Migraines and Yoga: Research Backs Up Yoga Provides Migraine Relief

Stress is one of the common triggers for migraines, and research has shown that lowering stress can help reduce the severity or occurrence of migraines, according to the American Migraine Foundation. It’s suggested that incorporating stress-relieving activities into your daily routine may help relieve migraine symptoms. Practicing yoga has become a common form of complementary medicine for migraine sufferers.

Yoga not only provides physical fitness benefits but also teaches stress-relieving tactics that helps calm the body and mind. When doing yoga, the parasympathetic nervous system often lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, calming the body and mind, which is known for helping the body reduce stress.  Stress may be the single most common trigger for migraines.

Some studies have explored how adding yoga to medications reduces migraine intensity and even results potentially less-frequent occurrences of migraine headaches. There are also several positions that might help alleviate more acute headache symptoms.

What the Studies Say About Migraines and Yoga

Studies on the relationship between yoga and migraines has become more popular over the last decade. In a 2014 study conducted by the International Journal of Yoga, the efficacy of yoga as a complementary therapy for migraine sufferers was tested. The results revealed that patients who practiced yoga in addition to their normal treatment regimen, saw reduced intensity and frequency of migraines. Research suggests that yoga might increase activity in the parasympathetic nervous system and improve cardiac autonomic balance. This was an exciting finding as autonomic nervous system disturbances have been linked to migraines.

In addition, a more recent study published in the Neurology journal also studied the effectiveness of yoga along with medications. Patients who practiced yoga along with taking their medications experienced greater success in reducing migraine frequency and intensity. Over time, some patients were able to reduce the amount of medication they were taking for their migraines. According to the study’s co-author, yoga acts much like an anti-anxiety coping method by relieving stress, decreasing depression and improving mood.

Specific Poses to Try to Target Stress and Tension

While researchers haven’t studied the direct effects of specific poses for treating migraines, certain yoga poses do target stress and tension, which may provide acute relief for migraine sufferers. Many poses also improve circulation and blood flow, which may prove helpful too. Below are a few recommended poses to try to provide tension and stress relief:

  • Child’s Pose – Child’s pose may reduce pain and calm the nervous system. Begin by kneeling on the floor with toes together and knees spread wide. Lower the buttocks back to your heels. Exhale and gently lean forward to allow the chest to rest on the thighs and the forehead to rest on the floor. Extend your arms forward on the ground, palms down, and hold the pose for a minute. Allowing the shoulders and neck to relax helps release tension and calm the body and mind.
  • Corpse Pose – This pose is designed to bring your body to a state of calming rest. Begin by lying on the floor on your back. Allow legs to be spread comfortably apart and place arms at your sides, palms facing up. Hold the position for several minutes while focusing on clearing the mind and taking calming breaths. When leaving the post, slowly introduce movement to the body, wiggling toes and fingers, gently rolling back and forth, and then slowly rolling upwards into a sitting position.
  • Downward Dog Pose – This pose helps boost circulation throughout the body. Begin on hands and knees, placing wrists under shoulders and knees under hips. Relaxing the upper back and stretching out elbows, press down and begin lifting the knees from the floor. Straighten legs without locking the knees, lift the pelvis, and elongate your spine until you’re in a downward dog position. Hold for 30 seconds and build up to two minutes.

Discussing Yoga for Migraines with Your Doctor

While yoga has proven to be a helpful additional therapy aide for migraines, you should always discuss with your doctor the best way to incorporate yoga into your treatment program before beginning. Additionally, it’s important to remember that you’ll likely need to practice yoga regularly for several months to see results.

Although there’s currently no cure for migraines, you can assist in the research to finding a cure. Supporting and donating to The Will Erwin Headache Research Foundation today can help find a cure for migraines and cluster headache sufferers.