Yoga has so many benefits emotionally and mentally, but do we know the extent of its benefits to physical ailments?
In this article I’d like to walk you through whether yoga can benefit migraines or not.
Do you suffer from migraines? Read on!
What is a migraine?
So I’m sure we have all had a headache at some point. But there is a significant difference between a migraine and a headache.
A migraine is described as a moderate to severe headache felt as a throbbing pain on one side of the head.
A migraine can also include other, more confusing symptoms, such as seeing flashing lights, light sensitivity, feeling or being sick, sweating or abdominal pain.
In some cases, people may experience these secondary symptoms without the presence of a headache at all.
Migraines can extremely debilitating, causing people to have periods of time off work, and may also require regular medicating.
Can you treat a migraine?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for migraines. People usually learn to recognise and avoid their triggers, and manage their symptoms.
You can take medication for migraines, but (for women especially) these medications can affect the medication you can take for other ailments.
So naturally, people begin to look for alternative remedies for their migraine symptoms, which is where yoga can fit in.
How yoga can help
Research shows that people who practice yoga and take medication tend to have fewer and less severe migraine attacks than people just taking medication.
Yoga can be a gentle, restorative and stress-relieving form of exercise. Exercise is shown to help with migraines, and yoga is a perfect way of incorporating exercise into your weekly routine, and also relieving stress.
However, doctors sometimes warn that some more intense and rigorous forms of exercise can trigger migraine attacks.
Yoga involves slowly and mindfully moving through certain poses, while incorporating breathing techniques. Yoga also encourages people to be aware of what is happening in their body, and respect that.
So, unlike some other forms of exercise, yoga allows you to get your exercise in whilst also keeping track of how it is affecting your body in the moment.
This gives you the freedom to stop if you feel you need to!
Give these poses a try!
Calming and slowing down the nervous system can work wonders for migraines.
Bound angle pose
One of the best poses to try to calm down your nervous system is the bound angle pose. This pose is a hip-opener.
How to do it:
- Sit on the floor and lay your legs in front of you.
- Bend your knees, put the soles of your feet together, and let your knees come out to each side.
- Bring your feet as close to your body as you can, but don’t force them.
- Make sure to keep the outer edge of your feet on the floor
- Let your knees fall to the sides, but never force them down.
Sivasana (corpse pose)
You can practice this pose wherever you are! If you are experiencing a migraine attack, it might be useful to practice this in a dark room, where you can fully relax.
How to do it:
- Lie on the floor and get comfortable
- Lift your back and push your shoulder blades together
- Lie back down and close your eyes
- With your eyes closed, look through your ‘third eye’.
This is an incredibly relaxing pose, which can restore your energy in a matter of minutes.
Or alternatively, will make you feel super sleepy and relaxed!
(This pose is my favourite after a yoga class!)
Things to consider
Be mindful of your triggers!
There may be certain yoga classes or yoga poses that may not be suitable for you, and may trigger a migraine attack.
For example, you may want to steer away from particularly intense or heated yoga classes, such as hot yoga or Bikram yoga.
When going to a yoga class, it may be helpful to share with the teacher you suffer form migraines. There may be certain poses and breathing exercises they can help tailor to your needs.
Also remember to not push yourself too much. If practicing yoga and you feel too uncomfortable or concerned about having a migraine attack, either come out of your pose or leave the class for a break.
What else might help?
Try these tips alongside your yoga practice to increase your chances of really easing your migraine symptoms:
- Turn off the lights and lie in a dark, quiet room
- Migraines often increase sensitivity to lights and sound. By minimising these in your external environment, it may help to ease the sensitivity.
- Drink a caffeinated drink
- I was surprised to find this out, but in small quantities caffeine can reduce and relieve migraine pain in its early stages.
- Get a good sleep routine
- Migraines can be triggered by a bad night’s sleep. Make sure you are getting the sleep you need each night. This may be different for different people – some pay may only need 6 hours to feel rested, while someone else might need 8
- To help with this, you could try going to sleep at the same time each night, and getting up at the same time each morning.
- Eat food that makes you feel good!
- The food you eat may potentially be triggering your migraines! A lot of us are intolerant to foods and don’t even realise it!
- You could start keeping a food journal and record what you eat, and any symptoms you have each day.
Give it a go!
Whether or not yoga helps relieve migraine symptoms will probably be quite subjective, and may vary from person to person.
Personally, I think it’s definitely worth giving a go! Yoga offers a multitude of great benefits even if it doesn’t provide you with relief from migraine symptoms.
However, I am hopeful that yoga could definitely help.
Yoga, coupled with a healthy and proactive lifestyle and habits, is most likely to be the best way to relieve your migraine symptoms.
Let me know how it goes!