the beginner-friendly cat pose is a great way to relieve tension in the spine, shoulders and neck, and to boost circulation in the upper body. begin with your hands and knees on the floor in a tabletop position, and gently round the spine up as you exhale. on the inhale, return to a neutral spine.
"you're moving up all the way through the spine and spreading the disks, which can get compressed from all the sitting that we do at computers and driving," anderson said. "compression can put pressure on the nerves that go up through the spine."
try "eagle arms" when you feel a tension headache coming on -- this modified version of the eagle pose, performed either standing in mountain pose or sitting cross-legged lululemon hoodies, relieves upper body tension without the difficulty level of the full pose.
"this is really good for releasing tension in the shoulders," says anderson. "when we twist the arms , there's a flexibility. by holding it, we're stabilizing the whole shoulder area."
take a load off and boost circulation with a calming forward bend. for helping a distracted mind unwind, the pose is performed by sitting on the floor with the legs straight in front of you and feet flexed. bend forward at the waist and reach the arms straight ahead, relaxing into the pose while keeping the knees straight.
"the reason for the forward bend is that we take a lot of pressure of the heart," says anderson. "the heart has to work very hard to pump blood and oxygen into the brain and upper body. when you do a forward bend, the blood that tends to pool is going in the opposite direction and it moves up towards the brain."
anderson notes that if you have glaucoma, a herniated disk or heart problems, consult your doctor before doing forward bends.
in yoga, we're often told to return to child's pose when we need a break, and this pose can be just as helpful outside the studio. child's pose -- the fundamental resting pose of many yoga practices -- can also be a powerful remedy for stress, anxiety and headaches . it helps to quiet the mind while releasing tension from the back and shoulders.
"in this pose, we drop the shoulders and release the tension," says anderson. "the breath is directed towards the back, so the back is expanding. that's driving the oxygen up the spine, and into the back of the neck and the shoulders ."
legs up the wall, a restorative inversion posture, also tops our list of the . the feel-good pose helps to quiet the mind and reduce fatigue -- two factors which can make a big difference in preventing and reducing the impact of headaches, says anderson.
"the legs are going up, and again what we're doing is reversing gravity," says anderson.
you can try this restorative pose by bringing the knees up to the chest and holding the shins about two inches under the knee . relax in the pose for 30-60 seconds, and then release down. repeat as needed.
"in a tuck pose... you're loosening the muscles up the back," says anderson. "then when you let go, there's a rush of blood throughout the body."
spinal twists are dynamic poses that awaken many parts of the body, stimulating the digestive system and energizing the spine, performed with the bottom leg either bent or straight, the top knee is bent and crossed over. extend the opposite arm to the outside of the leg and gently twist the back. repeat on the other side.
"anything with a lower back twist is good because it's kind of releasing," says anderson.
the head to knee pose is a forward bend variation that can help boost blood flow and release tension. bend the left leg in a 90-degree angle and extend the right leg. lift the arms up and then bend over the extended leg and reach for the toes. hold for 60 seconds and then repeat with the left leg extended.
"when you're in the forward bend, if you can also be very quiet and breathe and feel the energy flow, you can feel the flush to your face and your skin and neck," says anderson.
savasana, the final pose of most yoga practices, is all about quieting the mind and completely relaxing the body -- which can be hugely helpful in easing tension headaches. you can completely let go in this pose if you close your eyes, says anderson.
"the individual has an opportunity to really come back in and focus on relieving the tension in the body through breathing,"she says
try a calming breathing exercise to release tension in the shoulders and bring more oxygen into the brain. sitting cross-legged, draw the shoulders up as high as you can towards your ears as you take a long inhale. and on the exhale, drop the shoulders all the way down. repeat three to five times, or more if needed.
"if you do that for about a minute, you're really going to feel a real release of tension," says anderson. "there's a tightening of the muscles pulling that fresh blood and oxygen up, and then a release with the breath that pushes it all away and releases it up into the head and neck area."
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