We all have our own reasons for doing yoga whether it is to release any stress and/or tension from our waking life, to improve on our flexibility, strength, and balance, to work on our emotional well-being and to find inner balance with ourselves, or perhaps to get rid of any physical pain or discomfort. These are just a handful of reasons why many of us practice yoga, but of course there are other specific reasons based on each individual.
In regards to physical pain and discomfort, many yogis find relief in yoga, but they still deal with some sort of pain in their waking life off the mat. In particular, according to the book, Healing Yoga—Proven Postures to Treat Twenty Common Ailments by Loren Fishman, the author states the following, “More than 29.5 million Americans suffer from migraines, and women are three times more likely to have these types of headache than men” (Fishman, 120). In addition, oftentimes, migraines run in people’s families and can be hereditary (which is the case with me). Surprisingly, there are as many as 50 triggers for different types of headaches, and some of these triggers apply across the board. For example, female hormones, fatigue, sunlight, odors, and certain foods as well as substances like caffeine and nitrates in processed foods can cause a headache or migraine (Fishman, 119).
Furthermore, the National Headache Foundation conducted a survey in 2008 to identify different types of headaches, and their survey showed that tension-type headaches were the second most common after migraines. These specific headaches can occur occasionally or they can be chronic, especially for women; these headaches can also vary in intensity as well as frequency. The symptoms of these headaches vary, but the most common ones include a feeling of tightness, muscle stiffness, pressure, or diffuse pain. According to Healing Yoga—Proven Postures to Treat Twenty Common Ailments, most people feel a dull aching feeling either in their temples, forehead, back of the head, and/or neck on both sides. Also, sometimes, the pain can be related to anxiety or depression, which could affect people’s sleeping patterns. Additionally, stress, fatigue, depression, and/or other on-going physical programs can play a role in the onset of a headache or migraine (Fishman, 119).
As far as migraines go, some of the common symptoms are well known, and they consist of pain usually occurring on one side of the head and it feels as though it is throbbing or pulsing; some people even experience nausea and light-headedness, which is sometimes accompanied by vomiting. If the migraine is extremely painful and unbearable, oftentimes, people will go to their bedrooms to find relief since it is relatively quiet and dark. According to a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic in 2013, four out of ten patients (39%) said migraines drove them to bed frequently and for days at a time. It is known that bright lights and loud sounds can increase a person’s discomfort level, therefore, the bedroom is a wonderful place to go to avoid these visual disturbances. Visual disturbances are quite common when it comes to migraines, but even physical activity such as climbing stairs or working out can worsen the pain (Fishman, 120).
For migraine sufferers alone, as many as twenty percent also experience what is called an “aura”, which typically occurs before the headache hits, or the aura can serve as a warning. People may also experience visual disturbances such as flashing lights, dots, zigzagging lines, or blind spots in their vision. A simple way of explaining why these disturbances happen is the following,
When brain cells become agitated, they cause the trigeminal nerve to emit chemicals that inflame and swell blood vessels on the surface of the brain. The swollen vessels telegraph pain signals to the brain stem, which processes them and sends them out. The visual disturbances people experience are due to short-term changes in the activity of the nerve cells (Fishman, 120-121).
Migraine symptoms vary, but they are upsetting both physically as well as emotionally. Thankfully, there are certain yoga poses people can practice, which should provide yogis with relief from their headache or migraine pain. Some examples include the following poses: A First Cousin of Setu Bandhasana or the “Out on the table or chair pose”, Setu Bandhasana or the “Bridge Pose”, Paschimottanasana or the “Seated Forward Bend Pose”, and lastly, Viparita Karani or the “Inclined Plane Pose”. Each of these poses have the capability to significantly reduce or relieve headache or migraine pain, but it is your duty to put in the work.
For your convenience, I have included pictures of myself doing the poses in another post, which demonstrate the ones I listed above. I also listed some helpful hints as well as valid reasons of how these poses work. Of course, not everyone will have the same affect from these poses, however, they are options for you to try next time you feel a headache or migraine coming on or perhaps during the pain itself.
We all know what it feels like to be in pain, discomfort, and distress, but we also know how magical and effective yoga can be for the mind, body, and soul as long as we devote time and energy into the practice. Whenever you feel some type of head pain, consider implementing these poses into your practice while moving mindfully and gracefully with each breath, and letting all stress, tension, and pain wash away during each yoga class or at-home session.
For more yoga-related information, tips, and/or insights from a dedicated yogi herself, drop a comment down on this post, and let me know what you’d be interested in reading about!
On my next post, I will include information about each pose including a description of it/why it works, directions of how to get into this pose, helpful tips, and an image of myself doing the specific pose, so you have a visual aid to help you in this process.
Wöber-Bingöl, “Triggers of migraine and tension-type headaches,” Handbook of Clinical Neurology 97 (2010): 161-72.
Fishman, Loren. “Chapter Ten: Headache.” Healing Yoga: Proven Postures to Treat Twenty
Common Ailments — from Backache to Bone Loss, Shoulder Pain to Bunions, and More. New York: W.W. Norton, 2015. N. pag. Print.
National Headache Foundation, “Identifying Your Type of Headache,”
Identifying_Your_Type_of_Headache. Web. 23 June 2017.
Rahmouni, Othmane. “The Surprising Findings from the Latest Study about Yoga in America in 2016.” Seattle Yoga News. Seattle Yoga News, 27 July 2016. Web. 5 June 2017.