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If you have never had a migraine headache, consider yourself one of the lucky ones. Migraines are life disrupting and can show up unexpected. They may present in many different ways but are usually associated with a deep pounding headache, face pain, sensitivity to light, sharp pains with head movement, blurred vision and inability to focus on daily tasks. Some people also get nausea and vomiting, and symptoms may last 72 hours or more.
Recent research has also found the benefit of yoga in treating and preventing migraine headaches. Other treatments include pain medication such as aspirin or ibuprofen, and prescription medications such as triptans that constrict blood vessels and block pain pathways to the brain.
If you suffer from migraines and headaches, you should consider adding these yoga poses to your daily routine. Although yoga on its own may not completely take away the pain, holding poses and engaging in deep breathing can help decrease pain and prevent severe migraines and headaches from occurring.
The 7 Best Yoga Poses if You Suffer from Migraine Headaches
1. Flapping Fish (Matsya Kridasana)
This pose is a great relaxation pose and mimics how some people sleep. It also helps stimulate digestion.
- Lie on your stomach and interlock your fingers in front of your face.
- Extend the right elbow to the side, so it points away from your head and extend your left elbow down beside your body towards your legs.
- Turn your head and rest your right cheek onto of your interlocked fingers.
- Bend your left leg, bringing your knee up beside your body close to your ribs. If possible, touch your left elbow to your left knee.
- Relax into the position finding a natural breathing pattern, hold for 5 minutes and switch to the other side.
2. Hare Pose (Shashankasana)
This pose, which is similar to child pose serves as an excellent relaxation tool for people who feel overwhelmed by external stimuli.
- Stand by sitting on your heels and placing your palms on your thighs.
- Close your eyes and take a deep breath bringing your arms above your head.
- As you exhale bend your body forward at the hips to allow your chest to rest on your thighs.
- Reach your arms out in front of you, softening the elbows to relax into the pose. Hold this position for 1-3 minutes and repeat throughout the day.
3. Tree Pose (Tadasana)
This pose is great to help relieve tension in the neck and shoulders and create length through the back and spine.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, feet parallel and arms at your side.
- Reach your arms overhead and interlock your fingers turning your palms to the sky.
- Find length through the spine and avoid arching through the lower back.
- As you exhale slowly, raise up onto your toes and find your balance. If possible, you can look up towards your hands.
- Breathe here for three deep breaths, remember to keep your facial muscles relaxed and shoulders down.
- Lower your heels to the ground and repeat 3-5 times.
4. Double Angle Pose (Dwikonasana)
This pose is recommended for headache sufferers as it provides a shoulder and chest stretch and helps decrease tension in the shoulders and upper back. If you have limited range or motion or pain in the shoulders, this pose is not recommended.
- Stand tall with your feet slightly apart.
- Put both your arms behind your back interlacing your fingers.
- Inhale. As your exhale, slowly hinge forward at the hips bending the knees slightly if needed as you move into a forward bend.
- As your bend forward raise your arms behind your back and allow gravity to bring your hands over your head towards the floor. Only go as far as you are able without pain.
- Hold this position for 10 seconds and relax before coming out of the pose.
5. Legs up The Wall (Viparita Karani)
This pose is a restorative pose and can be nourishing and calm the entire body. It also helps release tension and improve circulation.
- To start sit with your left side against the wall. Gently turn your body to the left and bring your feet up onto the wall shifting your lower back onto the floor. Scoot yourself towards the wall until your hips are touching the base.
- Rest your shoulders and head on the floor and spread your arms out to the side with palms up. Find a comfortable width for your legs, generally hip width apart.
- Close your eyes and hold this pose for 5-10 minutes focusing on keeping your breathing and face muscles relaxed.
6. Cat Pose (Marjaryasana)
This pose helps to articulate the segments of the spine and allow for movement between the vertebrae releasing tension.
- To start kneel on the floor on your hands and knees. Stack your wrists directly below your shoulders and knees below your hips.
- As your breath out slowly round your spine up towards the ceiling dropping your head towards the floor. Arch through the spine and shoulders.
- Return to starting position and relax.
- Repeat 5 times, moving deeper through the stretch each time.
7. Corpse Pose (Savasana) with Pranayama Breathing (Ujjayi)
Pranayama breathing is intentional breathing that is used to calm the mind and body, improve circulation and release toxins and stress through the breath. Corpse pose is a restorative pose used for relaxation and meditation, often at the end of yoga practice.
- Lie on your back with your hands beside your body palms up on the floor.
- Relax the shoulders down your back and release tension from your jaw and face.
- Observe your breath and start becoming aware of how deep you are breathing.
- Shift your breath to your throat constricting the vocal cords and keeping the lips closed as you breathe in and out. You should be making a light snoring sound as you continue to breathe.
- Keep breathing at a slow pace, matching the length of your inhales to the length of your exhale. Continue for 5-10 minutes clearing your mind of any thoughts or tension.
Although the benefits of yoga for headaches is not widely studied, a recent systematic review found that yoga significantly decreased headache intensity, frequency, anxiety, depression and medication use after a 3-month yoga program in patients with headaches and migraines. Yoga is widely used all over the world as an alternative treatment for pain, and there is promising evidence that it can also help headaches and migraines.
Other natural remedies such as the use of essential oils like peppermint, menthol, and eucalyptus can also have temporary effects on pain and can be diluted and applied topically to the neck and forehead before practicing yoga for an added pain relieving benefit.
Try these natural migraine treatments today and experience less pain, increased relaxation and overall better state of mind through yoga.
Brummer, M. (n.d.) “Yoga and Ayurveda for Headaches and Migraines”. Retrieved from http://www.encognitive.com/files/Yoga%20and%20Ayurveda%20for%20Headaches%20and%20Migraines.pdf
Kim, S.-D. (2015). Effects of yoga exercises for headaches: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 27(7), 2377–2380. http://doi.org/10.1589/jpts.27.2377
“Migraine”. (June 17th, 2016). Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/diagnosis-treatment/treatment/txc-20202474
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