Headache is one of the most unpredictable medical conditions in the world. It is a very generic symptom, and can signal the onset of something as serious as a brain tumor, or something as banal as a passing common cold.
An Asana a Day ...Regularly performing yoga acts as a deterrent against minor health problems, such as headaches and common colds.
There is no uniform, all-encompassing cure for all headaches, for the simple reason that, they are not all the same. They are best treated with analgesics, and are ignored as long as they are not chronic.
Yoga is not a headache cure, but acts like an analgesic, and relieves pain to a large degree. The direct physical effects of yoga include stretching the muscles and elevating the heart rate, increasing and improving blood circulation around the body, and inducing a general sensation of well-being.
Various yoga poses can be used to cure headaches. Here are a few of them.
Headaches are most often caused by muscle imbalances around the cervical (neck) vertebrae, and problems with the eyes, ears, or facial (paranasal) sinuses. These are to be cured by remedying muscular imbalances through yoga or chiropractics, or treating the specific condition that's causing the headache.
DISCLAIMER: This article should not be used as a replacement for medical advice. Yoga only acts as a very generic painkiller. Though it reduces pain, it rarely cures the cause of the headache, and should be paired with the doctor's advice and medical treatment.
Marjarasana (Cat Pose)
This is one of the simplest yoga poses, but is great for relaxation. It is named after the practitioner's superficial resemblance to a cat with an arched back.
Get down on all fours. Arch your back, and support it on your palms, knees, and shoulders. This asana strengthens the shoulder muscles and is an easy-to-perform relaxant. Don't let your abdomen sag; engage your core muscles to hold your back in place.
Paschimottanasana (Sitting Forward Bend)
Sit with your legs spread before you, and with your spine erect. Slowly, raise your arms straight above your head. Then lower your back, preferably without bending your arms, so that your hands touch your toes. Once you achieve that, try to place your elbows on the ground while resting your head on your knees. Don't strain the neck forward if you can't reach the toes; instead, stretch the shoulder and back muscles.
This asana can also be done with one leg bent against the other, the corresponding hand stretching towards the extended leg, and the other arm folded behind your back. If you are doing this version, the leg should be extended slightly sideways, and both knees must rest on the ground.
Balasana (Child Pose)
This, again, is one of the most basic poses in yoga.
Start by folding your legs behind you, and sit on the heels with your calves and thigh pressing against each other. As with pashchimottasana, slowly raise your hands above your head, and extend them forward. Don't lift off your heels, since this will put undue pressure on your knee caps (this sitting position is risky for your knees in the first place, if practiced for a long time). Extend forward, until your hands touch the ground without bending. If you can't do that, extend to your maximum, and hold your arms in that position by stretching the shoulder and back muscles.
Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
This pose shouldn't be performed if you have carpal tunnel syndrome.
Lie down on your face. Place your palms on either side of your shoulders, and raise your upper body. Balance yourself on your palms and legs, and engage the core muscles to support your back. Don't overstretch your neck, instead stretch your chest muscles.
Stand erect, with your hands extended in front of you and raised at the elbows. Cross the right hand above the left, and twist the right forearm behind the left forearm, so that your palms face each other. Now, cross your left foot over the right foot, and extend it backwards, so that your left toes touch your right ankle from behind. Bend the right knee slightly, and balance yourself in this position. Repeat vice versa. If you can't quite stretch your forearm and foot, extend them to the best of your ability, and hold them there.
This asana stretches the muscles in all four limbs, as well as the back, and thus increases blood circulation all over the body.
Ardha Matsyendrasana (Sitting Backward Stretch)
This is the most difficult asana in this list. This stretches your spine, and improves the health of all organs along the central axis.
Sit with your legs together and extended straight in front of you. Cross the right leg over the left, and place your right foot beside the left knee. Ideally, fold your left leg backwards, so that your right hamstring rests just behind your left heel. Hold your right ankle with your left hand, and very gently turn your upper body to the right. If you can, extend your spine beyond that, but don't concentrate on stretching your neck once your spine is stretching to its maximum limit. Support your upper body by placing your right hand on the ground. Repeat vice versa.
This asana can also be done by holding your right ankle with your right hand, and turning your upper body to the left.
Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
This is the much-needed 'cool down' asana of yoga. The supine, relaxed position should be enhanced by steady, deep breathing. This asana, though not particularly helpful physically, is an excellent pose for meditation and relaxation.
Yoga should be performed with smooth, fluid motions. Jerkily forcing your body into the positions described above may cause even more harm. If you can't achieve the maximum level described above, get to the maximum you can do, and maintain that position.
These are some of the most helpful asanas for relieving headaches. Remember, headaches are usually just passing moments of pain, but they can be indicators of much worse maladies. If the headache continues unabated for a few days, contact your physician.