Seven yoga poses to naturally relieve your headaches

Reach for your yoga mat, instead of your pain killers, the next time you feel a headache coming on.
By Gillian Mandich
Seven yoga poses to naturally relieve your headaches

Photo, Getty Images.

Yoga for Headaches

Bliss away your headache

Yoga is a great natural remedy for headaches because it allows you to gently stretch and relax tight muscles, improve circulation (especially to the brain) and calm the mind. As headaches can be triggered by stress and/or poor blood flow, as well as tension in the neck, shoulders, or back, this practice is a natural fit. 

Read on for ways you can use yoga to beat headaches. They can be done individually, or you can complete the entire sequence.

A woman meditating to boost her fertilityPhoto, Getty Images.

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 to lift and round your spine as you draw your chin towards your chest. Exhale back to a neutral spine, and slowly repeat for 10-12 breaths.

Perfect your form: Keep your shoulders away from your ears and avoid hyperextending your cervical spine (looking up to the ceiling) as you exhale.

Headache helper: Releases tension in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine; improves spinal fluid circulation.

Yoga for Headaches | Cat stretch

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 to lift your elbows and reach your fingertips toward the ceiling, and exhale to return to the starting position. Continue this breath cycle for 6-8 breaths, and then gently unwind your arms. Repeat with the right arm under the left.

Perfect your form: Sit up tall, extending through the spine. As you inhale, press your shoulders blades down your back towards your waist.

Headache helper: Stretches the shoulders and upper back while developing focus, grace, serenity and calm determination.

Yoga for Headaches | Modified Eagle pose

3. Wide angle standing forward bend (Prasarita padottanasana)

Step your feet out wide (at least 3 feet), keeping the outer edges of your feet parallel with the short edges of your mat. Inhale to bring your hands to your hips, and as you exhale allow your torso to fold at the hips. Walk your hands as far down your legs towards your ankles as possible while maintaining a straight spine, lengthening the crown of your head down toward the ground. Hold this pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute, and repeat if desired.

Perfect your form: Slowly come out of the pose by walking your hands up your legs toward your hips, engaging your core to protect your spine.

Headache helper: Grounds the body, restores a feeling of balance, decompresses the spine and relieves fatigue.

Yoga for Headaches | Wide-Angle Standing Forward Bend

4. Bound angle pose (Baddha konasana)

Begin seated, and draw your feet toward your pelvis, bringing the soles of the feet to touch. Hold the outside of your feet. Inhale to sit up tall with a straight back, while keeping your pelvis level. Exhale to allow the knees to gently open out to your sides. Remain in this pose for 1-2 minutes, repeat if desired.

Perfect your form: Maintain good posture by allowing your chest to remain open and lifted with your back straight.

Headache helper: Uplifts your mood, alleviates fatigue, improves blood circulation. 

Yoga for Headaches | Bound Angle Pose

5. Child's pose (Balasana)

Begin kneeling on your hands and knees. Take a deep inhale, and as you exhale gently press your tailbone back towards your heels and reach your arms out in front of you. Allow your forehead to rest on the mat and your knees to widen mat-width apart. Bring your big toes to touch as the top of your feet rest on the mat. Take long, slow breaths as you hold this pose for 30 seconds to 3 minutes.

Perfect your form: Relax into this pose and allow the natural gravitational pull to draw your tailbone back towards your heels.

Headache helper: Relaxes the spine, shoulders, and neck, improves circulation to the head, and relieves stress by calming the central nervous system.

Yoga for Headaches | Child's pose

6. Waterfall pose

Begin lying on your back, and on inhale raise your legs to form a 90-degree angle (or as close as you can). The soles of your feet face the ceiling, your arms rest alongside your body with palms facing down. To keep your neck in a neutral position, the back of your head rests on the mat. Close your eyes, take long, slow, deep breaths and enjoy this pose for 3-5 minutes.

Perfect your form: To remain in this pose longer, it can be done against a wall.

Headache helper: Relaxes the muscles of the back and shoulders, induces tranquility, calms the mind, eases anxiety and reduces stress.

Yoga for Headaches | Waterfall

7. Savasana

Lay supine on your back with your palms facing up and your eyes closed. Extend your legs with your feet 8 to 12 inches apart, and allow your feet to naturally fall to the sides. Rest your arms alongside your body with your palms facing up. Find comfort in your natural breath as you remain absolutely still. This pose can be held for as long as you want (minimum of 1 to 3 minutes).

Perfect your form: When you're ready, be sure to slowly come out of the pose.

Headache helper: This pose calms your nervous system. It creates a consciously concentrated opportunity for down regulation and relaxation.

Follow the jump to see more ways yoga can improve your health and well-being.

Gillian Mandich is a PhD student in health and rehabilitation science with a focus on childhood obesity and physical activity. She’s a holistic nutritionist, certified yoga and Yoga Tune Up instructor and personal trainer.

Yoga for Headaches | Savasana


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