See why yoga is considered one of the many non-medical ways people can fight migraine—and how to add it to your treatment plan
Stress can be a common trigger for people with migraine. Some research shows, however, that migraine improves when stress is reduced. This means that certain activities aimed at reducing your stress levels may help improve your migraine symptoms, which is why some people have added yoga to their migraine treatment strategy.
Yoga’s postures, deep breathing and meditation aspects have been shown to reduce stress. Some studies have analyzed the impact of yoga on adults with migraine and suggest that it could be very helpful in both treating migraine and fighting the disability associated with migraine. Despite these findings, however, more research on yoga and migraine is needed.
Here’s a look at what to consider before starting yoga as part of your migraine therapy:
What You Should Know Before Practicing Yoga
There are some important things to keep in mind before incorporating yoga into your routine. Since there are many different types of yoga, it is important to find one that suits you and your migraine.
Dr. Rebecca Wells of Wake Forest Baptist Health believes that there are types of yoga that work and don’t work for people with migraine. She recommends that beginners avoid using videos that demonstrate yoga, and instead attend classes.
“Tell your yoga teacher about your history of migraine, and they can offer suggestions or alternative postures for anything that makes you feel uncomfortable,” Dr. Wells says.
Dr. Wells also says people with migraine should avoid classes that involve a lot of heat, are very vigorous or require extreme postures. She notes that some patients have even found that this type of yoga can trigger migraine. Gentle yoga that focuses on breathing and meditation, while also avoiding postures that add a lot of strain to your neck, is ideal. Restorative yoga combines deep-breathing techniques while holding certain poses that are fully supported by props (blankets, mats, blocks, ropes) in a completely relaxed manner. This means it may be particularly useful for those who live with migraine.
Talking with Your Doctor
Before beginning a yoga program you should talk to your health care provider or doctor. If you have been diagnosed with or have a history of pinched nerves or have some form of problem with your spine, high or low blood pressure, glaucoma, risk of blood clots, blood vessel problems, and severe osteoporosis, make sure your doctor clears you before beginning a class.
Yoga can help with your migraine, but it will likely be just one aspect of your treatment plan. Talk with your doctor about how you can best incorporate yoga into your routine and keep at it for a few months. Changes in your migraine won’t happen overnight, so be patient with the results.
If you do decide to make yoga a part of your treatment plan, be proud of yourself for trying something new and for taking an active step in improving your health.
The American Migraine Foundation is committed to improving the lives of those living with this debilitating disease. For more of the latest news and information on migraine, visit the AMF Resource Library. For help finding a healthcare provider, check out our Find a Doctor tool. Together, we are as relentless as migraine.
Reviewed for accuracy by the American Migraine Foundation’s subject matter experts, headache specialists and medical advisers with deep knowledge and training in headache medicine. Click here to read about our editorial board members.