Restorative Yoga at Home
Yoga. Just reading the word may conjure up images of incredibly fit people wearing tight clothes and sweating profusely while holding impossible poses for minutes at a time. That’s one interpretation of yoga, but there are many different styles and forms of yoga. Studies have found that gentle, therapeutic approaches to yoga are effective for managing migraine1 and pain2.
Restorative yoga is the most relaxing style of yoga and can be a wonderful way to relieve head pain, neck pain, and insomnia. There’s no sweating or exertion in restorative yoga, just deep relaxation as you hold each pose from five to 25 minutes, depending on the pose and how much time you have.
You don’t even need a yoga studio or video to practice restorative yoga. Instruction is minimal and requires no guidance once you get set up, so learning restorative yoga poses from a book is simple. “Relax and Renew” by Judith Hanson Lasater is the “gold standard” of restorative instruction. Lasater has a Ph.D. in physical therapy and is renowned worldwide for her groundbreaking work in restorative yoga.
In “Relax and Renew,” you can read about the background and underlying principles of restorative yoga, or jump right to the chapter on headache, which details four poses that provide relief from head and neck pain. Although the scientific information is not up-to-date with current knowledge about headache disorders, the poses still do their job to relieve head pain and encourage relaxation. Another chapter is dedicated to insomnia, another scourge of many people with migraine.
Reading “Relax and Renew,” you’ll quickly discover that restorative yoga is prop-intensive. Don’t let that put you off. You can use household items to create all the props you need and it won’t take long to learn how to use them. Bolsters can be approximated with blankets, towels, or sofa cushions, and a stack of books can substitute for a yoga block. Chapter three details all the props you’ll need how to prepare them for poses.
Books are a great way to teach the mechanics of restorative yoga, but you may find you have trouble achieving deep relaxation while you’re in the poses. Going to a few restorative classes at a local studio may be all you need to learn how to relax into the poses. (Many studios offer one restorative class a week or hold occasional restorative workshops. Note that studios usually distinguish between restorative and gentle yoga, which is more athletic than restorative.) You could also try a restorative yoga DVD or listening to relaxing music or a guided meditation while in each pose.
As depicted in popular culture, yoga can appear intimidating and physically exhausting, but that’s far from the reality for healing approaches to migraine. The poses can provide physical relief, while the breathing and focus can help you relax and better manage the distress of a migraine attack. It’s been a lifeline in my years with chronic migraine.
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