Ooops, I did it Again! (What to do When you Have a Head-pounding Hangover)

Sunday morning and your head is pounding. Last night was a blur and the taste of alcohol is still rife in your throat. All those flat-liners and martinis are surely taking their toll. You tried to get out of bed and the room seemed to shake. Was that an earthquake? Oh wait, it’s just you struggling to keep your balance as you try to manage the few steps that separate the bed from the bathroom door.

It all sounds familiar because we’ve all been there. A fun night of drinking and dancing with friends gives way to a not-so-fun morning after, when you wake up feeling like death warmed up. No amount of seltzers, bacon and eggs or Bloody Mary’s help. Despite having enjoyed a reputation for relieving hangovers, these so-called traditional remedies only eases some symptoms at best.

Very little is known about what causes a hangover but potential culprits include disrupted biological rhythms, alcohol withdrawal and the most highly-recognized of all – dehydration triggered by congeners, the toxic substances found in liquors. Therefore, flushing out the toxins from the system and replenishing fluids should logically help.

Aside from imbibing inordinate amounts of liquids – water, fresh juices and isotonic drinks are all good options, experts agree that a gentle workout will also speed up recovery. And there’s no better way to detoxify, get the circulation going, start digestion and lower blood pressure than yoga.

Twisting postures in particular, literally wring out the toxins and increase blood flow to the organs. They are especially good for the liver which metabolizes alcohol and other such substances. Seated spine twists for instance are easy enough to do even in a fragile state and doesn’t require much strength or balance. One pose you can try is Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes) or any variation of it:

– Hug the right knee to the chest and place the right foot on the ground across and outside the left leg.
– Inhale, lift the left arm straight up and place the left hand on the right knee as you exhale. Press the fingertips of the right hand on the ground directly behind the hips.
– Inhale, open the chest and lengthen the spine. Exhale, twist the torso to the right.
– Hold the pose for 5-10 long breaths.

To calm the mind, lower the blood pressure and ease the queasiness after a night of heavy drinking, try doing Virasana (Hero Pose):

– Stand on the knees with the shoulders directly above the hips.
– Spread the calves slightly more than hip-width apart and sit the buttocks down between the legs. Variation: if the knees hurt, sit on a pillow or a block.
– Press the tops of the feet down evenly against the ground and rest the palms on the thighs.
– Take 10 long deep breaths.

Inverted postures are great for relieving pounding headaches and increasing concentration. Your ability to balance upside-down might be a bit askew when you’re hungover though so either do it against a wall for support or just do a preparation pose for Sirsana (headstand) instead:

– Come onto all fours and place the forearms on the ground about elbow distance apart.
– Loosely interlace the fingers together and cradle the back of the head with the hands as the top of the head rests on the ground. Stay here for a few deep breaths.
– If you feel comfortable, tuck the toes under and straighten the legs.
– Stay for 10 long deep breaths and rest in Balasana (Child’s Pose.)

Do the full Headstand only if you’ve been doing them properly for a while during normal practice and you feel well enough to attempt it. Otherwise, do not do more than the preparatory pose.

Prevention is of course, the best cure for hangovers but if staying away from alcohol is impossible especially during festive seasons, then these simple yoga poses can help you feel better faster.

By Leigh Cabañes