- Tips for Starting Yoga in Adults with Migraines
- Yoga to cure migraine and headache
- How to treat migraine
- 8 Yoga poses to relieve migraines
- 13 Poses to Relieve Tension Headaches
- 1. Tadasana (Mountain Pose): Discovering Alignment and Finding the Center
- 2. Parsvottanasana Arms: Opening the Chest
- 3. Garudasana Arms: Opening Between the Shoulder Blades
- 4. Gomukhasana Arms: Stretching the Shoulders
- 5. Simple Seated Twist: Relieving Strain in the Back, Rotating and Stretching the Neck
- 6. Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose): Actively Opening the Chest
- 7. Supta Baddha Konasana: Passively Opening the Chest, Releasing Tension From the Neck
- 8. Supported Child's Pose: Resting the Upper Back and Releasing the Neck
- 9. Supported Forward Bend: Releasing and Relaxing the Neck
- 10. Supported Ardha Uttanasana (Half Forward Bend): Stretching the Lower Back, Relaxing the Upper Back and Neck
- 11. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog): Deeply Stretching the Back, Shoulders, and Legs
- 12. Viparita Karani: Inverting the Blood Flow and Calming the Mind
- 13. Savasana (Corpse Pose): Relaxing Completely
- What Yoga Poses Can You Do for Headaches?
- 10 Yoga Poses To Heal Migraines
- Yoga for Migraine: Research, Poses, and Principles
- Yoga for Migraine Quiets Your Nervous System
- What the experts say about yoga for Migraine
- What the research says
- 7 Yoga Poses and Principles for Migraine
- Yogic Breathing Techniques
- Deep Breathing (Pranayama) + Shoulder Release
- Legs Up The Wall
- Child’s Pose
- Modified Eagle Pose
- Seated Spinal Twist
- Savasana or Corpse Pose
- Ready to give it a try?
- New to Migraine Again? Start Here >>
- 5 Yoga Poses to Get Rid of Your Headache
Tips for Starting Yoga in Adults with Migraines
By: Rebecca Erwin Wells, MD, MPH
Migraines can be triggered by many factors, such as certain foods, lack of sleep, or dehydration. You may have noticed that stress may be a trigger for your migraines. This is very common for many patients. It makes sense then that activities that lower your stress levels may be helpful for your migraines. There is a lot of research that shows that migraines improve with stress-reduction.
Yoga is a mind/body therapy that began in ancient India and is now practiced all over the world. Yoga involves postures, deep breathing, and meditation and has been shown to reduce stress.
There are only a few studies that have looked at the impact yoga has on adults with just migraines,1,2 and although there are more studies that have looked at yoga’s effect on other pain conditions,3 more research is definitely needed.
From the studies done, the results suggest that yoga could be very helpful in both treating migraines and the disability associated with migraines. We also know, a recent national survey, that about 10% of Americans with migraines or severe headaches practice yoga—which is more than those without.4
So what should you know before you begin practicing yoga? There are many types of yoga, and it is important to find one that you and that helps you, especially given your history of migraines. Some classes involve a lot of heat, are very vigorous, or require extreme postures.
In general, with your history of migraines, it would be best to avoid these types of classes. Some patients have found that such classes can actually trigger migraines. Gentle yoga that focuses on breathing and meditation are ideal.
Some find that the technique called “hatha yoga” is preferred.
There are a lot of videos demonstrating yoga, but it is best for beginners to attend a class with a teacher, that way you can tell the teacher about your history of migraines, and he/she can offer suggestions or alternative postures for anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. It is important to avoid postures that strain your neck or place a lot of tension on your neck. Take a bottle of water with you to class, and while in class and afterward, make sure you drink plenty of water.
Most importantly, talk to your headache and migraine doctor about yoga. ly, yoga will be just one component of your treatment plan for your migraines.
You may need to practice on a regular basis for several months before you begin to see changes in your migraines.
You may also notice benefits in other areas of your life, such as improved coordination, flexibility, calmness, self-awareness, mood, and less anxiety. Be proud of yourself for trying something new and for taking an active step in improving your own health.
- John PJ, Sharma N, Sharma CM, Kankane, A. Effectiveness of Yoga Therapy in the Treatment of Migraine Without Aura: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Headache. 2007;47:654-661.
- Bhatia R, Dureja GP, Tripathi M, Bhattacharjee M, Bijlani RL, Mathur R. Role of temporalis muscle over activity in chronic tension type headache: Effect of yoga based management. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 51: 333-344, 2007.
- Büssing A, Ostermann T, Lüdtke R, Michalsen A. Effects of yoga interventions on pain and pain-associated disability: a meta-analysis. J Pain. 2012 Jan;13(1):1-9.
- Wells RE, Bertisch SM, Buettner C, Phillips RS, McCarthy EP. Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults with migraines/severe headaches. Headache. 2011 Jul-Aug;51(7):1087-97.
Yoga to cure migraine and headache
Migraine is a neurological disorder that causes recurring headaches ranging from moderate to high intensity.
Typically, it affects only one half of the head and can last from 2 hours to up to more than 2 days. When under a migraine attack, the sufferer may become extremely sensitive towards light or noise.
Other common symptoms include vomiting, nausea and pain aggravation due to physical activity.
According to a report by the National Institute of Health, migraine is the 3rd most prevalent and 7th leading cause of disability worldwide. It is also believed that migraine is the most common neurological condition and is more common than asthma, epilepsy, and diabetes combined.
How to treat migraine
If you have been suffering from head-splitting ache for years or have recently been diagnosed with migraine, there are ways other than medication to help overcome your pain. Arterial surgery, muscle surgery, Occipital nerve stimulation, Botox, beta-blockers, and antidepressants are a few of the various preventive methods available to fight migraine attacks.
But beware as not all of these methods come without side-effects. Opting for some of these methods may increase the risk of hypotension, heart attacks, insomnia, and nausea to name a few.
So, is there a natural way to fight against migraine without hurting the body in the process?
Luckily, yes. The answer is Yoga.
8 Yoga poses to relieve migraines
Yoga is an ancient technique that promotes holistic living through a combination of postures and breathing techniques. Yoga is a side-effect-free method to fight migraine. Practicing these simple yoga postures for a few minutes every day will help prepare you better for the next migraine attack:
- Hastapadasana (Standing Forward Bend)
- Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)
- Shishuasana (Child Pose)
- Marjariasana (Cat Stretch)
- Paschimottanasana (Two-legged Forward Bend)
- Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
- Padmasana (Lotus Pose)
- Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
The Standing Forward Bend invigorates the nervous system by increasing blood supply and also calms the mind.
The Bridge Pose calms the brain and reduces anxiety.
The Child Pose calms down the nervous system and effectively reduces the pain.
The Cat Stretch improves blood circulation and also relaxes the mind.
The Two-Legged Forward Bend calms the brain and relieves stress. This yoga posture also relieves headache.
The Downward Facing Dog Pose increases blood circulation to the brain and thus relieves headache.
The Lotus Pose relaxes the mind and alleviates headache.
The Corpse Pose rejuvenates the body by bringing it into a deep state of meditative rest. You can end the yoga routine by lying down in this pose for a couple of minutes.
Migraine attacks cause unbearable pain and can hamper one's personal as well as professional life. Explaining your situation to family, friends, and colleagues will encourage moral and emotional support from them. It will also help them have an open-minded view of your situation.
Yoga is a means to make your resistance against migraine better and should not be used as an alternative to medication. It’s recommended to continue your medication until your doctor advises otherwise.
Practicing these simple yoga postures will lessen the impact of a migraine attack and may eventually stop them permanently. So, roll out the yoga mat, repose for some time every day, and shut migraine your life for good.
Practicing Yoga helps develop the body and mind, yet is not a substitute for medicine. It is essential to learn and practice yoga under the supervision of a trained Yoga teacher. In case of any medical condition, practice yoga only after consulting your doctor and a Sri Sri Yoga teacher.
Find a Sri Sri Yoga program at an Art of Living center near you.
Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive more information on our programs or to share feedback.
13 Poses to Relieve Tension Headaches
When it comes to preventing or curing a headache, there is no substitute for a thorough, daily yoga program. The following sequence offers poses that are helpful for opening the chest and stretching and relaxing the upper back and neck.
Include them in your regular practice if you are prone to headaches and see if they help bring some relief and new awareness. Breathe deeply and slowly during all the postures and remember to relax the forehead, eyes, jaw, and tongue.
The first part of the program is prevention, practiced when you do not have a headache. The second part, beginning with Supta Baddha Konasana, may be helpful in relieving a headache when it first begins.
You will have better results if you start stretching and releasing at the first sign of a headache, before the muscles go into spasm.
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1. Tadasana (Mountain Pose): Discovering Alignment and Finding the Center
Standing upright with awareness is one basic way to discover your own unique posture. It is difficult to correct something until you have found out what is really there. Use the wall to identify your alignment, and then practice standing in the center of the room.
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Stand with your back to the wall, with your feet together. If that is uncomfortable, separate the feet three or four inches. Plant the feet firmly, feeling the ground with the soles of the feet. Check the distribution of weight between the right foot and the left.
Move front, back, and side-to-side on your feet to find the most balanced stance. Make sure that the arch of each foot is lifted, the toes spread apart. The placement of your feet becomes the foundation of your awareness of your whole body.
Give yourself enough time to explore and discover how you are actually standing.
See also The Stress-Busting Yoga Sequence to Conquer Tension
When you are ready to move on, firm and straighten the legs. Bring the tailbone and pubic bone towards each other, but do not suck in the abdominals: Lift them. There should be space between the wall and your lower back; do not flatten the lumbar curve. With your “mind's eye,” go into the area below the navel, inside the belly, in front of the sacrum. Locate this “center” point.
Extend the side torso up, lift the sternum without sticking out the ribs, and drop the shoulders. Take the tips of the shoulder blades and move them into the torso, opening the chest. Let the back of the head reach up. If the chin is raised, let it drop slightly, without tightening your throat; focus your eyes on the horizon.
Make sure that the shoulders and back of the head both touch the wall. Relax any tension in the face and neck. Remember that your “center” resides in the area below the navel and in the belly, not in the neck and head. This exercise may feel very constricted if your head is normally forward of your shoulders.
Use the wall to inform you, so that you know the relationship of your head to your shoulders, but try not to create more stress as you adjust your alignment.
On an exhalation, raise the arms up to the ceiling, bringing the elbows back by the ears. Let the arms grow from the shoulder blades. Stretch the little finger side of the hand and connect that stretch all the way down to the little toe and into the ground.
Remember to keep the feet grounded, the legs strong, and the center of your pose in the area below the navel. Observe whether the movement of the arms has caused tension in the neck area. As you stretch up with the hands, bring the tips of the shoulder blades more deeply into the torso.
Hold for a few breaths and then release on an exhalation.
2. Parsvottanasana Arms: Opening the Chest
Move a little away from the wall and roll the shoulders back. Clasp your elbows with your hands behind your back. If you have more flexibility you may join your palms behind your back, with the fingers pointing upward.
On the exhalation, roll the upper arms back toward the wall, opening the chest between the sternum and shoulder. As you open, keep the ribs relaxed; make sure they don't jut forward. Remember to stay grounded in your feet and center the movement below the navel. Relax the eyes, jaw, and tongue.
Release on the exhalation. Change the arm on top, if you are clasping your elbows, and repeat.
3. Garudasana Arms: Opening Between the Shoulder Blades
This pose is helpful for relieving pain between the shoulder blades. It reminds us to keep that area open in the process of stretching the upper back. Wrap your arms around your torso, right arm under the left arm, hugging yourself. Exhale and bring the hands up, the left elbow resting in the right elbow, with the hands rotated palms towards each other.
Breathe and feel the stretch; after a few breaths, raise the elbows up higher, to the level of the shoulder. Remain grounded in the feet, centered in the area below the navel. Relax the eyes, jaw, and tongue. Feel the expansion of the inhalation between the shoulder blades and the release on the exhalation.
Lower the arms on the exhalation and repeat with the left arm under the right.
See also Yoga Cure for Headaches
4. Gomukhasana Arms: Stretching the Shoulders
This pose opens and facilitates movement in the shoulders, which helps correct the rounded upper back and forward head position. Plant your feet firmly in a parallel position and extend the sides of the torso up, pressing down through the sitting bones.
The shoulders drop down, and the head rests on the body's midline. Lift the right arm into the air (with a belt in your hand if you have tight shoulders), stretching from the little finger side. Bend the right elbow and reach down between the shoulder blades.
Bring your left arm behind your back and swing the left hand up to meet the right, clasping the hands or taking hold of a belt. Relax the ribs. Lift the right elbow into the air and drop the left elbow down.
Make sure that the spine stays extended and is not leaning left or right to compensate for tightness in the shoulders. Release on an exhalation and reverse the arm positions.
5. Simple Seated Twist: Relieving Strain in the Back, Rotating and Stretching the Neck
Sit on the chair, feet firmly on the ground, sitting bones pressing down, sides of the torso extended. On the exhalation, reach around and take your right arm to the back of the chair and your left hand to your right knee.
Extend the back of your head up and make sure the head is on the midline. Turn on the exhalation, breathing low into the belly, then into the chest. Lastly, turn the head and eyes. Remember to keep the shoulders down, the chest open, and the shoulder blade tips in.
Center the movement below the navel and in the belly; relax the eyes, jaw, and tongue.
6. Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose): Actively Opening the Chest
Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet hip-width apart. Roll the shoulders under and reach the hands towards the feet, keeping the little finger side of the hands on the floor. On the exhalation, raise the buttocks, lifting the sternum towards the chin.
Elongate the back of the neck without pushing it into the floor; you want the neck to stretch, not flatten. Interlocking the fingers on the ground under the back helps to roll the shoulder blades under and is an interesting variation. Relax the facial muscles and jaw, breathe deeply, and come down on an exhalation.
This pose is not appropriate during the second half of pregnancy, or if you have been diagnosed with spondylolysis or spondylolisthesis.
See also QUIZ: How Does Your Stress Manifest?
7. Supta Baddha Konasana: Passively Opening the Chest, Releasing Tension From the Neck
This pose can be done when you first feel signs of a headache. It opens the chest, and with the head resting, encourages the neck to relax. It is best done with the eyes closed and covered with an eye bag, a wrap, or a blanket.
Lie back on a bolster or a narrow stack of three blankets, with your head supported on an additional blanket. The lower edge of the blankets should come directly into contact with the buttocks to support the lower back.
The chin should drop down so that there is an elongation of the neck muscles, particularly the ones at the base of the skull.
Bring the soles of the feet together and spread the knees apart, supported by an additional blanket roll, or if this is uncomfortable, straighten the legs and support the knees with a blanket roll.
Experiment with the height of the support to find the most comfortable position for your body. Breathe deeply and slowly, relaxing the forehead, eyes, jaw, and tongue. To come the pose, put the soles of the feet on the ground with the knees bent and roll to the side.
Do not do this pose if you have been diagnosed with spondylolysis or spondylolisthesis.
8. Supported Child's Pose: Resting the Upper Back and Releasing the Neck
Sit on a folded blanket with your knees bent and your feet under your buttocks. Separate your knees more than hip-width apart and bring your feet together. Bring your torso forward, resting it on a stair-stepped arrangement of blankets or a bolster, adjusted to a comfortable height. Pull the support into your belly.
Drop your chin towards your chest as you rest your head. You may want an additional blanket to support your forehead, but continue to lengthen the neck. Dropping the chin to the chest provides a gentle stretch to the back of the neck, right below the skull.
The arms should rest on the floor, palms down, elbows bent, hands near the head.
9. Supported Forward Bend: Releasing and Relaxing the Neck
Sit on the floor in front of a chair with your legs crossed, with enough blankets on the seat so your forehead can rest on the blankets without strain, or if this is difficult, sit with the legs straight under the chair.
Rest your head on the chair seat or blankets with your arms under your forehead. If your legs are straight, pull the chair over your legs towards your belly. Drop the chin towards the chest to gently stretch the neck muscles.
Let the weight of the head fall down onto the chair seat. Breathe deeply and slowly.
See also Pop These Poses for a Headache
10. Supported Ardha Uttanasana (Half Forward Bend): Stretching the Lower Back, Relaxing the Upper Back and Neck
Stand in front of a table stacked with blankets high enough so that when you bend over and rest your torso on them, you are forming a right angle. Extend the spine and rest the arms straight forward or crossed, whichever is more comfortable. Drop the chin towards the chest and let the neck gently stretch. Breathe deeply and slowly.
At this point, if the headache has improved, do the next two poses. If the pain has continued, go to Viparita Karani, or rest flat on the ground in Savasana with the eyes covered and a blanket under the head.
11. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog): Deeply Stretching the Back, Shoulders, and Legs
This position should be done with the head resting on a support and the chin moving towards the chest to elongate the neck. If possible, use the resistance of a belt secured to door handles, or a partner and a belt at the top of the thighs to bring the spine into more release.
Begin on hands and knees; as you exhale, turn the toes under and lift the sit bones, straightening the legs and arms. Press your hands into the ground as the base of the spine moves diagonally up. The weight of the head will create a stretch in the neck.
Watch that the ribs do not sink down; lift them to create a space between the shoulder blades and to avoid jamming the spine. Come down on an exhalation.
12. Viparita Karani: Inverting the Blood Flow and Calming the Mind
Since this pose increases blood flow to the head, it is excellent in the beginning stage of a headache.
But if you are having migraine symptoms, indicating that the blood vessels are dilated, and if the pain increases, skip this pose and rest in savasana.
Do not do this pose if you have hiatal hernia, eye pressure, retinal problems, heart problems, or disc problems in the neck, or during menstruation or pregnancy.
Lying on the floor with a blanket or bolster under your lower back, place your legs up against the wall. Remember to drop the chin down, creating length in the neck. Cover your eyes with an eye bag or wrap.
Some people find headache relief in this pose when they place a weight, such as a sand bag, on the head, with one end on the forehead and the other draped over the top of the head onto the floor.
This additional pressure helps to drop the head further into the ground, releasing the strain in the neck muscles.
See also An Ayurvedic Guide to Treating and Preventing Headaches
13. Savasana (Corpse Pose): Relaxing Completely
Lie on your back on the floor with your eyes covered and a blanket under your neck and head. You may put an additional blanket under your knees. If you are pregnant, lie on the left side, extending the bottom leg and bending the top one, with a blanket under the top knee. Relax completely, breathe deeply, and let go.
What Yoga Poses Can You Do for Headaches?
If you regularly get bad headaches or even migraines, yoga can help. most yoga therapies, there is not one magic yoga pose that is going to make your headaches disappear forever. Yoga is most effective when practiced consistently over a long period of time as part of a holistic treatment plan.
Since many headaches are linked to stress and tension, the following poses and breathing exercise are intended to promote gentle stretching and relaxation, particularly of the neck, shoulders, and back.
A 2007 study, published in the journal Headaches, showed that people with migraines benefitted from three months of yoga that focused on these areas of the body.
If you have severe headaches, it is important to see a doctor since headaches can be symptomatic of other serious conditions. It should also be noted that the following poses are not intended to be used as treatment during a headache, but rather to be done regularly to promote a healthier lifestyle.
Neck Rolls.John Freeman/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images
Start by finding a comfortable seated position. It could be cross-legged on the floor or sitting upright in a chair with both feet flat on the floor. Take a few breaths to bring your attention to the present moment.
Then tilt your head to the right. Roll your head forward, to the left, and then back. Keep rolling continuously about five times, then switch directions and do five rotations that way.
If you find a tight area, try not to rush through it.
Come onto all fours for cat-cow stretches, which will get your spine moving. You can also do a version of this in a chair if that is more comfortable. Alternate between inhaling into the arched back position and exhaling into the rounded spine position for 5 to 10 rounds.
Staying on all fours, extend your right leg back and lift it parallel to the floor, keeping the hips squared. When you feel stable, lift the left arm parallel to the floor for a hands and knees balance. Stay here 3 – 5 breaths and then do the other side for the same amount of time.
Lower onto your belly in preparation for sphinx pose. Prop yourself up on your elbows, but don't let your shoulders shrug up toward your ears. Keep your shoulders down, your neck long, and your forearms pressing the floor. Try to stay in this position for at least 5 breaths.
Come onto your knees for camel pose. There are a number of possible variations to make this pose less intense. You can keep your hands on your low back, use blocks to rest your hands on, or curl your toes under to lift your heels so it is easier to grab them.
You can also choose to let the head hang back or to engage your neck and hold your head up, depending on which is more comfortable. Hold for 3 – 5 breaths and then sit back on your heels to rest. You can repeat the pose two or three times if you want.
For eagle, we are most interested in the shoulder stretch, which means there are a number of options for your legs. You can do the full pose, you can sit cross-legged on the floor or you can return to your chair if that's the best fit for you. Hold each side for 3 to 5 breaths.
Sit on the floor (or in a chair) for a spinal twist. Use your inhales to lengthen your spine and your exhales to twist. Stay 5 breaths on each side.
John Freeman / Doring Kindersley / Getty Images
Finish with alternate nostril breathing, in which you breathe through each nostril in turn while blocking the other one. This is a balancing, relaxing breath. Go for 5 to 10 rounds.
B.K.S. Iyengar's Light on Yoga includes an appendix titled Curative Asanas for Various Diseases.
For headache and migraine, Iyengar recommends a number of inverted and forward folding poses, including headstand, shoulderstand, plow, uttanasana, and paschimottanasana.
The efficacy of inverting as a headache treatment is unproven, but it is worth noting that it is not recommended at times you actually have a headache.
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10 Yoga Poses To Heal Migraines
Last updated on March 24, 2020
If you’re someone who suffers from debilitating migraines, you know the struggle of trying to find something, anything to relieve the pain.
Here are eight poses that can help you relieve those migraines, plus why they’re so beneficial.
While everyone is different (and you should always see a doctor if your migraines are affecting your quality of life), rolling out your yoga mat could be a good place to start.
- Bring your big toes to touch and walk your knees out wide to the width of your mat.
- Then release your torso onto the ground between your thighs as you walk your fingertips towards the front of your mat.
- Let your forehead rest gently on the floor and rock your head from side to side to massage out the tension.
Child’s pose is a great way to release tension from your upper body and open up your shoulders, back, and spine, which can increase blood flow to your head. Plus, by resting your forehead on the ground, you’re activating pressure points in your forehead that can relieve migraines and headaches.
- Start in a neutral tabletop position with your shoulders stacked directly over your wrists and your hips over your knees.
- On your inhale, drop your belly down towards your mat and gaze up towards the ceiling.
- Then, as you exhale, arch through your spine and tuck your chin towards your thighs.
Moving between cat and cow pose not only relieves tension in your upper body but it also boosts your blood flow and circulation, according to Kelly Smith, E-RYT 500, founder of Yoga for You. This brings more oxygen to your brain, which can help ease some of your headache pain.
- Come onto your sit bones and extend your legs straight out in front of you.
- Inhale to stretch your arms high overhead, then fold forward from your hips, reaching for your shins or your feet.
- Keep the length in your spine as you fold and draw your forehead towards your toes—you can always keep a slight bend in your knees to make this more accessible.
This pose stretches out your spine and opens up your shoulders, both of which relieve some of the tension often associated with headaches. Also, a seated forward folds in particular help your upper body and neck fully relax, so your head can rest on your legs with no effort.
- With your feet hips-width distance apart, hinge forward from your hips and release the crown of your head down towards your mat.
- Let your head and neck hang heavy and keep your palms down on your mat or reach for opposite elbows.
- If you feel any strain on your lower back or hamstrings, place a slight bend in your knees.
Another name for ragdoll pose? Forward fold. “By allowing your head to bow towards the earth and letting go of all tension from your neck and spine, the gentle hug from gravity can help with your headache pain, and create space in the spine and neck,” Smith explains.
- Start in your tabletop position. Tuck your toes under and lift your hips up and back, sinking your heels down towards your mat.
- Hug your biceps in close to your ears and lengthen through the backs of your legs.
- Let your head and neck relax as you release your torso back towards your thighs.
Because your heart is above your head in this pose, downward dog is a type of inversion. That means that it can reverse your blood flow, causing a rush of freshly oxygenated blood to your brain.
- Lay on your back and extend your legs straight up towards the ceiling (you can do this against a wall, if you’d !) so that your legs are perpendicular to your torso.
- Flex your toes back towards your face and let your arms fall down by your sides.
Legs up the wall is an incredibly restorative pose. Just in downward dog, your blood is now flowing in the opposite direction—towards your brain. And the more blood and oxygen in your brain, the less painful your headache might be.
- Lay on your back with the soles of your feet planted on your ground (so your knees are pointing up) and your arms down by your sides.
- On your inhale, lift your hips up towards the ceiling.
- Keep your chin away from your chest and press the back of your head down into your mat.
One big reason for migraines? Holding tension in your shoulders and neck. Bridge pose relaxes your upper body and can increase blood to your brain as your heart is lifted above your head.
- Lay on your back with your legs out long and your arms down by your side, palms facing up.
- Relax every muscle in your body (including the ones in your face) and close down your eyes.
- Let your breathing deepen. Stay here for at least 2-5 minutes.
When you’re in savasana, your entire body is completely relaxed, supported by the ground below you. That release can help reduce your migraine, along with the deep breathing that accompanies this pose, which increases oxygen to your brain.
Poses aren’t the only aspect of yoga that can help with migraines—Smith also adds that breathwork can play a major role in reducing pain. Not sure where to start? She recommends alternate nostril breathing, which she says opens and calms the mind as well as alleviates headaches.
“Use your right hand to plug your right nostril, inhale through the left, then plug the left and exhale through the right,” she explains. “Inhale through the right, plug the right nostril and exhale through the left.” She suggests repeating this eight to 10 times for the most benefits.
Smith is a firm believer that yoga can often be beneficial in relieving migraines: “Studies show that practicing yoga and meditation can help to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, and deactivate the amygdala (the pain and anxiety center of the brain) which can help alleviate headaches from tension, and give you some relief from your pain,” she explains.
However, it’s always best to consult with your doctor before, if you’re new to the mat. While these are good recommendations for the average person, some patients with hypertension or glaucoma (for example) might not be able to do some yoga poses.
Always practice mindfully, too. “Be gentle with yourself and listen to your body,” Smith says. “If something doesn't feel right, don't do it.”
Ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.
Yoga for Migraine: Research, Poses, and Principles
Two of my closest friends and fellow Migraine Warriors are avid yoga practitioners. They’ve been urging me for years to try yoga for Migraine and overall health.
Last year, I became a believer – especially after reading all the proof on yoga for Migraine prevention. I thought: I’ve tried yoga and I didn’t it. (That was Bikram Hot Yoga, one of the most intense types).
But it was a new year, and I was so ready for a new me.
I began test-driving the huge variety of yoga classes offered at my local club and at nearby studios to find an instructor, type and class that suited me. Vinyasa Flow. Restorative Yoga. Hatha Yoga. Hot Yoga. Sunrise Stretch. Who knew there were nearly 20 different types of yoga?
Yoga for Migraine Quiets Your Nervous System
A calm nervous system means less pain.
Naturopath and certified yoga instructor Lynn A. Anderson Ph.D. explains in an interview with The Huffington Post. “Yoga helps to release tension and stress in the body. Yoga gives the individual an opportunity to slow down and relax, and also really improves circulation throughout the body. Anytime you improve circulation, that improves pain and stress.”
“With yoga, you have oxygen and the blood flow going to the brain,” says Anderson. “The majority of your life, gravity is pulling you down towards the earth. Your body flow is all going down and pooling towards your feet. So it’s a good idea to get that flow going up in the opposite direction towards the brain — that’s what we do with yoga.”
What the experts say about yoga for Migraine
Paula Dumas interviews Dr. Richard Lipton
We interviewed Richard B. Lipton, MD, director of the Montefiore Headache Center in New York City, and Professor and Vice Chair of Neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and asked the expert.
His opinion: “I think, broadly, relaxation methods are an effective preventive strategy, particularly for people who have stress-related migraines.
I do yoga myself a few times a week, and love it, and the stress reduction benefits of yoga or cognitive-behavioral therapy or biofeedback may not only help prevent Migraine, but help promote successful brain aging, as well.
So, for yoga, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and biofeedback, for all relaxation and stress management modalities, it’s thumbs-up, particularly for people who note that stress is a trigger factor.”
Wow, a headache doctor who actually practices yoga himself. That’s cool.
Migraine psychologist Dawn Buse is also a fan of yoga for Migraine as a way to combat the stress that creeps up over time. She recommends adopting a regular deep breathing practice, those yogic breathing principles, to improve your outcomes with Migraine. She explained during 2017 interview with us:
“Research has shown that people with episodic migraine or migraine on average fewer than 15 days per month, are more prone to develop Chronic Migraine if they’ve experienced major stressful life events in the preceding year.
If someone has gone through event, such as a death in the family, a divorce, or maybe multiple smaller stressful events, they are more ly to develop chronic migraine, which is really a double whammy to go from having these stressful bad things happening in their life to also having increasing migraine frequency.”
Yoga is a way to give your body a break from stress, “so that you don’t have a peak stress response. This keeps your body from being stuck in the fight or flight response nonstop for a long period of time.”
What the research says
According to a 2014 study, published in the International Journal of Yoga, people with Chronic Migraine who practiced yoga therapy for 30 minutes 5 times a week for 6 weeks reported significantly fewer episodes and less intense Migraine symptoms. They also significantly lowered their scores on the Headache Impact Test, a tool used by doctors to diagnose and monitor Migraine patients.
Doctors often recommend aerobic exercise for less frequent and intense migraines, and yoga is a gentle alternative which can help improve migraine occurrence and symptoms by quieting the nervous system.
One study found that a minimum of 40 minutes of exercise three times a week for three months can prevent Migraine attacks. Regular exercise also helps with the depression and anxiety that come along with Migraine. Some people with Migraine even report that working out or engaging in a low-impact activity yoga at the start of an attack can help slow the symptoms and make recovery easier.
Even if yoga is tricky at first, stick with it. It’s a win-win for your brain, health, and overall quality of life.
7 Yoga Poses and Principles for Migraine
Yoga is low-impact. Avoid downward dog and look for gentle shoulder and neck stretches.
Regardless of whether you struggle with Migraine or tension headache, yoga once or twice a week begins to build muscle memory and train you on the poses that can abort an oncoming Migraine attack. Here are some of the best poses you’ll want to know and work into your yoga practice.
Yogic Breathing Techniques
The essential principle of yoga for Migraine begins at the breath. Slow, even, deep breathing can calm the nervous system, relax the muscles, and reduce pain. On the other hand, shallow, stressed breathing causes muscles to clench and pain to increase.
The pain of Migraine attacks can be reduced through deep breathing techniques. This is because deep breathing slows the heart, lowers blood pressure, and calms the entire body.
Deep breathing is prevalent in yoga classes and can be practiced whenever or wherever to calm the body and lower blood pressure.
You can even practice deep breathing and visualization exercises without leaving your bed or couch.
Deep Breathing (Pranayama) + Shoulder Release
Try a calming breathing exercise to release tension in the shoulders and bring more oxygen into the brain.
- Sit cross-legged
- Draw your shoulders up as high as you can towards your ears as you take a long inhale.
- While you exhale, drop your 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,” Dr. Anderson told Huffington Post. “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.”
Legs Up The Wall
- Lay down on the floor flat on your back. Get your butt as close to the wall as possible.
- Put your legs up onto the wall, letting the bottom of your legs press flat up against the wall.
- Your body should be in an ‘L’ shape.
- You can stay in this position for 5-15 minutes.
This pose is designed to make you feel safe and relax you immediately. It is one of the easiest poses to do. (see photo at top of page)
- Kneel down.
- Bend your body over your knees.
- Stretch your hands out on the ground in front of you, palms facing down.
Modified Eagle Pose
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, relieves upper body tension without the difficulty level of the full pose.
- Stretch your arms straight forward, parallel to the floor, and spread your scapulas wide across the back of your torso.
- Cross the arms in front of your torso so that the right arm is above the left, then bend your elbows.
Fit the right elbow into the crook of the left, and raise the forearms perpendicular to the floor. The backs of your hands should be facing each other.
The modified version of seated eagle is done with simple crossed legs instead of a twist.
Seated Spinal Twist
Spinal twists are dynamic poses that awaken many parts of the body, stimulating the digestive system and energizing the spine, according to Yoga Journal.
- While seated, extend your legs in front of you.
- Bend one leg t the knee and cross over the other leg. You can keep the bottom leg extended or you can bend your bottom knee and pull your heel toward your bum (see photo).
- Extend the opposite arm to the outside of the leg and gently twist the back.
- Repeat on the other side.Seated spinal twist, with option to bend bottom leg. Pixabay
Savasana or Corpse Pose
Savasana could be a good pose to do while in the midst of a Migraine. It is all about grounding down and sinking into total relaxation. While it is a physically easy position, it is considered one of the hardest positions to truly master. It is called corpse pose because you’re meant to breathe shallow and really lie as though you’re a corpse.
- Lie on your back with your feet hip widths distance apart.
- Allow your body to completely relax through every breath.
Ready to give it a try?
1 – Find a local studio and class that interests you on YogaTrail.com (U.S. Only). Connect with others in a non-competitive, non-threatening class. Try several before you zero in on the styles that work for you.
2 – Buy a Yoga Kit with DVD, Yoga Mat and Ball to use at home. Ideal if you’re not able to get out due to disability, child care challenges or a busy schedule.
3 – Many cable television providers also offer classes that you can record and watch at your convenience. Or you can watch online: there are many high-quality videos on and tons of classes on DoYogaWithMe.com – all for free.
Whatever style of yoga you chose, your mind and body will thank you. Yoga for Migraine helps tune your muscles and your breathing – both very healthy prevention habits, according to experts and research.
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5 Yoga Poses to Get Rid of Your Headache
NDTV Food | Updated: June 09, 2016 12:52 IST
Want to learn how to do yoga for headache? “Stretch, bend, breathe, relax”, and scroll down for more.
“Headaches are characterised by a feeling of tenseness in the neck, shoulder and scalp whereas migraines are basically pulsating headaches, often on one side of the head. Symptoms actually vary from person to person, and even from one migraine attack to the next,” explains Dr.
Supriya Bali, Internal Medicine, Max Hospitals. A pounding head can keep you from falling asleep at night or worse, skip an important meeting.
Whether from dehydration, stress, tension, a hangover, or anything else; when you feel a headache coming on, all you want to do is zap the pain away – and fast.
But don’t pop that pill just yet. We’ve got good news for you. Yoga could in fact help get rid of that headache for good. Dr. Manoj K.
Ahuja, Sukhda Hospital says, “Yoga helps to release tension and stress in the body, and the majority of headaches are usually tension-related”.
Here are 5 asanas that are designed to gently stretch and open the areas in your body (such as you neck, shoulders or back), while circulating blood to your head. It’s time to take a detour from your medicine cabinet, and head straight to your yoga mat instead.
Tip: Make a conscious effort to take deep breaths that start in your diaphragm and fill up your lungs. This will help get plenty of fresh oxygen circulating through your blood and in turn, relax your mind and body.
5 Yoga Poses to Get Rid of Your Headache
1. Seated Neck Release
Since the neck is often the culprit of tension headaches, it’s important to stretch it out with a basic yoga exercise. All you need to do is sit in a comfortable position, ensuring that your spine is straight and your neck lengthened.
Then place your left hand on the right side of your head and gently tilt your head to the left. Hold for a few breaths and then slowly switch sides. Repeat on both sides a few times to reduce the intensity of the headache.
So when a headache looms, you know what to do.
2. Viparita KaraniPutting your ‘Legs Up The Wall’, gently stretches the muscles in your neck and relaxes you at the same time. It can in fact, ease your throbbing headache in just a few minutes. Sit on one end of a mat with your right hip touching a wall. Lean back, turn to lie flat on the mat, and extend your legs up the wall. Make sure your butt is nearly touching the wall and your legs are placed together. Put your hands on your belly or rest them on the mat, then close your eyes, relax your jaw and drop your chin slightly. For 3 to 10 minutes, breathe deeply and slowly in this position.
3. Adho Mukho Svanasana
Also known as the Downward Facing Dog Pose, this is one of yoga’s most widely recognised asanas. Take deep breaths while practicing this pose, and just let your head hang between your shoulders.
This beginner-friendly asana helps get rid of fatigue, back pain and stiffness from sitting all day by stretching the hamstrings, chest and lengthens the spine.
It helps provide additional blood flow to the head which can often be just the thing to relieve your headache, and leaves you feeling energized.
4. Happy Baby Pose
In case you think your headache might be stemmed from the pain in your back that's radiating up your spine, or you just need to relax for a few minutes, try the Happy Baby Pose. This restorative post will indeed instill a sense of calmness.
Lie on your back with your knees bent, holding on to your thighs or the outside edges of your feet. You can slowly rock from side to side to increase the stretch in your hips and lower back, and to gently lull your mind into a state of relaxation.
Standing forward-fold is perhaps, one of the most basic ways to get rid of the pain.
Nidhi Gureja, Art of Living, says, “Uttanasana invigorates the nervous system by increasing blood supply and also calms the mind”.
So what do you need to do? With feet hip-width apart, bend forward, relaxing your head toward the floor. Grab opposite elbows, soften knees, and and just relax your head and neck completely.