Headaches can be triggered by stress, poor posture and tight muscles — all things that a little yoga can help with. A 2014 study in the International Journal of Yoga found that yoga is even better than aerobic exercise when it comes to alleviating the stress that can cause headaches. (The static movements are also easier to do if you already have a headache.)
Here are five yoga moves you can do to release tension and soothe your mind.
1. Cat pose (marjaryasana)
Begin on your hands and knees with your wrists in line with your shoulders and your knees directly underneath your hips. Fully spread your fingers with your middle fingers pointing straight ahead. Inhale as you slowly press your hands evenly into the mat, lifting and rounding your spine as you draw your chin toward your chest. Exhale as you go back to a neutral spine. Slowly repeat for 10 to 12 breaths.
Headache helper: Releases tension in the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine; improves spinal fluid circulation.
2. Modified eagle pose (garudasana)
Begin in a seated, cross-legged position and extend your arms straight in front of your body. Drop your left arm under your right arm. Bend both of your elbows as you raise your forearms perpendicular to the floor, wrapping your arms and hands and pressing your palms together (or as close as you can get them). Inhale as you lift your elbows and reach your fingertips toward the ceiling, and exhale as you return to the starting position. Continue this breath cycle for six to eight breaths, and then gently unwind your arms. Repeat with the right arm under the left.
Headache helper: Stretches the shoulders and upper back while developing focus, calm and serenity.
3. Wide-angle standing forward bend (prasarita padottanasana)
Step your feet out wide (at least three feet apart), keeping the outer edges of your feet parallel with the short edges of your mat. Inhale while bringing your hands to your hips, and exhale while allowing your torso to fold at the hips. Walk your hands as far down your legs toward your ankles as possible while maintaining a straight spine, and bring the top of your head down to the mat. Hold this pose for 30 to 60 seconds, and repeat if desired.
Headache helper: Grounds the body, restores a feeling of balance, decompresses the spine and relieves fatigue.
4. Bound angle pose (baddha konasana)
Begin seated and draw your feet toward your pelvis, bringing the soles of the feet together. Hold the outsides of your feet. Inhale as you sit up tall with a straight back, while keeping your pelvis level. Exhale and allow the knees to gently open out to the sides. Remain in this pose for one to two minutes, and repeat if desired.
Headache helper: Lifts your mood, alleviates fatigue, improves blood circulation.
5. Waterfall pose
Begin lying on your back, and as you inhale, raise your legs to a 90-degree angle (or as close as you can). The soles of your feet should face the ceiling while your arms rest alongside your body with palms facing down. To keep your neck in a neutral position, rest the back of your head on the mat. Close your eyes, take long, slow, deep breaths and enjoy this pose for three to five minutes.
Headache helper: Relaxes the muscles of the back and shoulders, induces tranquility, calms the mind, eases anxiety and reduces stress.