Top Yoga Poses for Headaches

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Yoga can be a beneficial therapeutic tool for relieving headaches brought on by muscle tension and stress. The majority of headaches originate from muscle stiffness and imbalances emanating from the neck and upper back. When headaches set in, using a series of restorative yoga exercises can greatly relieve both the cause and symptoms. Here are our top yoga poses and exercises that naturally treat headaches.

1. Cat Pose: The flowing motion of breath and spine helps release tension from the neck and upper back while also pouring refreshing energy through the body and mind.

2. Seated Twists like Half Twist: Besides increasing circulation throughout the entire length of the spine, the twisting motion in the upper spine (cervical region) often alleviates tension coming from the scalene muscles of the neck (anterior aspect).

3. Chest Openers like Yoga Mudra Arms: Much of the tension in the back body is a result of muscle dominance from the front body (called Upper Cross Syndrome). Expanding the chest and front shoulder muscles helps break down muscular imbalances and frees the tension coming from the neck.

4. Eagle Arms: This simple crossed arm pose can be done in Mountain Pose or any natural seated posture. This back expander can reach well into the mid and upper back targeting problematic muscles around the shoulder blades and the base of the neck. Take time in this arm pose to breath slow and full into the upper back and insure that you perform this arm pose on both sides.

5. Simple Neck Stretches: Gently move through the various muscle fiber lines by allowing your head to float down to one shoulder with gravity, down across the chest and into the other side – repeat with a natural, unforced motion. Avoid letting the head fall back-keep the motion in a half circle from one shoulder to the other. Pause where you find extra areas of resistance.

6. Childs Pose: A perfect restorative yoga pose that slightly inverts the body. A gentle flow of extra blood circulates into the head helping relieve tension. With the legs slightly separated, you can easily settle into deep core and back breathing to encourage a flood of circulation to reach deep into the body. Note that the head and neck should be absolutely comfortable. If needed, keep you arms forward or bend the elbows and rest the forearms by your chest/under your shoulders so the palms face up-this will greatly unload any pressure from the neck.

7. Two Knee Reclining Twist: Unlike our seated twists, this reclining twist can be far more restorative and held longer to bring deeper focus into relaxing the nervous system while the chest expands and rejuvenates the spine. Give extra attention to releasing the shoulders into the mat to again release dominance of the shoulder and chest muscles.

8. Legs Up The Wall Pose: This highly beneficial inverted pose is great for developing hamstring flexibility and for improving circulation in the lower limbs. For headaches, the extra flow of blood to the brain and the restorative support can be deeply relaxing and nourishing.

9. Anuloma Viloma (Alternate Nostril Breathing): The aim of alternate nostril breathing is to restore balance to the energy systems. With balance, we find release and calm. This yoga breathing exercise is easy to do for all levels and targets the nervous system by slowing brain waves, calming the mind and purging stress.

10. Relaxation Pose: After doing a series of restorative yoga poses, take some time to simply relax and release in Savasana. Turn the focus away from the symptoms of your headache and settle into the sensation of mental and physical release. You may find a light eye pillow helpful in moving tension/pressure out of the eyes and forehead. Increase your comfort by placing a bolster under the knees and a thin pillow under the head. To complement the chest openers and reclining twists, lay with the arms open to the sides/palms facing the ceiling.

Take advantage of restorative yoga exercises to treat your headache. Before jumping for a chemical medication that usually just masks the symptoms, see how these key yoga poses can first work to naturally eliminate the cause of the headache and free you from the discomfort arising from imbalances and stress.



Spring Cleansing with Kriya, Asana and Pranayama

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Spring has arrived once again and joyfully we begin to see budding flora & blooming fauna as they come out of winter’s hibernation. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the liver is related to this fresh and vibrant season in which it is strongly influenced by. It’s a great time to assist the body in its natural cleansing process by toning and strengthening the liver organ so it can efficiently process and remove toxins from the body. This in turn will help to strengthen other body systems such as the immune, digestive & endocrine systems which will help to increase energy levels, promote radiant & vibrant skin, maintain healthy weight for your body type as well as promote a deep sense of peace & well being.

There are many ways in which we can support the body to reach and maintain optimal health & wellness, exercise, nutrition, relaxation and a healthy positive attitude…to name a few! Here are a few tips on using kriya, yoga asana and pranayama for toning, cleansing and strengthening the entire body and mind:

3-Part Breath – Dirga Pranayama

A deeply cleansing & grounding breath, helps to balance emotions, move stagnancy out of lungs, increases lung capacity, purifies toxins from the blood.

*Incorporate this breath several times throughout the day to focus attention to the present moment.*

Kapalabhati Breath – Breath of Fire

Cleanses the lungs & entire respiratory system, increases lung capacity, increases oxygen throughout entire body, massages digestive system improving overall function, purifies blood, brings balance into sympathetic and para-sympathetic parts of the nervous system, stimulates normal functioning of the endocrine system and tones abdominal muscles.

*Beneficial for those who experience seasonal allergies.*

Twists

Twisting poses release tension in the body, improve digestion, help to “wring” out toxins from the spine and other internal organs, tone the spinal nerves and improve the functioning of the spinal cord, flushing & cleansing action of the kidneys & liver, brings balance into the nervous system, massages & tones abdominal organs making it helpful to eliminate constipation, brings balance into the adrenal glands & hormone production, beneficial for menstrual disorders, improves round shoulders.

*Twists energize the body and can help give a boost when feeling sluggish or tired.*

Tapping

Face, head, neck, shoulders, chest, abdomen & low back) – boosts the immune system by increasing production of T-cells, reduces stress, energizing, increases focus, promotes strength & vitality, balances left of right hemispheres of the body.

*Tapping is a great “pick-me-up to increase focus and rejuvenate the body & mind”.*

Neti Kriya

Enhancement of olfactory senses, loosens and flushes dried mucous, dust and other pollutants in nasal cavity, reduces frequency & severity of colds & sinusitis.

*Neti Kriya is a beneficial practice for those who experience symptoms from asthma, allergies, sinusitis & hay fever.*

Cat & Cow Pose

Cat and cow pose massages and stimulates internal organs for increased digestion & detoxification, opens chest cavity for increased lung capacity, helps to expel stagnant matter from the lungs.

*If you feel the urge to cough while practicing this movement, allow yourself to do so to remove excess mucous from the lungs.*

Forward Bends – Uttanasana & Paschimottanasana

Forward bends massage abdominal organs, stretch & strengthen the spine bringing balance into nervous system, regulate digestion, menstruation & body temperature, calm & soothe the mind.

*Tones organs responsible for urination, defecation, ejaculation, menstruation and child birth.*

Shoulder Stand – Salamba Sarvangasanam

Shoulder stand pose stimulates blood and lymph flow to enhance detoxification, carries new blood to liver & kidneys which assists in increased detoxification, activates pituitary and pineal glands synergizing them to balance hormone levels in the body, increases blood circulation to the brain which will promote higher levels of concentration and mental sharpness.

*Because of the many benefits to this pose it is considered the “Queen of Asanas”.*

Meditation

Meditation is a subtle yet powerful practice to assist with cleansing & purification of body & mind, increases blood flow, decreases muscle tension, enhances energy, strength & vigor, increases focus & concentration, promotes self confidence, increases communication between the two brain hemispheres, grows a stable, more balanced personality, helps keep things in perspective, helps us tune into the present moment and experience a sense of “oneness”.

*Meditation can be practiced by anyone regardless of spiritual or religious practices, age, or gender.*

HAPPY CLEANSING!

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