Help Relieve Migraine Headache Through Yoga

yoga headache
Photo by Harvey Schiller

Migraine headaches can be debilitating and are often triggered by certain situations that you can’t immediately control. Hormone imbalance, food sensitivity or muscular tension can all contribute to migraine headaches. Depending on the cause of your migraine, yoga poses can reduce the frequency and intensity of a migraine attack.

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Migraine is a fairly common type of headache that may be accompanied with symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light. Many people feel a throbbing pain only on one side of the head. In extreme cases of migraine attacks, some people experience a symptom called an aura before the headache. An aura is a warning, usually in the form of disturbances in vision (tunnel vision, blind spots, dizziness or spots before the eyes).

The short yoga asana sequence below has been designed to address migraine caused by hormonal imbalance or muscular tension. As well as yoga, the mineral magnesium and vitamin B2 (riboflavin) have both been found to decrease migraine frequency by about 50% in people who normally have multiple migraines a month.

Short Hormone Balancing Sequence – This can be useful for hormonal migraines, fatigue, insomnia or hormonal imbalances resulting from endometriosis.

Begin with a gentle warm-up sequence such as the six movements of the spine, gentle sun salutations, or moon salutations. Click on the name of each pose for detailed instructions. Add blocks, bolsters or blankets to any of the following poses to support you and make the poses more comfortable.

From the standing position:

  • Uttanasana – (Standing Forward Fold) Breathe here for 3-5 breaths. Inhale to come up. X 2. This pose helps migraine by releasing tension from the head, neck and shoulders.
  • Vrikshasana – (Tree Pose) Hold 4-5 breaths, lower on exhale and repeat on other side. This pose helps to open the front of the body, creating space for the breath and helps to prepare the body for Prasarita Padottanasana.
  • Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Leg Forward Fold) – 3-5 breaths. Inhale to come up. X 2. One of the most accessible and gentle inversions, this pose releases neck tension and contributes to the flow of oxygen to the brain.

From the seated position:

  • Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold) from Staff Pose (Dandasana) – Stay here for 3-5 breaths, inhale to come up, and exhale to release the pose. This pose stretches and releases tension from the back of the body as you breathe deeply into the shoulders, back ribs and sacrum.
  • Janu Sirsasana (Seated Head to Knee Pose) – 3-5 breaths. Inhale to come up, exhale to release, and swap to other side. Gently massaging the internal organs, this pose is great if you suspect that your migraine is as a result of hormonal imbalance.
  • Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) – Stay here 3-5 breaths, then come all the way down on to your back, keeping the soles of your feet together and perhaps placing a rolled up mat or towel/cushion behind you to extend your back over for Supta Baddha Konasana. Stay in this lying back position for at least 10 breaths will help to soothe your nervous system.
  • Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero’s Pose) – 10 breaths. This pose helps to release tension around the heart and lungs and improves blood circulation to all parts of the body. Before coming fully out of this pose, come forward into Child’s Pose over a bolster or stack of blankets for around 10 breaths to soothe and calm the mind.
  • Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose) – 10 breaths. An eye pillow or folded blanket under your head are nice additions to this pose, particularly during a headache. This pose helps relieve nervous tension and supports circulation of blood and hormones around the body.
  • Halansana (Plough) from Shoulderstand or Legs-Up-the-Wall – Stay here for 10 breaths. Use a blanket folded beneath your shoulders to create space for your neck and to take the pressure off the back of your head. The chin lock (or Jalandhara Bandha) in Plough Pose helps to soothe the circulatory and respiratory systems and release tension from the upper body.
Finish with Nadi Shodana – alternate nostril breathing, and then allow yourself at least 5 minutes of relaxation time, either lying down in Savasana or in a supported relaxation position.

What are some other ways that you find relief from migraine headaches?

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