May 23, 2009

Yoga for migraine and headache

Migraine is a type of headache, which is usually in one side of the head and accompanied with nausea and raised sensitivity to loud sounds and strong light. The pain can be mild but long lasting or heavy and spasmodic. It is often preceded by seeing flashing lights and aura around lights. It is sometimes difficult to say whether a pain is migraine or a muscular pain or one caused by other reasons.

The yoga asanas and pranayamas given below have been proven to be effective, sometimes 100 percent, in migraine as well as other types of headache.

If you suffer from migraine or any chronic headache that is caused by nervous or vascular factors [not due to injury, muscle pull, wrong posture during sleep, acute constipation, sudden burst of loud noise or very strong light, cervical spondylitis, and so on], you will soon notice reduced frequency and intensity of pain. Each bout of migraine would also last for lesser time. Eventually, you will get rid of migraine sooner or later depending upon the history and the root cause. Research has proved that yoga is very useful in preventing, managing and eventually controlling migraine. We have also come across many reported cases of migraine cure through yoga.

The following yoga procedures are especially beneficial in preventing and curing migraine. These should be part of the patient’s regular exercise routine, even after migraine has stopped.
One caution: Do not carry out asanas [or any physical activity for that matter] in which either (i) head and neck move in jerk or (ii) head is lowered below heart level. Yoga has many asanas such as sarvangasana, shirsasana, shalabhashana and mayurasana in which head is lowered, other body parts are raised above head or a lot of pressure is applied on the head. These should be avoided. Again, pranayamas must not be done with undue force.

Shavasana. Try relaxing the whole body. Keep in this posture for as long as you can but try not to fall asleep. You can do its advance version, a basic form of yoga nidra. [Puritans would scoff at my calling such relaxation as yoga nidra, and I understand that.] Lie down in shavasana. Feel that all parts of the body and all limbs are totally relaxed. Think of neural nodes along the spine, starting with the base of the spine [near anus], keep relaxing the spine upwards till you reach the head. Remain in this position for as long as you can, all the time imagining the entire body in fullest relaxation possible.

Kapal bhati pranayama. Do it regularly every morning. Repeat in the evening if possible. The correct way of doing this pranayama and do’s and dont’s are given in earlier posts, linked here.

Anulom vilom pranayama. Do it equally regularly and follow do’s and dont’s.

**When migraine sets in and you have not yet started following the yoga regimen given here or started it very recently:
It is highly probable that if you have migraine, you would start taking medicine whenever you have warning symptoms. Do take the first dose of such medicine, but start totally relaxing your body through shavasana or yoga nidra. When the next right time comes [yoga exercises must not be done just after meals, etc] do the kapalbhati and anulom vilom pranayamas. If the first set of yoga helps, take rest of the medicines after making judgement whether you need to take lesser doses. Though this gradual way of reducing medicine is safe, consult your doctor in case of doubt.