A headstart on beating your headache: Yoga for headaches


We’ve all been at that moment: we’re right in the middle of something important, and just when we need to focus most keenly, suddenly, everything else is forgotten because we’ve just started a terrible headache. Headaches sometimes build up like a storm, taking us ever downwards as it crescendos upwards; others come and stay on like unwelcome guests, still others, like the one in the example above, just blindside us and before we know it, we can no longer remember what it is we were doing.

No matter what the kind of headache, and what its trigger – stress, infections, dehydration, or withdrawal of some sort – the biology of most headaches remains the same. Muscles, nerves and blood vessels around your head and neck area sometimes swell, or tighten, or undergo some sort of change that stimulates the surrounding nerves, putting extra pressure on them. This results in these nerves rushing a whole of pain signals to the brain. This phenomenon is what is identified as a headache by our brains.

One thing that most of us do not know, or fail to recognize, is that the best way to relieve a headache is to go to a dark, quiet room and close our eyes or if, possible, go to sleep. However, most of us pop a pill and wait for that to work. A simple reason for this is that most of us do not have time, another powerful reason is that we feel we are actually doing something about the headache – and not just standing around in darkness, waiting for the headache to disappear in its own time.

Well, if all you have is 5 minutes, or all you need is to actively do something about your headache, then you can always try a few simple and basic asanas. Yoga asanas naturally relax the body, which is the first step in getting rid of a headache. In addition, they also fuel the brain with oxygen and that helps to alleviate the pain. Here are 3  great ways that yoga can help you out, almost anywhere and anytime!

Veerasana + Variation: Veerasana is a lesser known cousin of the famous yoga pose – the Vajrasana. Go down on your knees, and instead of sitting on your heels, sit in between your feet. Now bend forward and touch the floor with your forehead, with your hands stretched out straight above your head, palms flush with the floor. Hold the pose for about 45 seconds and come back to Veerasana. If this is too difficult, do 3 reps of 15 seconds each, coming back to Veerasana each time before touching your head down to the floor again.

Marjaryasana: The cat pose is a classic relaxant, as the very pose stretches and relaxes the spinal muscles, which are usually tight and compressed during a headache and may even be one of the triggers of the headache. Go down on all fours with your legs and arms parallel to each other. Exhaling deeply, stretch your back upwards to curve your spine towards the sky and bring your head between your shoulders. Inhale and come back to normal. Repeat 3 to 5 times, breathing deeply into the pose each time.

Dirga Pranayama: Also called three part breath, this pranayama is best learnt and executed under the supervision of a teacher. It involves inhaling and exhaling in turns, and during each action, you take your breath through your lower throat, lower chest and lower belly. Rest your hand on each part as you inhale or exhale through that part, to guide your breath. Do this breathing for about 5-8 minutes at least to feel its benefits.

These are just a basic way of dealing with a headache: many more asanas and pranayamas can help cure the same. The Adhomukha Svananasana – the downward facing dog, Janusirasana – the head to knee pose, and Matsyendrasana, or the spinal twist – are other popular ways to combat a headache. So next time your head is splitting, stay away from the medication, and instead of spending your time waiting for the medicine to kick in, start an asana. The cure lies completely within your control!

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