhale, press the floor away with hands and knees, and round your spine for cat [pictured at left]. Do at least 5 complete breath cycles (you'll do 5 of each position).|
|Dolphin: Begin on hands and knees with arms shoulder-width apart. Place forearms parallel to one another, tuck toes, and lift hips high as heels reach toward the ground. Drop head and reach chest back through arms toward feet to enhance shoulder opening. Breathe here for 5 to 10 deep breaths.|
|Child's Pose: Kneel with knees slightly apart and crawl hands forward. Keeping arms long and in front of you, allow forehead to rest on the ground. Breathe here for 10 or more deep breaths.
|Reverse Prayer: In a comfortable sitting position, relax arms down to either side of body. Bend elbows and reach arms behind back. Press palms together in a prayer position on spine with fingertips pointing up, and reach hands as high up your spine as feels good. Breathe here for 10 deep breaths.
|Seated Side Opener: Sit in a cross-legged seated position with arms relaxed on either side. Reach left arm long to the ceiling. Take right hand to the ground and crawl it over to the right, allowing right forearm to move toward the ground and leaning torso to the right. Revolve chest open toward ceiling, and look up or down, whichever feels best on your neck. Breathe here for at least 10 deep breaths.|
|Seated Spinal Twist: Sit with legs long in front of you. Bend right knee and place right foot outside of left knee. (You can keep left leg long or fold it in like a half-cross-legged seat.) Wrap left arm around right leg and place right hand on the ground behind sacrum. Use each inhale to lengthen spine and each exhale to let stress and worries go. Breathe here for 10 deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.|
|Reclining Goddess: Place a bolster lengthwise behind your sitz bones and gently lie back so your upper back and head are supported by the bolster. Once comfortable, place feet together and knees apart (if this is uncomfortable for your hips, you can use two blocks or pillows to support your thighs), and allow arms to relax on either side. Breathe here for at least 10 deep breaths.|
|Legs Up the Wall: Sit sideways next to a wall. Lie down on one side, facing away from the wall with butt touching it. Using arms, lift legs up the wall as you roll over onto your back. Allow arms to fall on either side of you. Palms can face up for openness or down for an extra level of grounding. Breathe here for at least 10 breaths.