Headaches and Migraines: 3 Yoga Poses that Help

‘Is there a yoga posture for Headaches and Migraines?’

Well, there is pretty much a yoga posture for everything.

Let’s face it the practice is over 3000 years old. Many modern medical treatments are based on yoga and yogic philosophy.

The medical profession are slowly beginning to realise the benefits of yoga. Research into its effects on a variety of medical conditions, has increased and migraines is often studied.

There are several postures which help with headaches and migraines, today I will focus on three of these. These are my go-to postures for most things to be fair!

How Does Yoga Help with Migraines and Headaches?

Well, the research tells us that by loosening and releasing tightness and tension in the body, particularly in the case of migraine and headache it is the neck, head and shoulders. Stress is often held in these areas and stress is usually the cause of headaches and migraines. Research suggests that yoga can be used as a complementary practice to treat these issues.

What is the Science Behind This?

If you are like me, you’ll love a bit of science to give evidence for something.

The science behind Yoga is that it helps to lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate down, this in turn allows the body to recover from stressful events. It may not rid you of headaches and migraines immediately, but it can help lessen the severity and possibly the frequency. A 2021 study of 61 participants concluded that yoga therapy combined with standard medical treatment could improve people’s quality of life and reduce migraine headaches. Other research in 2020 agreed that yoga as a therapy is superior to medical treatment alone and could be a cost effective and safe way to help treat migraine.

The combination of connecting the breath and movement leads to clearing of tension in the body. Yoga quietens your nervous system releasing stress and tension in the body allowing it and you to slow down and relax. It improves circulation which in turn improves pain and stress with increased oxygen and blood flow to the brain.

Some of the key postures to help with migraines are the Bridge posture & standing forward bend and Legs up the wall is another useful posture as it can help reduce the incidence and ease the intensity. Simple and effective postures used with self-massage and acupressure points to release tension around the skull. They also help the circulation system dilate the blood vessels as you work with your breath. Finishing, always, with a short relaxation.

Scroll further down this page to start putting these yoga poses into action and relieve headache or migraine pain!

Please make sure you practice with a ‘qualified teacher’ and also please ensure you check with your doctor before undertaking any of these practices.

1. Bridge Posture (Setubandhasana)

This pose opens the chest, heart, and shoulders, it also helps to bring flexibility into and strengthens the spine, it can also reduce any anxiety.

Woman in bridge yoga posture to gain reduces headaches and migraines
Photo image credit: Karen Pullan

1. Lie on your back on the floor. Your knees should be bent, and your feet should be on the floor about hip width apart. If you are new to this it may be worth also popping a small cushion between the knees to keep your knees in line.

2. Extend your arms at the side of your body. Your palms should be flat on the floor. Tuck your chin in towards your chest so that there is some length in the back of your neck.

3. Lift your bottom upward from the floor. Your torso should follow. Your shoulders and head should remain on the floor.

4. Make sure your thighs and feet remain parallel, squeezing your cushion if necessary. Using your glutes (the muscles in your buttocks) to lift you. Your weight should be distributed evenly.

5. Hold this position for up to one minute breathing naturally.

6. To release this pose, you should slowly lower your torso and pelvic region down onto the floor. Allow your knees to sink downward until you’re lying flat on the floor. From there, you should slowly roll onto your right side for a few moments. This gives your heart a rest. Before pushing yourself back up to sitting.

How it Helps Headaches & Migraines

One big reason for migraines is holding tension in your shoulders and neck. The Bridge posture helps relax your upper body and can increase blood flow to your brain as your heart is lifted above your head.

2. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana or seated version Paschimottanasana)

women laid in seated forward bend to help reduce headache and migraine pain
Photo image credit: Karen Pullan

1. With your feet hips-width distance apart, lift your sternum, (the centre of your chest) feeling your spine lengthen, hinge forward from your hips as though letting your chest lead the way down, and release the crown of your head down towards your mat. Keeping head, neck and shoulders relaxed.

2. Let your head and neck hang heavy and keep your palms down on your mat or reach for opposite elbows. Gravity holding the weight of your head, neck and shoulders.

3. If you feel any strain on your lower back or hamstrings, place a slight bend in your knees. Stay here for a few breaths. Hanging like a ragdoll.

4. Bend deeply into the knees and begin to uncurl through the spine back to standing.

How it Helps Headaches & Migraines

By allowing your head to bow towards the earth and letting go of all tension from your neck and spine, the gentle hug from gravity can help with your headache pain, and create space in the spine and neck.

Or try this seated if you have issues with uncontrolled high blood pressure. Or you just prefer to do this seated.

1. Come onto your sit bones and extend your legs straight out in front of you. 

2. Inhale to stretch your arms high overhead, then fold forward from your hips, reaching for your shins or your feet. Visualise bringing your tummy towards your thighs so that you are keeping your spine as long as possible.

3. Keep the length in your spine as you fold and allow your head, neck and shoulders to relax—you can always keep a slight bend in your knees to make this more accessible or pop a cushion under your knees for extra support.

4. Gradually uncurl from the base of your spine, bringing the head up last. Taking your time to come back up into sitting.

How the Seated Posture Helps Headaches & Migraines

This pose stretches out your spine and opens up your shoulders, both of which relieve some of the tension often associated with headaches. It also helps your upper body and neck fully relax, so your head can rest against your legs with the help of gravity.

3. Legs Up The Wall Posturea supported inverted posture (Viparita Karani)

Woman laid on floor with legs against wall to help reduce headache and migraine pain
Photo image credit: Canva

1. You may want to fold one or two blankets and put them under your lower back for added support in this pose. If you’re stiff, the support should be lower and placed farther from the wall; if you’re more flexible, use a higher support that is closer to the wall. You also may need to adjust your distance from the wall based on your height—if you’re shorter, move closer to the wall; if you’re taller, move farther away.

2. Start with your support about 5 to 6 inches away from the wall. Sit sideways on the right or left end of the support—whatever side feels more comfortable—with your side against the wall. Exhale and swing your legs up onto the wall while bringing your shoulders and head lightly down onto the floor. Your buttocks don’t need to be pressed up against the wall, but they should fit in between the support and the wall.

3. Lift and release the base of your skull away from the back of your neck, soften your throat, and keep your chin in a natural position. Open your shoulder blades away from the spine and release your hands and arms out to your sides, palms up. Keep your legs relatively firm, just enough to hold them vertically in place. Stay in the pose for 5–15 minutes.

4. When you are done slide your feet down the wall and bring the knees into your chest, give then a gentle hug and a rock side to side on your spine before rolling over onto your right side for a few moments and coming back up into sitting when you are ready.

Headache & Migraine Benefit

This posture is known to be helpful for a range of ailments, including high and low blood pressure, depression, anxiety, headaches, and migraines.

4. A Brucie Bonus for you – Crocodile (Makarasana)

Yoga teacher lying on tummy placing one hand on top of the other. Resting their forehead on the back of their hands (a bit like a little pillow) to help reduce headaches and migraines.
Photo image credit: Karen Pullan

It may also be nice to rest for a while in Makarasana (Crocodile) a good nurturing posture to help sooth and comfort the body You can rest here as long as is comfortable.

1. Lying on your tummy place one hand on top of the other, rest your forehead on the back of your hands (it’s like a little pillow)

2. Walk your feet out nice and wide. As wide as is comfortable.

3. Drop the heels in and toes to face out. Lie here and breath into your tummy for as long as you like. 

Headache and Migraine Benefit

This posture allows you to connect your tummy to the ground and allows your parasympathetic nervous system to calm. Thus allowing tension to drop away.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this Site is provided for general educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or health condition. Please consult a qualified health care professional to diagnose your health condition and prevent self-diagnosis. We do not dispense medical advice or prescribe or diagnose illness. Read full medical and health disclaimer.

About Karen Pullan

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Karen Pullan Yoga teacher and Psychotherapeutic Counsellor. Working to teach yoga in the world. KarenPullanSpaceandTime.co.uk is where you will find me and all my holistic healing services. Ready and waiting for you.
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