There’s good news for those who suffer from extreme headaches. According to new research, yoga can decrease the frequency and severity of migraine attacks.
According to a study published in Neurology, practicing yoga, in addition to prescribed migraine treatment care, may be more effective than taking medication alone, with case studies reporting fewer and less intense headaches.
The migraine is the third most prevalent illness and sixth most debilitating in the world, affecting more than 1 billion people worldwide. It is a neurological disease with incapacitating symptoms including head pain, visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, extreme sensitivity to sound, light, touch and smell, and tingling or numbness in the extremities or face.
Migraine sufferers not only experience extensive pain but also suffer from different psychological mood disorders. This where yoga can be beneficial, with slow, mindful movements helping to reduce stress.
Here are some yoga poses and breathing exercises that may help relieve symptoms and balance migraine sufferers’ physical, mental, and emotional states. Hold each pose comfortably for up to one minute, concentrating on relaxing and breathing. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
Standing Forward Bend (Hastapadasana)
This pose stimulates the nervous system by increasing blood supply and also calms the mind.
Stand straight with your feet together and arms at your side. Inhale and extend your hands overhead. Exhale and bend forward from your hips bringing your hands towards your feet. Keep your spine straight, hands rest either on the floor, beside the feet or on the legs. Once in this position, breathe normally and hold pose for as long as you are comfortable. Inhale as you stretch your arms forward and up, slowly come up to the standing position. Exhale, bring the arms to the sides.
Cat Pose (Marjaryasana)
This pose relieves tension in the spine, shoulders, and neck, and also boosts circulation in the upper body.
Begin in a tabletop position. As you exhale, gently round the spine up. On the inhale, return to a neutral spine.
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
This pose opens your shoulders and spine, while releasing tension in your neck and encouraging blood flow to your head.
Start on your hands and knees. Align your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Spread your palms with your index fingers pointing forward or slightly turned out and tuck your toes under. Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor and raise your tailbone into the air, forming an upside down “V” position with your body. Reach your heels down to the floor, but do not worry if they don’t touch. Feel the stretch on your hamstrings and the lengthening of your back while you engage your core. Spreading your shoulder blades apart will stretch your upper back and reaching your hips up and back will help to open your lower back. Keep the head between the upper arms; don’t let it hang.
Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
It calms the mind and nervous system.
Sit on the mat with legs straight in front of you and feet flexed. Inhale as you reach your arms overhead. Exhale as you bend forward at the waist and reach the arms straight ahead, touch your toes or your shin.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
This pose calms the nervous system while releasing tension from the back and shoulders.
Kneel on the floor. Keep your toes together and spread your knees as wide as you can. Lower your buttocks onto your heels. Exhale, lean forward so that your forehead and chest rest on the mat. Keep your arms extended forward or along your body, palms facing down or up. Allow your neck and shoulders to release any tension. To come out of this pose, use your hands to push yourself upward and sit back on your heels.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
This pose quiets the mind and makes the body completely relax. It invokes feelings of inner calm and serenity and provides an ideal break from anxiety and nervousness.
Lay down with your back on the mat. Extend your arms and legs wider than mat-width with your palms facing up. Soften your body into the earth, empty your mind, and allow 5-10 full minutes or as long as you need for rest and integration.
Deep Breathing with positive affirmation
It provides extra oxygen to the blood and causes the body to release endorphins, which are naturally occurring hormones that reenergize and promote relaxation.
Imagine a spot just below your navel. Breathe in through your nose, pull the air into your abdomen. Feel it expand as you fill up your lungs. Exhale slowly and pull your belly in as you empty your lungs. With each breath, incorporate the mantra ‘I AM HEALTHY, VITAL and STRONG’ to counteract negative thoughts and emotions.
Nerry Toledo is a Dubai-based yoga instructor.