There is never one, simple answer to solving the migraine problem. Most sufferers develop their own personal attack system, approaching treatment, management and prevention with an individually worked-out program of behavioral strategies and prescribed medication.
There is an increasing body of evidence that suggests practicing yoga on a regular basis can help in the management of migraine conditions. A study published in the International Journal of Yoga found that regular yoga sessions also reduced scores on the Headache Impact Test, which is the standard test, used in the diagnosis of migraine.
How Yoga Helps Patients Combat Migraine
Unlike many forms of physical exercise that can actually trigger a migraine attack, gentle forms of yoga tend not to be aerobic in nature. Vigorous exercise (that works the heart and makes you breathe hard) is often recommended for those with less intense migraine headaches, and while exercise is universally recognized as being good for the body and soul, if it’s a migraine trigger, the negative aspects can outweigh any good it may otherwise do.
Yoga wins on several fronts, not least of which is the quieting effect it can have on the nervous system. Breathing exercises, gentle stretching and relaxation techniques all form part of the many types of yoga you can try.
Other documented ways in which yoga can help include:
- Reduces Stress and Calms the Mind — when we’re stressed, the mind is in chaos and the result is often a feeling of overwhelm, not knowing where to turn or which problem to tackle first. Yoga forces the mind to be still, focusing the attention inward, towards the breathing or body positions. This benefit is particularly relevant to those who suffer from stress-induced migraines.
- Improves Posture — Poor posture causes all kinds of aches, pains and physical tension that can trigger migraine. Tension in the neck and shoulders is an obvious cause, but tension elsewhere can lead to referred pain when the body tries to compensate for aches or weakness. Slumping, rounding the shoulders, constricting the chest and stomach, all contribute to stress levels and tension headaches.
- Improves Physical Symmetry — many chronic headache and migraine sufferers have asymmetry between their left and right sides. Maybe they step more heavily on one foot, or they carry one shoulder higher than the other, for instance. This can result in musculoskeletal tightness. Yoga stretches out the muscles and tendons, easing the kinks and realigning the body.
- Improves circulation — we’re an upright species, with our bodies constantly fighting the effects of gravity. With many yoga postures performed on the floor, or in inverted positions, the downward blood flow is reversed, improving circulation.
Yoga is Good For Kids Too
Children of all ages who suffer from headaches or migraine can also benefit from regular yoga practice. It can help children learn from an early age how to manage their pain and become aware of their bodies, teaching them life-long skills to combat stress and tension. Mind/body awareness can be a hard skill to learn, but by starting early kids grow up with the ability to take care of their physical and mental needs.
Types of Yoga and Making a Start
Beginners often find yoga confusing. There are so many different types and the names shed little light on what you could expect from the class. From Ashtanga or Hatha Yoga, Bikram or Lyengar, it would be easy to take one look, get discouraged and walk away.
One type of yoga that is especially recommended for migraine sufferers is Restorative Yoga. It combines deep breathing techniques with the use of props such as mats, blankets or blocks to help you hold the various positions without straining. Another ideal form is a yoga routine that flows from one posture to the next without the need to hold still in an uncomfortable or unnatural position.
Yoga classes are held in most towns and cities. Qualified instructors would be happy to talk with you and recommend beginner classes. Trying several different types of yoga is a good idea to help you find one that suits your lifestyle and condition.
Can Anyone Do Yoga?
Certain medical conditions make yoga inadvisable. If, for instance, you have low blood pressure, are at risk from blood clots, have osteoporosis, glaucoma, or any diseases of the spine, you should talk to your doctor first before starting classes. Once you get the go-ahead, make sure the instructor knows about your condition as they will be able to modify postures to suit you better and avoid injury or strain.
Between classes, you’ll get the most benefit by practicing at home. It’s recommended that 30 minutes of yoga, 5 times a week is most beneficial for helping migraine and quieting the nervous system.