“A recent study showed that yoga can decrease headache frequency and intensity,” says Rebecca Erwin Wells, MD, director of the Comprehensive Headache Program at Wake Forest Baptist Health in North Carolina. In the study, 10 weeks of daily yoga stretches decreased head pain by 58 percent.
The reason: The breathing, postures, and relaxation achieved during yoga combine to fight the root causes of headaches. “When neck muscles are tense, it can set off headaches,” explains Dr. Wells, noting that yoga can loosen these muscles. “Yoga also helps with stress, which is the most frequently reported migraine trigger.” To get the perks, follow Rachel’s lead and try these three poses three times a week.
This position lengthens and loosens the neck and shoulders to release tension that can trigger headaches.
To do: Kneel on the ground with your knees apart and feet together. Sit down on your heels and lean forward, extending your arms straight and letting your forehead fall to the floor. Breathe deeply and hold for 3 to 5 minutes.
Seated Spinal Twist
This pose stretches the entire back to ease headache-causing tightness.
To do: Sit cross-legged and reach your right arm behind you, placing your fingertips on the floor, and rest your left hand on your right knee, gently twisting your body to the right. Hold, breathing deeply, for 3 to 5 minutes. Release, return to the center and repeat on the opposite side.
Waterfall pose reduces stress on the back and neck and promotes relaxation.
To do: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Hug your knees to your chest, then slowly extend your feet up. Hold here, breathing deeply for 3 to 5 minutes. For extra support, you can scoot your butt close to a wall and rest your heels against the wall.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.