Migraine is a chronic headache characterized by throbbing pain on one side of the head. Its symptoms extend to nausea, vomiting, dizziness, weakness, lethargy, heightened sensitivity to light and sound (photophobia and phonophobia) and even difficulty in breathing. Migraines may last from few hours to few days. Migraines often result due to stress, tension or anxiety and impact productivity at work and quality of life along with causing cognitive impairment. It can trigger due to lack of sleep, dehydration or certain foods. Migraine often requires long term management and preventive strategies.
Yoga teaches one to develop and keep inner balance. It helps in relaxing the body and mind, increases concentration and definitely helps to keep Migraines away. It is very helpful in preventing Migraine attacks as it helps in releasing tension and stress in the body. Yoga improves the circulation throughout the body which in turn relieves pain. The oxygen and blood flow go to the brain with Yoga. Yoga improves the cardiac autonomic balance thereby reducing the migraine attacks.
Yoga involves postures, deep breathing exercises and meditation that collectively helps in reducing stress. By practicing Yoga, the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) can slow the heart rate and lower the blood pressure, allowing the body to recover from migraines. By developing mind-body awareness, even kids are able to align their bodies and reduce headaches. The following Yoga asanas are considered to be very helpful for migraine relief:
1. Child Pose (Balasana) or Forward Vipassana: The easiest way to calm the nervous system, makes one feel safe and reducing pain is the Child Pose. Child pose is done by kneeling on the floor, toes together and knees spread wide, lower the buttocks onto the heels. Exhale and lean forward so that the head and chest rest between the thighs and forehead touches the floor. Arms should remain extended with the palm facing down. Allow the neck and shoulder to release tension by sitting in this position for a while.
2. Corpse Pose or Savasana: This pose is very effective in relaxing the whole body as it restores the body to a deep state of rest. It involves laying on the back, feet, and legs close together, arms at 30 degrees away from the sides, palms facing upwards and eyes closed. Holding this position for 5 to 10 minutes is effective in releasing stress. It is a good pose to do while in the midst of a migraine. One should slowly move upright after the position. It is called corpse pose as one is needed to lie like a corpse, breathing shallow.
3. Downward facing dog pose Adho Mukha Svanasana or Inverted V position: This pose helps to increase the circulation to the brain, thus easing the pain. The position has to be maintained for two minutes. Thighs and spine need to be about 90 degrees angles.
4. Forward bends like Janu Sirsanana (Head to knee pose) and Paschimottanasana (Seated forward bend)are known to slow down the release of hormones from the pituitary and adrenal glands and calm the nerves.
5. Standing forward bend or Uttanasna is also helpful in relieving tension headache by increasing blood circulation in the body and towards the brain.
6. Supported Ardha Halasana (Half Plow Pose) removes tension from the frontal brain.
7. Jalandhara Bandha (the Chin Lock Pose) regulates the circulation of energy and blood to the brain.
8. Supported Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (BridgePose) expands the chest muscles, which increases oxygen intake and distributes energy evenly throughout the body. Setu Bandha asana is also very effective for those suffering from migraines as it opens the chest, heart and shoulders and reduces any anxiety build up there.
9. ViparitaKarani (Legs up the wall poses or L pose) is an easy to do Yoga Asana: One has to lay down on the floor flat on the back with hips as close to the wall. Then, put the legs up onto the wall so that the bottom of the legs presses flat up against the wall. The asana should be done for 10 minutes. It helps in relaxing mind and nervous system and increases the oxygen intake.
10. Modified Eagle Pose and Seated Spinal Twist are the other two effective yoga asanas that relieve tension headaches.
The pain of the migraine can be subsided by deep breathing exercises as deep breathing slows the heart, lowers the blood pressure and calms the entire body. Deep breathing can be done while sitting on a chair, couch or bed. One effective way to release tension in the shoulders and neck is by drawing the shoulders as high as you can towards the ears and inhale air, drop the shoulders down as you exhale air and do this a couple of times.
All asanas should be learned first, by a yoga teacher and done under their supervision. Yoga should be added in daily routine. Specific yoga poses target tension and stress contributing to migraines. They improve blood flow to the brain and lessen the throbbing sensation one experiences during a migraine attack.
Yoga is a gentle alternative that can help in improving migraine occurrence and symptoms by calming the nervous system. Yoga definitely helps in treating migraines and the disabilities associated with migraines. Practicing Yoga for few months will show improved flexibility, self-awareness, improved coordination, and less anxiety. Yoga is thus a holistic approach and a proactive approach to reduce migraines as it tunes the muscles and breathing simultaneously.
Along with Yoga, having a well-balanced diet is the key to faster recovery. It is very important to cut all refined and artificial sugar products from the diet. Cut out all allergenic foods like gluten, soy and dairy products. Staying hydrated and increasing the intake of Magnesium in diet, helps in keeping migraines at bay.
People with certain medical conditions like glaucoma, risk of blood clots, high or low blood pressure, spine diseases, severe osteoporosis, fragile or atherosclerotic arteries should consult their doctor before trying yoga. They should also consult a yoga teacher to modify poses according to their medical needs.