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Relieve your mid-semester headache with these light exercises

By Christie Melhorn, January 24 2017 —

Between sitting for too long, living off double-doubles and Calgary’s inconsistent weather, being a University of Calgary student can be a literal headache. As a consequence we either get used to having those chronic headaches or pound back more coffees and ibuprofens than necessary to mediate them. But a lot of the time, our bodies are just begging us to get moving.

One of the best ways to relieve a tension headache is yoga or low-impact cardio. Merle Diamond, co-manager of the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago, says that yoga is ideal for headache relief because it untangles stress in your body and relaxes your spine and neck, which can take a beating from extended periods of sitting. All of these factors can get your blood flowing, bring more oxygen to your brain and help loosen the binding sensation around your head.

Of course, we can’t just abandon class or leave the library for a yoga session every time a tension headache strikes. However, you can try some of the following moves borrowed from active.com, Yoga Journal and The Huffington Post to melt away headache pangs. All of these moves can be performed in your chair, but standing will maximize their benefits. For better results, perform each move at least two or three times.

Elbow grab:

Standing hip-distance apart, reach your arms behind your back and grip your hands around your elbows on your opposite arm. Loosen your jaw, soften your neck and try closing your eyes. For a deeper stretch, place your hands in a prayer pose behind your back with your fingers facing upwards. Inhale and exhale while you hold this pose for at least 30 seconds.

Side stretch:

Standing with your feet hip-width apart, firmly ground your feet into the floor. Raise your arms above your head and grab one of your wrists with your opposite hand. Gently pull the arm with your free hand to the opposite side. Hold for 30 seconds on each side and try to tilt a little farther each time you exhale.

Modified eagle pose:

Start by rolling your shoulders back, lengthening your spine and loosening your neck. Next, wrap your arms around your torso, giving yourself a well-deserved hug. Raise your hands and let your top elbow rest on the elbow joint of the arm below. Flip your hands inward so that your palms are facing together. Close your eyes, keep your inhales and exhales slow and sustain the pose for 30 seconds. Switch arms when you’re done.

Seated spinal twist:

Bring one of your legs up towards your chest. Latch your elbow of the arm opposite to your leg on the outside of your thigh. Softly shift your torso towards the same direction of your elevated arm and leg. With each exhale, try and twist a little bit farther without causing any strain in your back. Perform for at least 30 seconds on each side.

Big toe pose:

Start with your feet about six inches apart. Keep your legs as straight as possible without locking your knees. Hinging at the hips, tilt your torso and head towards the ground, exhaling as you lower. If possible, loop your index and middle finger around your big toe and secure your grip with your thumb. Gently press your fingers onto the ground. On your exhales, try to raise your tailbone to amplify the stretch in your lower back. Hold for 30 seconds.

Whichever activity you chose to do, remember to stay hydrated and well fed. Livestrong.com suggests drinking at least eight ounces of water before your work out and at 30 minute intervals throughout. Before a workout, fuel up properly with wholesome proteins and carbs. Men’s Fitness lists fruit, oats and greek yogurt as easily digestible, satisfying foods that prevent nausea during a workout.

So before downing a sugary coffee or popping some Advil, nourish your body with the right food, tons of water and some movement. You will return to studying with a lighter, clearer mind.

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