5 yoga poses to cure a headache (plus my first yoga video!)

yoga and meditation-compassion-pema chodron

Have you ever noticed that you can go into a yoga class with some kind of tension, ache or pain, and come out an hour later and the pain is gone?

In the last couple years, yoga and meditation has been an essential tool for me to relieve stress and chronic pain in my body, particularly with headaches.

Somewhere deep in my subconscious, I developed a pattern of tightening my jaw and grinding my teeth during my sleep.  When I clench my teeth at night, I will wake up with a tension headache the next morning.  I have actively sought out solutions to these headaches, and the root cause of the tension, and along the way have acquired a whole list of tools to find relief.  So I made a video of 5 simple yoga poses to share with you...

But first, here are some of my favorite tips to relieve a headache in addition to yoga:

Be with the sensation

I've been working with an idea from Pema Chodron:  if you are willing to be with an unpleasant sensation for more than 90 seconds without judging it, it will go away.  Instead of pushing away the sensation I now give the sensations my attention and allow myself to feel the pain or discomfort fully. 

When I am there for myself for even just a few minutes without judgment, the uncomfortable sensations begin to dissolve with the breath.

From Pema:  Acknowledge the feeling, give it your full, compassionate, even welcoming attention, and even if it's only for a few seconds, drop the story line about the feeling.  This allows you to have a direct experience of it, free of interpretation.  Don't fuel it with concepts or opinions about whether it's good or bad.  Just be present with the sensation.  Where is it located in your body?  Does it remain the same for very long?  Does it shift and change?

Drink more water

So many Americans are chronically dehydrated.  If you drink caffeine or alcohol regularly, your body needs even more water....  So start the day with a 16 oz glass of water before anything else.  Carry a water bottle with you throughout the day and make sure you stay hydrated.

Try this recipe (for migraines)

Migraines occur when we put stress on the liver.  The liver is connected to the health of our eyes - so that's why we may see spots or have poor vision during a migraine.  Luckily I've discovered this recipe as a natural cure when you feel a migraine come on:

- Squeeze 1/2 an organic lemon into a glass then simmer the peel for 10 minutes in 2 cups of pure water.  - Let the boiled lemon peel water cool then add it to the juice and drink.

Ease off caffeine

A caffeine headache arises when you regularly drink caffeine and then stop.  The cure for this kind of headache is to gradually drink a smaller amount of caffeine at the same time each day.

Find support

When something in our life isn't working, we need to remind ourselves it is okay to get support.  I've found so much relief from consistent body work in addition to therapeutic yoga with Mark Lundbeck and most recently have tried hypnotherapy with Karen Prosen in Santa Rosa.  Having someone else on my side has brought profound knowledge into my life and has helped me prevent the pain from arising in the first place.

Here are 5 Simple Yoga Poses for headaches.  Follow along with the video for demos and descriptions!:

Backbend over a blanket roll

Supported Low Bridge (Setu Bandhasana)

Thigh and Shoulder Stretch (Bhekasana)

Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana)

Legs Up at the Wall (Viparita Karani)

So the next time you have a headache, before you rush for the Ibuprofen, try one of these tips and follow along with my yoga video.  If you're looking for more personalized support you can learn more about my one-on-one private therapeutic yoga here.

With love, Meredith

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