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Yoga Poses for Headache Relief

Dolphin Pose

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  • Begin on hands and knees.
  • Hold opposite elbows with hands to get them shoulder-width apart, then place forearms parallel to one another.
  • Drop head and reach chest back through arms in the direction of feet to enhance shoulder opening.
  • Stay here for 5 deep breaths.

Photo: Heidi Kristoffer

Forward Fold with Shoulder Opener

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  • Stand, clasp hands behind back, and take a big inhale to open chest.
  • On exhale, soften knees and fold forward, letting head fall toward the ground and gently releasing the neck.
  • If you feel comfortable, bend one knee and then the other, getting more into shoulders.
  • Stay here for 5 to 10 deep breaths.

Photo: Heidi Kristoffer

Eagle Pose

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  • Start standing, hugging right knee to chest and allowing a bend in left knee.
  • Wrap right leg around left leg, hooking right foot on the side of left leg.
  • Wrap right arm under left arm and press the palms together, fingertips facing up to form eagle pose.
  • Sit down low while keeping hips square, and lift up through the elbows and fingertips.
  • Keep the upper arms parallel to the ground and fingertips reaching away from face.
  • Hold for 5 deep breaths. Slowly unwind and repeat on other side.

Photo: Heidi Kristoffer

Half Seated Spinal Twist

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  • Sit with legs long in front of you.
  • Bend right knee and place right foot on the outside of the left knee.
  • Wrap left arm around right leg and place right hand on the ground behind sacrum.
  • Use each inhale to lengthen the spine and each exhale to twist body around spine.
  • Breathe here for 10 deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Photo: Heidi Kristoffer

Twisted Plow

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  • Lie on back with knees bent, feet on the floor and arms on either side.
  • Soften knees and press arms into the ground to reach feet up toward the ceiling and then back behind you—any amount that feels okay for your neck.
  • When feet are on the ground behind you, take hands in a clasp on the mat.
  • Walk feet to the left side of head and (if it feels good) bend right knee to the ground outside left ear.
  • Breathe here for 5 to 10 deep breaths, then walk feet to the right side of head and repeat.
  • When finished, come back through center and move on to the following shoulder stand variation.

Photo: Heidi Kristoffer

Shoulder Stand Variation

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  • If doing without the preceding pose: Lie faceup on the ground with the knees bent, feet on the floor, and arms on either side. Soften knees and press arms into the ground to reach feet up toward the ceiling and then back behind you (any amount that feels good on your neck) to plow pose.
  • Now you are in plow pose, where we left off: Place your hands on lower back for support and try to keep elbows about shoulder-width apart.
  • Soften through the knees and, one at a time, reach feet toward the ceiling.
  • When you feel steady, bend knees and wrap right leg around left leg, hooking right foot on the side of left leg.
  • Breathe here for at least 5 to 10 deep breaths, before uncrossing the legs and repeating on the other side.
  • To come out, uncross your legs, soften knees back toward forehead, come back to plow, and (using arms as brakes) slowly lower back onto the mat one vertebra at a time. You can move directly into fish pose, or take a break.

Photo: Heidi Kristoffer

Fish Pose

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  • Sit with legs long and in front of you.
  • Bring hands—palms on ground, fingertips facing forward—under butt, reaching elbows toward one another.
  • Bend elbows, release forearms to the ground and lean into them, keep them parallel to one another.
  • Lift your chest up toward the ceiling so that your back is arched. Allow head to relax down toward the ground.
  • Breathe here for 5 to 10 deep breaths.

Photo: Heidi Kristoffer

Rabbit Pose Variation

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  • From all fours, tuck toes and place crown of head gently on the ground.
  • Reach hands back and cup feet.
  • Gently round back, spread shoulder blades down and away from ears, and press feet away to open up shoulders and spine.
  • Breathe here for 5 to 10 deep breaths, being careful to keep weight in lower body, and not on head.
  • Note: The full expression of the pose has spine fully rounded, nose close to knees, and tops of feet on the ground, but for safety purposes, it is advisable to start with this variation.

Photo: Heidi Kristoffer

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