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When a boa constrictor of stress creeps up your shoulders, circles your neck, and encases your skull, you may be more tempted to reach for the jaws of life than your yoga mat. But don’t underestimate the power of asana to unlock the vise grip of a tension headache; try this sequence of forward bends and reclining poses. The idea, says Northern California yoga teacher Richard Rosen, is to soothe the pulsating brain with internally focused forward bends. At the same time, by supporting the head, you’re giving the back of the neck permission to release. “When you get a tension headache, often the third eye at the place where the skull meets the neck is squeezed shut,” he says. Open that eye wide by letting the nape of your neck drift down toward your shoulders and imagining the base of your skull floating up toward your crown.
- Balasana (Child’s Pose) with head on bolster or block
- Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Pose) with head supported
- Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana) with head on block
- Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) with head on padded chair, block, or other support
- Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)
- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) with block
- Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose)
- Savasana (Corpse Pose)