Migraines are more than mere headaches — they’re the second-leading cause of years lost to disability worldwide and can take a toll on everything from your career to your relationships. Are there any methods of holistic relief that actually work?
Yoga is a proven intervention for this disorder. A recent study showed participants who took to the mat five times a week had a 50% reduction in headache frequency and rescue medication use. Here are the best types of yoga practices for migraine prevention and relief.
Yoga for Migraine Prevention — Analyzing Cause
Finding the best type of yoga for migraine prevention means uncovering your triggers and minimizing them. Migraine triggers typically include stress, lack of sleep and hormonal changes — you can address these with the right yoga style.
Ashtanga or Vinyasa
You might think of Ashtanga as the original Vinyasa yoga style, but what’s the difference between the two styles? Ashtanga follows a prescribed sequence of poses, with the whole primary series taking roughly 90 minutes to complete, although many guides do modified, half-primary series to shorten class time. Vinyasa classes combine postures in new and unique ways in each lesson.
These styles sparkle as migraine preventatives because they get your heart pumping and reset your hormones. This lets your body dispel excess stress hormones like cortisol as nature intended. Your fight-or-flight mechanisms don’t recognize the difference between a good workout and outrunning a hungry lion — the physiological effects are the same.
When one hormone goes out of whack, it affects the others. Therefore, getting cortisol in check through exercise helps correct other imbalances.
Ashtanga and Vinyasa might be too vigorous or confusing to follow for some practitioners. For such folks, the intensity could spike their stress levels — the opposite of what you want. However, Hatha is like Baby Bear’s chair. It’s moderate enough to dispel cortisol without spiking it, providing the necessary relief.
Yoga for Migraine Relief — Nurture Your Physical Self
Sometimes, though, the mere thought of hopping into a plank can cause further agony when you are in the midst of a migraine attack. Depending on what form of the disease you have, you might not even be able to stand up safely long enough to participate in certain classes. Some migraine types cause vertigo or a feeling of dizziness, while others can cause temporary partial paralysis or even unconsciousness.
As researchers continue to unravel migraine mysteries, they suspect the disease may be a maladaptive stress response, at least partly arising from continued trauma exposure. This doesn’t mean you can’t handle the stress of daily life. It simply means your nervous system is overloaded and has suffered damage as a result — it’s a physiological reaction.
Yin and Restorative yoga are excellent for calming your central nervous system and helping it recover from such maladaptive responses. Additionally, these styles are seated or supine and slow — just what you need when a migraine lays you low.
Yin yoga classes typically have you hold poses for three to five minutes. Your objective is to achieve inner stillness of your mind while allowing your body to relax deeply enough that your connective tissues become more pliable.
Restorative yoga began as a form of therapy for those recovering from injury or illness, so it’s perfect for migraine patients. You may hold poses between two to 20 minutes as you mindfully adjust yourself to achieve optimal healing.
Using Yoga for Migraine Prevention + Relief
Do you want to try yoga for migraine prevention and relief? Here are some tips to make the most out of your practice:
- Find the right style: Play around with various types to see what suits your body best.
- Find the right guide: Every yoga instructor is unique, so find one you love.
- Make it convenient: Driving to the studio or gym isn’t always advisable when blinded by migraines. Fortunately, YouTube is a glorious resource for free yoga workouts in your living room.
Scientific evidence supports yoga as an effective treatment for migraine prevention and relief. Is this ancient practice right for you?
Now that you know the best types of yoga for migraine prevention and relief, begin your exploration today. Learning the ropes when you feel well empowers you to use this tool as a healing, therapeutic intervention when you’re in pain.
Photo by Ivan Aleksic.