The ancient practice of yoga has experienced a resurgence in popularity over the past 50 years. A recent study suggests that yoga may significantly reduce the burden of migraine, and lead to a reduction in medication use in some people. What type of yoga is best for people with migraine? When is it safe to practice? To help us learn more is yoga instructor Adriane Dellorco.
Adriane Dellorco has been practicing yoga all her life and living with migraine for 14 years. She is the founder of Yoga for Migraine, an online community that offers yoga practices specifically for people living with headache and migraine. Adriane is a lifelong dancer and yoga practitioner with a 200-hour yoga teacher certification in restorative, yin, and yoga nidra styles.
Adriane Dellorco: Four out of five people living with migraine report stress as a major trigger. Yoga offers a powerful combination of breathwork, muscle tension release and meditation that helps to activate the parasympathetic response in the body. It can help relieve the neck tension that so many people with migraine have. It also serves as a “gateway exercise.” While we know that exercise is a great preventive for migraine, it’s out of reach for so many people who can’t keep up a consistent, moderate exercise routine. Yoga can bridge that gap, because it’s something you can practice even on a high pain day. Yoga also teaches us to observe our body and emotions, making us less reactive to our triggers. And it offers this oasis for just feeling good that helps rewire the pain pathways in the brain that get into a chronic pain rut over time.
What evidence is there to support yoga for migraine?
There’ve been several studies, most recently in May of 2020, published in Neurology. In that study, they compared groups of people with episodic migraine. One group did yoga three to five times a week, and the other group didn’t. They found that the group practicing yoga over a three-month period reduced the intensity and frequency of migraine attacks by 48% and lowered medication use by 47%. This is comparable to many preventive medications. The yoga practitioners in the study also cut their migraine disability index score by 37%, meaning they felt much more able to enjoy their lives.
What’s the best way to get started with yoga if you have migraine?
Yoga can be very healing, but it’s important to find the right style and the right poses for your body. For people with migraine, start with a very gentle yoga style like yoga nidra, which is a guided, lying-down meditation. Next, try a restorative yoga class. It’s not physically intense. It’s much more meditative and still. And then if you’re having a lower pain day, explore a gentle hatha yoga practice, which involves more of the classic yoga poses and helps build more physical stamina and release of muscle tension. There are yoga options for everyone. Find a teacher that can work with your health challenges and your mobility level. The ultimate goal is for you to be comfortable and aware of your mind and body.
Watch the full interview for answers to:
What is yoga?How can yoga help someone with migraine?What evidence is there that supports yoga for migraine?How do postures and breathing combine to create an effective yoga practice?How can yoga benefit the hyper-responsive nervous system common in people with migraine?Can yoga be practiced during times of high pain?Is there a type of yoga that’s best-suited for people with migraine?Are there certain types of yoga that are better suited for different body types?What type of yoga is most beneficial if the neck is a factor in migraine?What type of yoga is appropriate for people who have migraine with vestibular symptoms, such as dizziness and vertigo?Can yoga help with insomnia?What other conditions can yoga be beneficial for?Is there anyone who shouldn’t practice yoga?What are some reasons that people might be hesitant to try yoga?What is the best way to start a yoga practice for those who are new to it?How can you find a certified yoga instructor who can provide personal feedback?