Did you know that one in seven people in the world suffers from migraines? Migraines are throbbing headaches associated with nausea and heightened sensitivity to light and sound, and the pain is so intense it is oftentimes disabling. It affects one's ability to work and function normally. The headaches recur episodically, so migraines are a chronic disorder requiring long-term management and prevention.
Typically, migraines are treated through medication, but did you know that yoga has been shown to help as well?
In one study, migraine patients were randomly assigned to two groups - one that received conventional care and one that received conventional care plus yoga five days a week. After six weeks, both groups saw improvement, but the yoga therapy group saw more benefit than the conventional care alone group. The yoga practitioners saw greater improvement in headache frequency, in pain intensity, and in headache-related disabilities.
Researchers attribute the benefits of yoga on migraines to multiple factors. First, exercise is typically helpful for migraine sufferers, though in about one in five cases intense exercise can actually trigger migraines. Yoga allows for slower, more gentle movements that provide the benefit of exercise but are less likely to trigger a migraine.
In addition, the focus on mindfulness in yoga is a big help. It's been show to elevate mood and reduce stress and depression, which can be headache triggers. It also helps a process called "biofeedback," where greater awareness of one's physiological functions allows them to manipulate them to prevent or manage a headache (for instance by lowering heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tension).
Yoga helps promote relaxation and greater physiological awareness, which can supplement traditional clinical care for migraines. If you are someone who suffers from migraines, you have one more reason to love your mat!