Headaches are a common result of a stressful day, several hours in front of a laptop, excess exposure to direct sunlight, lack of sleep, skipping a meal, indigestion or gas and many other conditions. Many of us suffer from severe headaches in the form of migraines. A migraine headache is a neurological disorder that causes recurring and prolonged headaches that are moderate to intense. It normally occurs on one side of the head. Severe migraine headaches can take 2-3 days to subside. During this time exposure to light and noise can be unbearable, hampering one’s day-to-day routine and lifestyle. One may also experience nausea, vomiting, indigestion and difficulty sleeping.
How do you treat headaches and migraines?
Normally, when one is suffering from a splitting headache medication tends to be a first choice of treatment. However, there are natural ways to treat a headache or migraine. Gentle head massages, balms and oils and relaxing, laying down or sleeping in a dimly lit room are helpful. Apart from this, yoga is an effective and natural way to treat a headache.
How does yoga treat headaches and migraines?
A complimentary practice to traditional medicine, yoga helps you manage and even prevent headaches. It induces an overall calm and relaxing state of mind and body, balances the system and removes blockages that are the root cause. Take a look at some of the key benefits.
Yoga de-stresses the mind
Yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system which releases stress, reduces cortisol levels, balances blood pressure and relaxes the mind and body. With a calmer and more balanced mind, pressure is alleviated from headaches.
Improves blood circulation
Yoga practices improve blood circulation by removing blockages from the system. When blood flow is normal, especially to the brain areas, one can release tension built up from headaches.
Yoga improves digestion
Very often headaches are a result of indigestion and gas. Yoga keeps digestion healthy and balanced which prevents headaches. One can experience relief from headaches by releasing excess gas, improving digestion and eating right.
Yoga keeps the body and mind balanced
With regular yoga practice one is more mindful and conscious of decisions, which helps keep the system balanced. This improves resistance to headaches and migraines.
Best yoga poses for headache and migraine relief
Some of the best yoga poses for headache and migraine relief are those that release stress by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, improve blood flow to the brain, induce a relaxed and balanced state of mind and body and help you let go of tension. A few examples of such poses are the Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana), Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana), Child’s Pose (Balasana), Cat-Cow Stretch (Marjariasana), Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana), Downward Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana) and the Corpse Pose (Savasana).
Headaches occur when your nervous system is constantly on high alert. These postures help relax the autonomic nervous system, helping you let go of whatever has overwhelmed the system. In fact, studies show that a five-day-a-week yoga practice helps provide immense relief from migraines and provides decreased levels of physiological stress.
Breathing exercises for headaches and migraine relief
Yoga postures are not all that help. Practicing pranayama or breathing exercises is beneficial for headaches and migraine relief. Full yogic breathing or belly breathing where you breathe in completely section by section allows more oxygen to reach tight muscles, blockages and strained nerves in the shoulders, neck and upper back. The best breathing exercises or pranayama for headaches and migraine relief are Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana) which balances the mind and body and nervous system, while releasing toxins from the system, Humming Bee Breath (Brahmari), which is a wonderful stress-relieving pranayama and Oceans Breathing (Ujjyai) which also has a strong positive impact on stress relief.
Meditation and relaxation for headaches and migraine relief
Sitting in silence to meditate helps relieve headaches. You can practice breath meditation where deep breathing will infuse the body with fresh oxygen and remove blockages, meditate to a calming mantra like Om, or do a visualization meditation. Laying down in the Corpse Pose to practice Yoga Nidra is extremely helpful. Yoga Nidra is like a body-scan meditation that helps relieve tension from various parts of the body, reduces stress and completely relaxes the mind and body. It also works on the subconscious mind, helping eliminate disturbing and stress-inducing thoughts.
While yoga is effective in managing headaches and migraines, it will take some time to start seeing a difference. Only with regular practice will you notice changes taking place. Integrate stress-relieving practices regularly as they will help prevent the headaches itself. If you feel a headache coming on, take a time-out to do a few yoga postures, pranayama or to meditate. Be gentle, start slow and practice regularly. Or, join a LIVE yoga class online with certified teachers to improve your overall health and well-being, which will automatically help prevent frequent headaches and migraines.