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In his book Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar, one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world, provided a yoga sequence for headache relief. Interestingly, the first prescribed pose is supported headstand (salamba sirsasana in Sanskrit), followed by supported shoulderstand (salamba sarvangasana) and plow (halasana). The following two poses (paschimottanasana and uttanasana) lengthen the spine and hamstrings; the series finishes with a breathing practice and savasana, the final resting pose.
The first article in this three-part series introduced neck and shoulder openers; in this segment, we will explore yoga poses that lengthen the spine, relieving tension in the back that can lead to headaches.
Paschimottanasana (West Intense Stretch)
This seated forward bend lengthens the muscles of the spine, relieving physical tension that can lead to headache. Also, like other forward folds, paschimottanasana is a calming pose that helps reduce stress, anxiety and fatigue, all of which can contribute to headache.
- Sit tall with both legs extended in front of you. Breathe in as you raise the arms overhead, lengthening the spine from your tailbone to the crown of your head.
- As you breathe out, pull your belly toward your spine and hinge forward from the hips, extending your arms toward your feet. Rest your hands on your shins, ankles, or the balls of your feet, depending on your level of flexibility. (You can also wrap a yoga strap, belt or towel around the balls of your feet and support your torso by holding on to the strap with both hands.)
- Remember that everyone has a different level of flexibility.