Head hurt but don't feel like swallowing a pill? Grab a yoga mat or blanket and try this simple DIY cure that packs in all sorts of mind-body benefits above and beyond potentially clearing your head.
"Headaches can be caused by muscular tension and stress, as we know", says yoga teacher Magda Polikarska from Reebok Sports Club in London (Graham Norton is a member). She recommends the following poses for releasing both.
1. Downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana)
From all fours, drive your tailbone towards the ceiling, feet hip width apart, toes slightly turned in, heels are targeting the floor, shoulders away from ears, neck relaxed, and fingers spread wide, whole surface of the palms pressing down. Hold for six deep breaths.
Good for: releasing neck and head tension, stretching hamstrings and calves.
Expert tip: feel free to walk on the spot pushing your heels down towards the floor – this will intensify the calves stretch.
2. Neck and mid back stretches
Sit down with your legs crossed, bring your chin in and inhale, as you're exhaling bring your right ear towards your right shoulder. Bring your left arm 45 degrees away from your body and reach away from the stretch with your fingertips. Hold for six deep breaths and change sides. Bring your chin in and inhale, exhale and bring your chin down towards your chest. Hold for four deep breaths.
Good for: releasing tension on the sides of the neck and at the back of the neck and in the mid back.
Expert tip: to intensify the stretches, place your hand on your head and gently bring your head closer to your shoulder in the side stretch. Or clasp your hands at the back of your head and gently pull down to intensify the back of the neck and mid backstretch.
If you're struggling sitting in upright position, sit on a phone book or yoga block. You can also sit back on your heels or simply sit on a chair - your comfort is key.
3. Eagle arms (garudasana)
Sitting with your legs crossed stretch your arms straight forward, parallel to the floor, reach forwards so you stretch the muscle in between your shoulder blades. Cross the arms in front of your torso, your left arm is above the right and bend your elbows. Bring your hands together. Hold for six deep breaths and change sides.
Good for: releasing the tension in your mid back.
Expert tip: to intensify the stretch, bring your elbows higher.
4. Spinal twist
Lie down on the floor facing up, bend your knees and lift your feet up. Inhale, and as you're exhaling bring your knees to the right side. Now look in the opposite direction, spreading your arms wide away from your body.
Good for: releasing tension in your lower and mid back, and stretching your ITB - the muscle that runs all along the outside of your thigh and looks sexy when toned.
Expert tip: keep both shoulder blades are on the floor. If you drop your top knee in front of the bottom one, you'll intensify the stretch. Keep your ribs soft, making sure they're not flaring out.
5. Corpse posa (savasana)
Lie down flat on the floor, allow your feet to drop out, palms of your hands facing up. Close your eyes or even cover your face with a small towel. Make sure the back of the neck is relaxed - you can always put a towel under your head.
Inhale and feel your abdomen rising up, exhale and feel your abdomen dropping down. Relax and focus on your breathing. It is recommended to stay in this pose for 5 minutes.
Good for: relaxing the whole body, de-stressing, letting go.
Expert tip: be comfortable. If lying down with your legs straight is not for you, bend your knees place your feet on the floor wider than your hips and drop your knees in. Make sure you're coming out of the position slowly by rolling to the side, before sitting and then standing up.