The reasons or “triggers” that cause migraine headaches are many, varied, and complicated. The severe pain that characterizes a migraine can often be made worse with physical activity. Often times, migraine sufferers are told to include yoga as part of alternative treatments. Here are 2 ways to use the physical aspects of yoga safely to help you deal with migraines.
1. Have a consistent practice that you can use to manage stress levels and improve your aptitude with different breathing techniques. Do this before you have a migraine! Yoga can help relieve the tension that sometimes leads to any kind of headache, so you can possibly prevent one. Also, focused breathing might relieve tension and evidence suggests that breathing (with focused intention) can help you to control pain. But trying to figure out how to do that while in the midst of dealing with a migraine is not really an option. Learn the tools and practice before it happens. Use yoga as a preventative, not as an in the moment treatment.
2. Know what feels good and what doesn’t for you specifically. There is a problem when folks try to use yoga postures, asana, as prescriptions for any issue. Be wary of teachers who want to “prescribe” poses as cures. Use yoga to help you get know yourself; what helps you to feel better and what does not. For example, I’ve heard the horrible advice that doing Downward Dog can help increase blood flow to brain and relieve the migraine. WRONG!!! Inversions do not increase blood flow to the brain. The blood brain barrier prevents that exactly (or should). Also, being upside down can exacerbate pain and feelings of nausea that often accompany migraines, so have fun vomitting on the yoga teacher who told you to do that
That being said, if for some reason being upside down helps you. Great! But don’t expect yoga to come with a complete prescription sequence that works for everybody. We are all unique individuals who experience yoga and headaches differently. What works for one does not necessarily work for the other. What worked for you one day may not work the next. The practice is mainly there to increase your body awareness so you can make better choices that help you to prevent and manage your migraine symptoms. Yoga can be an extremely effective part of you migraine treatment plan, as long as you know how to use it.