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

[av_video src='' format='16-9' width='16' height='9']


10 ways you know the yoga is working

yoga and meditation-clarity-compassion

There are so many lessons yoga has brought to my daily life.

I taught a yoga class recently on this idea: How to Know the Yoga is Working” and was surprised when more and more reasons just came to me on the spot. I decided to make a list for all the yogis out there to remember just how much value our practice has in our lives, both on and off the mat.

1.  You’re less reactive.

Say somebody says a mean word to you and you tighten. In the past it may have turned into low self-esteem, blame or anger, but now you breathe. You notice what is happening in your body. You give yourself a moment.

Before, you may have attacked back, but now you’re able to see the whole situation from the outside. You realize the person may not have even meant that word in a mean way.  You notice the trigger that arises and you let it out with the breath. You choose to act and speak from a calm, centered place.

2.  You let go of your “story.”

You may have been triggered because of a story you carry about yourself. You check in with the people close to you about what your mind is making up. You realize most of it is not even real. It’s made up. With this awareness, you can let it go.

3.  You face your fears.

You begin to see your fears as some kind of karmic inheritance,

“These are the places for me to grow.”

Now you ask yourself,

“What do I stand to gain by not doing this thing?”

You decide to face your fears. Each little fear you face gives you more courage to live as your full self.

4.  You accept yourself as you are.

Your yoga class becomes the place to stop comparing yourself. You stop looking around at all the other people, and start looking within for acceptance.

5.  You take care of your body.

Once you start doing yoga, it’s not too long before you start buying organic produce and drinking green juices. I think healthy eating and yoga go hand-in-hand. When you spend time being so close to yourself, listening to your body, it is more likely you will treat it with care. Your body becomes something you are only given once in this life, so you decide to take care of it.

6.  You stop avoiding discomfort.

It was probably in my first sitting forward bend, Paschimottanasana, that I learned to breathe into my discomfort. I learned that it wasn’t so bad when I used my breath and as soon as I came out of the pose, I felt lighter, more open and flexible. Life is kind of like that. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable in the moment, but we can breathe through it and as soon as we get through the discomfort, we feel lighter and more open. Yoga reminds you to face your discomforts in order to grow.

7.  You embrace vulnerability.

You realize that when you allow yourself to be vulnerable, you create greater connections and more authentic relationships. You let down your guards and allow yourself to be fully seen.

8.  You hold yourself with compassion.

You don’t get down on yourself when you make a mistake. You let go of your ideas of perfection. You allow yourself to feel exactly what you need to feel and allow a great sense of love and compassion for yourself to arise.

9.  You’re grateful, everyday.

Yoga opens you to gratitude. You stop focusing on the negative all the time, and ask,

“What am I grateful for? What is going right in my life?”

When we open ourselves to gratitude, we attract more of that good.

10.  You come back for more.

When you first start yoga, you may just move through your poses waiting for that sweet savasana. But eventually, your body grows stronger, you tune into your breath and you begin to enjoy your practice.  You wait for that time when you have full permission to let go of the past and future and be fully present with yourself.

This article was also published on Elephant Journal !


Why I Practice Yoga

yoga and meditation-compassion-8 limbs of yoga

This piece of writing came to me the morning after a dream. In the dream, someone very close to me died, and I was left to console those left behind by this person. I was forced to think and talk about the nature of life and death - something we rarely talk about openly in Western culture. I realized the ancient sages and yogis that fully devoted their life to their yoga; their salvation, were fully connected to the brevity of their life and the impermanence of their body. I realized at my most deep level, this is why I practice yoga.

--------------------------- I practice yoga because I know one day, I am going to die. I say yoga, because it is more than an asana practice. In the yoga sutras, Patanjali describes 8 limbs of yoga: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. Practiced together, they are a way of life.

I know my body's impermanence. I practice yoga, I live my yoga, for my soul. I live my yoga so my soul will progress in this life, and have less lives to live.

Compassion and kindness. Kindness and compassion.

We come back to this Earth to cultivate compassion and kindness in our lives. We take on this body again and again to live out our karma, open to our sankharas and tear through samsara.

When I feel lost, yoga is my saviour. It reminds me to lean into life, and draw my aversions closer. It reminds me to close my eyes and find that ever-renewing source of silence. Yoga pulls me out of the limitations and pains of this body world, drawing me ever closer to my heart.

And when my body is in pain, yoga is my friend. Yoga comforts me, accepts me as I am, and allows me to rest. Yoga opens me to a greater capacity to love myself.

When I am afraid, yoga holds all of those fears and lets me decide when the time is right to open that door. Yoga eases me into facing those fears and shows me the light that exists on the other side.

When I am lonely, yoga reminds me of the power and beauty in my alone-ness. I learn to steep in that beauty until I become strong.

When I feel disconnected, yoga reminds me of devotion and prayer. Devotion to something much bigger than myself that I may never fully understand. Prayer to intimately connect with that divine mystery - that powerful force that listens to where I am, where I have been, and where I need to go from here.

When I am faced with discomfort, yoga reminds me: this is an opportunity to grow.

When I feel incomplete and imperfect, yoga reminds me I am whole, and perfection only arises from that wholeness

And in those times of peace and wholeness, yoga opens me to bliss. Yoga realigns my body and lifts my spirit back to what is my natural state.

And through all of this, yoga reminds me to reconnect to my breath. A reminder to come back to my own aliveness and to find gratitude there. Gratitude for all of the lessons and the pain, because those lessons and pain made me into who I am today.

My yoga is more than a practice. My yoga permeates my breath, it is with me in my dreams, and it reminds me to open to the world each morning I wake.