I’ve had many of my students in the past ask what poses they can do for migraines and I’ve always recommended restorative yoga. That’s where this post is taking me today, I’m sure we’ve all dealt with a thumping headache from time to time some more than others for longer period of times.
Migraines are painful, prolonged headaches that can last from a few hours to several days. The causes vary by person to person but, for some, stress may be a trigger. Among the factors include stress, certain food, weather changes, light, smells or odors, change in sleeping habits, some medications, and hormonal fluctuations. A lot of movement in yoga and especially inversions can actually make the migraines worse. We want to opt for poses which allow the body to rest and allow the mind to quieten and restorative poses are best for that. I’ve shared three of my go to restorative poses on a previous blog post which will also be very helpful on top of what I’m going to share with you today.
First and foremost, I must emphasise that a healthy and well-balanced diet is essential in all healing. Long lasting results to health always involve making a change to your diet. Cutting out all allergenic foods – gluten, refined sugar, wheat, processed foods, soy and dairy etc. and adding in lots of fresh greens and wholefoods is a great place to start.[box type=”info”]
Gary Krafstow explains that hyper conditions of the nervous system manifest in two different kinds of people; those who are sedentary physically, but hyperactive mentally, such as the high-stressed, overworked professional; and those who are hyperactive mentally and physically, and who obsessively drive themselves in everything they do.
In both cases, hyper people are stressed-out mentally and physically and are often highly reactive emotionally. They may feel tight, tense, wound up and jittery; they are prone to tension headaches, chronic skin conditions (e.g. eczema), and alternating constipation/diarrhea; and they often have difficulty relaxing and/or sleeping (insomnia). While both types may appear to have lots of energy, they are really running on a hyper energy that actually weakens their systems.
Uttanasana/Ardha Utkatasana combination (Standing Forward Bend/Half Chair Pose)
Step By Step Instructions:
- Stand in Tadasana with your feet slightly apart and take your arms straight over your head.
- On an exhale, bend and hinge forward from your hips slightly bending the knees and bringing your chest and belly towards your thighs and hands pressing by the sides of your feet.
- On an inhale, return to the starting position.
- On an exhale, bend forward again bending the knees until the thighs are parallel to the ground this time and the hips are knee level. Bring the chest to the thighs and palms by the sides of the feet.
- On inhale, return to the starting position.
- Repeat 8 times.
On the exhale: make the exhalation progressively longer with each repetition. Bend the knees to facilitate stretching in the lower back, push heels down firmly and reach the arms forward.
One the inhale: lift the chest up and away from the thighs, flattening the upper back, without exaggerating the lumbar curve. Keep the knees bent until the last part of the movement
Supta Baddha Konasana (Supported Bound Angle Pose)
Supta Baddha Konasana opens the whole front of the body: pelvis, belly, chest, and throat. It is especially beneficial for the pelvis. This pose can be very grounding and soothing. It calms the sympathetic nervous system (stress is the main activator of this system).You can practice this pose when you are looking to: calm anxiety, reduce stress, soothe and comfort, improve focus, calm and clear a scattered mind, reduce tension and relieve headaches.
From my own personal experience this pose has provided headache relief (tension related) for me, but I encourage you to try it out. What I’ve noticed working for my students with bad migraines is; supta baddha konasana coupled with several supported forward folds (last pose on the list found below this one). This combination of poses helps to releases tension and allows you to enter the “parasympathetic nervous system” mode.
Props:You will need one or more (firm) blankets or bolsters and some pillow, couch pillow or telephone book to place under the knees. A blanket to cover yourself up, as when you start to relax in this pose your body temperature may drop. Note this is a sign that your body is relaxing.
Step By Step Instructions:
- Place your bolster or blanket lengthwise on your mat behind you. Place a blanket folded a few inches thick at the far end of the bolster.
- Sit on the floor with your pelvis at one end of the bolster. Bring the soles of your feet together, in Baddha Konasana (Bound angle pose).
- Press both hands into the floor and lie back on the bolster, with your head supported by the blanket.
- If your knees lift high off the floor; place a pillow, couch pillow or telephone book underneath for greater support.
- Bring your hands to your upper buttocks flesh and “push” it down and away from your low back. Draw your shoulder blades down your back. Turn your palms to face up, and stretch your arms long out to the sides. Another lovely option is to rest your hands gently on your belly, and allow your hands to radiate warmth as your belly gently expands and releases with the movement of your breath.
Close your eyes, and if you like, cover them with an eye pillow or even a towel. Slow down your breath, take a long slow exhalation, followed by a long slow inhalation of the same length. Use this breath rhythm to calm your mind and to relax your body into the shape of the pose. Notice the sensations in your body, your hips, thighs, belly, chest, shoulders, neck, throat.
- When you feel ready to come out, take your hands to your outer knees and press your knees gently together. Gently come up and sit for a moment, soaking up all that nourishment of resting in and receiving your own blissful awareness.
Adho Mukha Sukhasana (Folding Forward Easy Pose)
This pose stretches the back, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. Folding forward quietens the mind, and eases anxiety and fatigue. It soothes, calms, and centers the mind, making it a healing posture for relieving any kind of stress you may be experiencing. When it is practiced with the head supported (on a block or pillow), it can also help to relieve neck and back pain. Forward folding restores balance and equanimity to the body, mind, and spirit.
Step by Step Instructions:
- Come to a seated position on you mat and sit on the edge of a firm blanket. Extend your legs straight out in front of you and sit up straight through your spine.
- Cross your legs in front of you at the shins. If your hips are very tight, you can sit on a bolster or even a block. With your knees wide, place each foot beneath the opposite knee.
- Ensure your head, neck, and spine are aligned. Balance your weight evenly across each sit bone. Let your feet and thighs relax.
- On an inhalation, reach both arms up overhead, lengthening through your spine.
- On an exhalation, slowly bow forward with your arms still extended. Rest your arms, hands, and forehead on the mat. If your forehead does not touch the mat that’s ok, bend your elbows, stack your hands or create fists, and rest your forehead on your hands or fists. You can also rest your forehead on a pillow, bolster, or chair placed in front of you.
- Hold this pose from 1- 5 minutes.
- To release, use your hands to press yourself back to an upright, seated position. Let your head be the last thing to come up.
- Change the cross of your legs, and repeat the pose for the same amount of time on the second side.
Check in again next week where I’m going to be sharing a video blog teaching you a Mudra (hand gesture) which is great for migraine relief.
I really want to start sharing some yoga sequences via video for you soon too and I hope to get one done for migraines which will enable you to roll out your mat, switch your computer on and have me in your yoga space for 15-30mins.
Be kind, be courageous, be yourself.
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