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Yoga Poses to Manage Migraines

While physical activity while you have a headache may sound like an oxymoron, some yoga poses can help manage migraines.

More often than not, our first instinct when we get hit with a headache is to down some Advil and water, but there’s an easier solution. Yoga. While physical activity while you have a headache may sound like an oxymoron, yoga poses really can help manage migraines. Plus, it's all natural, so you don’t have to pump your body full of medicine to relieve the pain. You don’t have to be a yoga pro to utilize yoga poses to manage migraines. These easy to do poses can be done in the comfort of your home and are sure to help. Follow along to find out the best tips and tricks to master these yoga poses that can help manage headaches.

Easy Pose - Sukhasana

The easiest way to ease into the yoga postures that can help manage headaches begins with Easy Pose. Find somewhere comfortable to sit. Perhaps with a block beneath you, if available, or roll up a towel. By adding a prop, you add length to your spine. Sit with your legs crossed, allow your eyes to shut, and then let your palms rest face down on top of your knees. Focus on your breath as you sit for a couple of breaths. Maintain the length in your spine while keeping your core engaged. While sitting in Easy Pose, start to cultivate an intention that you’d like to keep with you as you move through the remaining postures. If you’re working to fight your headache, maybe "peace" or "serenity" might work for you.

The benefits of Easy Pose? By lengthening the spine and firing up your breath, you’ll feel an immediate release of tension in your body.

Child’s Pose - Balasana

Spread your knees wide to either side of your mat. (If you don’t have a mat, then just a couple inches wider than your outside hip is ideal.) Bring your big toes to touch behind you, and then sink your hips back to meet your heels. Stretch your arms out long in front of you, pressing your fingertips and palms firmly into the ground. Drop your shoulders down your back to make space around your head and neck. Allow your belly to drop between your thighs and continue to breath evenly.

Child’s Pose allows for rest while opening up the back and shoulders. Relaxing here allows for breath to flow along the back body, and then releases tension up and around the head, neck, and shoulders. This posture is one of the best yoga poses that can help manage headaches.

Downward Facing Dog - Adho Mukha Svanasana

Step your feet back about inner hip bone width distance behind you and plant your hands about shoulder width distance beneath you. Press firmly into your index finger and thumb, and then shoot your hips up and back, like a rocket to the sky. Let your head fall between your biceps. You might maintain a slight bend in both knees in order to keep length in your spine. Send your heels towards the mat and rotate your biceps in toward your face.

Similar to the variety of inversions to follow, downward facing dog strengthens your entire body, all while releasing tension. The switch in direction of blood flow allows for your mind and body to feel increasingly refreshed as you move in and out of this homebase posture in any given yoga flow.

Wide Leg Forward Fold - Prasarita Padottanasana

Plant your feet wider than hip width distance apart. Point the toes slightly in toward your face. On an exhale, bend down so that your hands rest on the mat or a block, if you have one available. You have the option here to let your head hang heavy or, if it’s comfortable for you, gently rest the crown of your head on your mat. Tuck your chin in towards your chest. Maintain a slight bend in the knees and send your weight forward so that your hips can align above your ankles.

The inversion of a this pose allows your mind to calm down, while opening your hips—which often carry an enormous amount of emotional baggage. This yoga pose that can help manage migraines offers relief to your neck, shoulders, and lower back. The stillness of the posture has the added advantage of soothing the nervous system.

Bridge Pose - Setu Bandha Sarvangasana

Come onto your back, and if you think you might need some added support for your lower or upper back, have a blanket or block nearby. Bend your knees and plant your feet on your mat. Bring your heels in as close to your hip bones as you can. On an exhale, press your feet firmly into the mat, and then lift your hips up to the sky. Release any tension in the glutes. You have the option here to interlace your fingers beneath your low back and then shimmy your shoulders beneath you to create a shelf for your upper body. Draw your chin away from your chest. To release, gently roll your spine back down to the mat.

Bridge Pose is a great yoga pose to help manage headaches as it stretches the chest, neck, spine, and hips, all while strengthening the glutes, back, and hamstrings. The inversion of the posture improves blood circulation and works to calm the central nervous system. 

Plow Pose - Halasana

Begin in a shoulder stand. From there, bend from the hips to gently begin to lower your toes to the floor behind your head. Do your best to keep your torso flat on your mat and keep your legs fully engaged. Keep your chin away from your chest. You have the option here to keep your hands flat on the mat, as pictured, or bring them to your low back for added support.

Plow pose is an ideal posture to calm the brain. By stretching the shoulders and spine, tension is released, thereby reducing any stress.

Seated Forward Fold - Paschimottanasana

Come into a comfortable seated position and stretch your legs out in front of you. You might maintain a slight bend in your knees throughout this posture. Remove any flesh from beneath your hip bones, the two bones in your glutes, and then find a tall spine. Inhale, and as you exhale, while keeping a flat back, lean forward to grab for whatever may be available to you. Your toes, ankles, shins, anything works, so long as you avoid the knees.

A forward fold such as this allows for the blood that is typically pumping to your heart, especially in inversions such as downward facing dog, to reverse and head to your brain. It’s a simple yoga pose that can help manage headaches.

Legs Up The Wall Pose - Viparita Karani

Legs Up The Wall is the perfect way to de-stress whenever you get the chance to. This inversion is restorative, so it’s as beneficial as a Downward Dog. By reversing gravity, this yoga pose that can help manage headaches is ideal for anyone who just needs to rest and release.

To get into the pose, find a wall with plenty of space. Bring your glutes as close to the wall as possible, lower down onto your back, and move closer as needed so that your low back is firmly planted on the ground, while your legs are straight against the wall. Flex your feet down toward your face, maintain a long spine, and allow your arms to fall wherever they feel comfortable.

Happy Baby - Ananda Balasana

Come onto your back and bring the soles of your feet to touch. Let your knees fall out wide to either side so that you create a diamond shape with your legs. Bring one hand to your heart, one hand to your belly. Drop your eyes closed.

Happy Baby allows the body to begin to settle down, and the mind follows close behind. Happy Baby is a must-do yoga pose that can help manage headaches due to the relaxation that comes from it, while opening up the hips and lengthening the spine.

Corpse Pose - Savasana

Savasana. It’s more than just the "laying on the ground" posture. Rather, it’s one of the most beneficial postures. To make your way into Savasana, lay on your back and let your arms and legs fall wherever they may. Continue to breathe, filling up oxygen in your lungs and sending it to your brain. Come back to your intention as you come toward the end of these yoga poses that can help manage headaches. Remain in Savasana for as long as you feel is necessary for you, and slowly bring yourself out of the posture whenever you are ready.

The main purpose of Savasana is to quiet the mind and still the body. By closing your eyes, you’re able to fully let go of everything and anything around you, thereby releasing any stress factors that might be weighing heavily on you.

Practice these postures daily and you will find relief, both on and off the mat. These simple, but purposeful, yoga poses can help manage headaches, and you will find that whatever it is weighing down your mind will be lifted almost immediately. 

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