Yoga for migraines

Yoga, which has been practiced for some 5,000 years, involves mind and body control through a series of movements, breathing techniques, meditations and postures. It is based on ancient Indian principles and philosophies that centers on discipline and spiritual enlightenment through uniting the mind and body.

A few recent studies have shown that yoga may also help people who suffer from persistent migraines have fewer, less painful attacks by controlling migraines naturally.

Yoga, the common name for Hatha Yoga, is a key part of Ayurveda, the long-established Indian healing system. Its origins are spiritual and it traditionally often involves meditation and chanting.

There are numerous types of yoga, which have been shown to have several health benefits, including:

  • Reducing stress
  • Weight loss
  • Managing depression, insomnia, asthma, diabetes, epilepsy
  • Reducing heart rate and blood pressure

How Yoga works for migraines

Yoga’s relaxation techniques are thought to calm the body’s nervous system. This action on the nervous system is believed to reduce the activities in the brain that lead to migraines. Yoga also has a positive impact on certain chemicals in the body and in the brain, which may also help migraine sufferers. Researchers also believe yoga increases the chemical serotonin, which relays signals from one area of the brain to another. Serotonin also eases the tightening of the brain’s blood vessels, so migraines and serotonin levels are believed to be closely related.

Studies of Yoga and migraines

A small 2007 study of 72 migraine sufferers in India randomly assigned patients to participate in yoga therapy for natural healing for migraines or in migraine education. The yoga group participated in yoga five days per week for an hour per day for three months. The yoga patients had headaches less frequently and had less pain with each migraine attack.

Best yoga poses for migraines

There are not many studies on yoga and migraines, therefore it is difficult to say with certainty which poses help ease migraine symptoms.

Some yoga instructors recommend against poses that place the head below the heart, while others emphasize traditional breathing practices called pranayama.

Who should not participate in Yoga for migraines

Yoga, as a natural migraine treatment, is considered safe for most people. However, consult your doctor if you have certain health conditions such as:

  • Artificial joints
  • Balance problems
  • Extremely high or low blood pressure
  • Eye conditions, including glaucoma or retinal detachment
  • Disc disease of the spine
  • Risk of blood clots
  • Ear problems
  • Fragile or atherosclerotic arteries
  • Severe osteoporosis
  • Pregnancy

People with cervical spondylitis should avoid some inverted poses.

Pregnant women should only practice under guidance of a professional and should also avoid some positions.



As always, the best source for advice on treating your migraines is your own migraine specialist. These descriptions of natural remedies are provided only for informational purposes. You should begin no medication or supplement without first checking with your physician. Again, this information should in no way substitute or be mistaken for medical advice.

Written by: Otesa Miles | Last review date: November 2010
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