Yoga for Migraine Relief

BreathingAsanas and breathwork can provide some relief for migraine sufferers. The approach to migraine relief will differ from one person to the next. Pay attention to your body’s response and use your intuition to experiment with postures and breathing techniques. It also helpful to work with a seasoned Yoga Instructor or Yoga Therapist. It is recommended that your yoga practice be kept steady and even. It can be intense if desired, taking care to gradually increase intensity and then gradually cool down.

During Migraine Attack: Postures may be difficult and counterproductive during a migraine attack. Meditation and Pranayama (breathwork) may be a good place to start. Meditation requires no physical movement, making it adventagous. Mindfulness Meditation, focusing attention on each moment has been proven useful for pain reduction. It is also recommended to sit upright, and meditate on the breath, in a dark quiet place. Start with Ujjayi (Ocean) Breath. Lengthen the exhale has a calming effect. Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (Alternate-Nostril Breathing) may also bring benefit.
More breathing meditations here.

Simple yoga postures are best practiced at the first sign of migraine rather that during the middle of an attack. Use support/props to encourage relaxation calm the mind. Try supported restorative poses. Eye pillows put light pressure on the eyes can deepen the relaxation response.

Neck stretches are simple, and can even be done in a dark room during an attack.

  • Neck Flexion and Extention – Slowly lower chin forward to chest and backward (five to ten repetitions).
  • Right and Left Lateral Flexion – Lower right ear to right shoulder, then left ear to left shoulder (five to ten repetitions). Feel the stretch along the entire length of the neck.
  • Right and left Rotation – Slowly turn head to the right, chin to right shoulder. Then to the left, chin close to left shoulder. (five to ten repetitions).

Legs Up the Wall


Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani) Using gravity, this pose reverses the direction of blood flow, helps relax the mind and nervous system, and increases oxygen intake.




Extended Child Pose

Child’s Pose (Balasana) Lowers blood pressure. Generates a relaxation response. 





Adho Mukha Swastikasana (Cross-Legged Forward Bend) Lowers blood pressure. Generates a relaxation response. The pose can be done as high as seen or with a deeper forward bend to the mat or to a bolster, pillow, and blankets.


Supported Child/Frog

Supported Child’s Pose (Salamba Balasana) lowers blood pressure. Generates a relaxation response.




Yoga Postures for Migraine Prevention:

 Practicing certain postures before migraine or just as symptoms begin, is most effective. Forward folds can calm the mind as well as slow hormone release from the pituitary and adrenal glands.

Forward Fold

Sitting Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana) calms the mind, relieves headaches, lowers blood pressure. Sit up straight, legs straight in front of you, toes towards the ceiling. Rock Allow sitting bones to be grounded into floor. Inhale, stretching arms over head and lengthen spine upwards. Exhale, bend forward from the hips, spine elongated, reaching towards feet. Hands wrap around feet or ankles. Keep back more straight (but not rigid) rather than deeply curved. Inhale, slightly lift and lengthen. Exhale, gently bring head closer to knees. Hold for up to 3 minutes. To come out, inhale and stretch your hands past feet, come up with straight back stretching arms and spine upward. Exhale and relax the arms down.

Head-to-Knee Forward Bend

Head to Knee Pose
(Janu Sirsasana) calms the mind, relieves headache, lowers blood pressure. Bend right knee, sole of right foot against your inner left thigh, right shin at a right angle. If right knee does not reach mat, use a folded blanket for support. Exhale and turn torso slightly left. Line up torso with middle of the left thigh. Reach rhand to grasp foot. Inhale and lift torso, pressing the top of left thigh into the floor, extend through the left heel. Exhale, extend forward from groin (not hips). Stay in pose 1 to 3 minutes. Inhalation up and repeat on other side.

Half Plow Pose (Supported Ardha Halasana) removes tension from the frontal brain. Fold mat, stack 1-3 blankets on folded mat. Place folded edges in clean line (for neck support under shoulders) Place bolster or folded blanket on seat of the chair. Lie back, shoulders on blanket, head and neck off blanket. Lift the hips, swing legs overhead, and feet through back of chair. Thighs and hips rest on padded seat. Release arms to floor.Rest for 3 to 5 minutes. Removes tension from the frontal brain.

Chin Lock
(jalandhara bandha) regulates circulation of energy and blood to the brain. Begin in easy meditation pose, hands on knees. Inhale deeply and hold the breath. Raise shoulders slightly, tilt body forward a few inches, with back straight. Press chin firmly against the chest, windpipe and oesophagus firmly closed. Concentrate on the Vishuddhi (throat) Chakra in the center of the throat. Hold breath for as long as comfortable. Raise the head with a long exhalation, returning to the starting position. Repeat for 3-5 rounds

Supported Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) expands chest muscles, increases oxygen intake and distributes energy evenly.
Lie on back, knees bent, feet parallel and flat on mat. Bring heels close to buttocks, press down into the soles, lift the hips off the floor. Slide a yoga block under lower back and rest sacrum on block. Arms rest alongside the body. This should be a comfortable restorative position. Relax for 1-3 minutes. To come out, lift up on toes, remove block and bring back down gently. Expands chest muscles, increases oxygen intake and distributes energy evenly. 

Postures to Avoid:
 Some forward bends can be soothing yet inverions where the head drops below the chest can exacerbate the pressure and pain due to increased blood flow to the head. Such as:

  •  Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
  • Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana)

Having the heart above the head may also cause issues for some people. Also avoid standing poses with arms above the head, since this can raise blood pressure.

  • Downward Facing Dog
  • Wheel Pose
  • Wide Legged Forward Fold
  • Extended Tree
  • Standing Side Stretch
  • Extended Tadasana

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