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Yoga for Migraine

Almost everyone with concerns about headaches refers to them at first as migraines. There seems to be a general misconception that a really bad headache is automatically a migraine. In actuality, the vast majority are musculoskeletal headaches. A classic migraine is a horse of a very different color. It is often located on one side of the head only, sometimes preceded by a type of early warning system consisting of a visual aura, often described as flashing lights or tunnel vision.

Migraines are a particularly severe form of persistent headache. Pain is experienced on one side in particular which builds up to unbearable intensity. It is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting and the need to sleep. Some sufferers have regular attacks of migraine, some experience vision and other sensory disturbances.
Children as young as three can have migraines, more women than men have migraines and migraines can run in families. Unfortunately, it is a fairly common form of illness, though the frequency and severity varies with the individual. Research is ongoing to understand the causes and cures for migraine.

According to Ayurveda, migraine headaches are due to a disorder in tridosha, disorders in vata, pitta, or kapha, migraines frequently occur when systemic pitta moves into the cardiovascular system, circulates, and affects the blood vessels around the brain.

Migraine or hemicranias is a vascular headache caused by the inflammation and irritation of the nerve endings resulting from the expansion of the blood vessels of the surface of the brain. Migraines can be triggered by many factors, some of which are sensitivity to particular food and drink, over fatigue, over excitement, pressure at work, emotional stress.

One contemporary theory of how migraines occur states that the arteries that feed the brain narrow temporarily due to a variety of factors, stress and muscular tension being two common ones. For a migraine sufferer, there is then a sudden shift in the blood vessels and they abruptly dilate, increasing the blood flow to the head. This sudden shift results in the intense pain of the migraine episode. If you can somehow keep your body’s nervous system more relaxed from day to day, the initial narrowing of the blood vessels that predisposes someone to a migraine might be eliminated and the chance of the migraine minimized.

There may be spots of light before the eyes which are seen even when the eyes are closed. Headache may be followed by vomiting nausea, and sensitivity to noise and light. There are several variations on this classic pattern.. Migraine often starts in childhood. Spots of light are caused by constriction of blood vessels followed by dilatation and distention. The carotid artery and its branches in the brain and meanings when dilated give rise to severe headache. Is is accompanied by nausea and photophobia.

Hatha yoga practice can help reduce the frequency and intensity of migraine headaches. A yoga practice can be of any intensity that you desire, as long as there is a conscious effort to keep it steady and even, and as long as you spend time gradually increasing the activity and then gradually cooling down through the course of a given practice.

Establish a regular practice where you are in charge of determining your level of effort from day to day, and find an experienced teacher to guide you when difficulties arise. This will lead you on the road to better health, especially when it comes to coping with a health condition such as migraines.
Stress triggers headaches. Stress may be unavoidable but how it is managed may defuse the trigger – yoga stretches, breath work, meditation and relaxation all help us to manage stress. Yoga breathing practices may help sufferers manage, relieve and reduce pain. Poor posture produces chronic muscular tension, particularly in the upper back, shoulders and neck. Chronic neck tension often causes headaches. Regular practice of yoga relieves neck tension. An experienced yoga teacher will show you how to adjust and realign your posture to avoid neck tension. Rest in a quiet and darkened room and place a cool cloth on your head will also help you alot.

Diet plays very crucial role in yoga. According to yoga food influences the physical and mental conditions of the individual. So it is said that, ‘as you eat, so you become’. If you not take proper diet you harm yourself physically and mentally. What we digest and assimilate is more important than what we eat. Eating too many times, too much at one time, too much of spices and fats, eating in a hurry are some of the common mistakes which make the diet faulty. Faulty diet aggravates disorders, and may itself be the cause of some disorders. Irregularities of diet and excessive exertion must be avoided. The diet should have low content of fats and oils. Avoid hot, spicy foods, fermented foods, and sour or citrus fruits. Exposure to heat or cold should be avoided.

In yoga all foods have been divided into three categories. This categorizing is not done on the basis of their caloric count.
Sattvic food: It is the purest diet and highly recommended for yoga practitioner. This type of food is cooked with the least amount of spices and without much seasoning. It includes cereals, fresh fruits and vegetables, milk and milk products, nuts, seeds and honey. It nourishes the body and maintains it in a peaceful state. It also keeps calm and purifies the mind, enabling it to function at its maximum potential.

Rajasic food
It is very hot nature, spicy, bitter, sour, pungent, dry and excessively salty. Such food items are not recommended for mind-body equilibrium. They function as body stimulant and excite the passions, making the mind restless and uncontrollable. They include fish, egg, coffee, tea, meat etc. This type of food creates extra weight and fat, generate feeling of heaviness for a longer period of time after dinner, and arouse passion

Tamasic food
It is stale, tasteless more or less spoiled food, and containing foul odour, artificial additives. Tamasic food items include alcohol, tobacco, onions, garlic and fermented foods such as vinegar. Tamasic food is at all not useful to nourish either body or mind. They make the body dull, lazy, drowsy and decrease immune power, filling the mind with dark emotions such as anger and greed. It makes one quarrelsome and intolerant. One should 'eat to live, not live to eat'.

Viparit Karani(Legs up the wall pose
Balasana (Child Pose)
Ardhakati chakrasana,
Ardha chakra,
Shashank asana
Naukasana (Boat Pose),
Dhanurasana (Bow Pose),
Ardha Matsyasana (Spinal Twist Pose),
Vrikshasana (Tree Pose),
Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand)
Sirsasana (Head Stand): It maybe practiced for one minute and Sarvangasana for five minutes daily.
Kriyas like jal neti,

Treatment with pranayama can be started only after an attack is over. Pranayama should be preceded by three rounds of Kapalabhati. Six rounds of Shitali pranayama (without kombhaka) may be practiced in the end.

Kapalbhati Pranayama

Shitali Pranayama (Without Kumbhaka):
This breathing exercise will lower the body temperature, and make the saliva cool. It also helps to quench thirst, and improves digestion, absorption, and assimilation.

Meditation: relaxation and meditation

Case-1 Cut down the frequency of migraine attacks by over 70% with Yoga.

Yoga can cut down the frequency and lessen the intensity of migraine attacks by over 70%. A three-month study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Rajasthan have found that a combination of certain yoga postures, breathing exercises and chants helped reduce migraine attacks substantially.

At the end of the study period, the team led by Dr P J John found that yoga significantly reduced levels of cortisol (stress hormones) in the 72 subjects enrolled for the study besides improving their heart rate variability (measure of variations in the heart rate).

Reduction of HRV is associated with hypertension, hemorrhagic shock and septic shock. The team has reported its findings in the latest edition of the international medical journal Headache.

"Scientists have been considering serotonin, a brain chemical, to be a crucial factor for headaches. They think low serotonin levels might cause blood vessels to dilate and cause migraine. And yoga is known to improve levels of serotonin. This made us embark on the study and see whether improving serotonin level could actually reduce migraine attacks".

John's team randomly assigned 72 migraine sufferers to one of two groups. One group received education on managing their pain by avoiding migraine triggers and making diet and lifestyle changes.

The other group received yoga therapy, which included gentle yoga postures like ardhakati chakrasana, ardha chakra, shishank asana and ardha matsadrasana, kriyas like jal neti, shatkriya, kripal bharati and pranayam besides breathing practices, relaxation and meditation.

Participants practised five days a week for one hour. After three months, the yoga group showed an overall improvement in the frequency and intensity of migraine attacks, whereas the comparison group showed either no change or worsened symptoms.

"The average age of the study group was 20-38 years with migraine severity of 7.6 in a scale of 10. Patients who took part in a yoga therapy programme, undertaking breathing exercises, neck and shoulder exercises, sideward and forward bending postures started having headaches less often and endured less pain with each migraine attack. It also significantly improved symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression," John said.

According to the team, numerous studies have explored the effectiveness of complementary and alternative medicine in the treatment of migraine but there was no documented investigation of the effectiveness of yoga for migraine management.



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