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Yoga Helps Headaches

by Sita Kedia, MD and Michelle Fury, LPC: Why is Yoga helpful for headaches?

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Headaches can be worsened by musculoskeletal tightness and stress. In addition, people with headache generally have poor posture and asymmetry between their left and right sides. This may lead to increased difficulty with completely relaxing because of headache pain. Yoga may help balance the mind, body and spirit (or energy). It calms the mind and helps one to relax. Yoga can improve flexibility, posture, symmetry, and decreases musculoskeletal tightness.

What are the types of yoga?

There are many different forms or schools of yoga including Bikram, Ashtanga, Iyengar, and classical Hatha Yoga. Most forms of yoga will combine breathing with movements of the body and holding postures.

Restorative yoga is a form of yoga combining deep breathing techniques while holding certain poses that are fully supported by props (blankets, mats, blocks, ropes) in a completely relaxed manner. Restorative yoga may be particularly useful for those who suffer from headaches.

In contrast, yoga that moves from one posture to the next without holding any difficult or straining posture for too long is good for those who are just starting. Doctors commonly recommend yoga for people with chronic medical conditions including those with headache.

How do you find a yoga class?

Most cities and towns have yoga classes available either at a yoga center or at a local recreation center. Yoga classes can be from $2–$5 at community recreation centers or up to $10–$18 at yoga centers.

Most locations will have several beginner’s classes each week. They usually last from 60 to 90 minutes. You should look for an instructor who is experienced and a form of yoga that meets your physical condition. There are some forms of yoga that may be physically challenging such as hot yoga or ones that hold postures for long periods of time.

Can yoga help children or adolescents with headache?

Yes! Children and adolescents with headaches enjoy yoga, and it is helpful in all the ways that are mentioned above. Yoga can help teach children and adolescents how to move and align their bodies to reduce or even eliminate headache pain. By developing mind-body awareness, kids develop a life-long set of skills to increase relaxation and stress & pain management.

Who should not do yoga?

There are certain medical conditions that should not be done with certain types of yoga. Therefore, if you are looking into yoga for your medical condition, you should talk to your health care provider or doctor first. These medical conditions include disc disease of the spine, high or low blood pressure, glaucoma, risk of blood clots, fragile or atherosclerotic arteries and severe osteoporosis.

What are some tips when starting yoga?

  • If you have a medical condition, speak with your doctor before beginning.
  • Always start with beginner’s classes.
  • Let your instructor know about your medical conditions. Most instructors will know how to modify poses to meet your medical needs and prevent injury.
  • Let your instructor know if you experience increase pain in certain poses.
  • Inversions may be particularly difficult for those individuals with headache.

How do I find out about participating in a research study for yoga and headaches?

There are few studies currently that examine the effects of yoga on headaches. Small studies may be occurring in your local hospital, ask your doctor. Also, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine supports several studies on yoga and numerous medical conditions.

Source: American Migraine Foundation

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