Avoiding your migraine triggers is easier said than done, especially when stress is your trigger and you’re trying to balance career, family, relationships, friends, bills, errands, and well, the list goes on and on.
But just because it’s a challenge doesn’t mean it’s not one that’s worth going after. Because if you can find a stress reliever that works for you, that could make all the difference in your migraine frequency.
While there are many different ways to relieve stress (which we’ll dive into below—don’t worry), yoga is one of the more popular methods these days.
How does yoga help with stress?
For starters, yoga is exercise (and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise). And, as the Mayo Clinic notes, exercise is proven to reduce stress by increasing your endorphins, improving self-confidence, and forcing you to focus on the task on hand instead of your current anxieties.
Yoga, compared to cycling or lifting, has a reputation for stress reduction because of that last point—the focus on your yoga poses, your body’s movements, and your controlled breathing is so intense that it makes it much harder to think about what your boss said earlier, or the big birthday you’re planning for your partner, or whatever else is stressing you out.
Can yoga provide migraine relief?
Yep, Dr. Sara Crystal, Cove Medical Director and migraine expert, explains that in addition to being a stress reliever, “yoga may help with migraine prevention by improving posture. Poor posture can contribute to neck pain and headaches.” She adds, “yoga may also help with circulation. A small study showed changes in cerebral blood flow after a 12-week training program in Iyengar yoga.”
Is there any research around yoga and migraine treatment specifically?
You bet! The American Migraine Foundation notes that there have been studies showing the link between yoga therapy and its impact on treating migraine headaches. One migraine study, for example, showed a “significant reduction in the impact of headache on patients’ lives, headache frequency, and severity and a non-significant reduction in headache duration.”
And, while not a medical journal, Migraine Buddy, a popular migraine tracking app, found that out of their users who said they used yoga for migraine relief, 39.98% thought it helped.
How do I get started with yoga?
Ready to give yoga a try, but feel a little unsure of where to start? That’s understandable. Here are a few ways to get started:
Try an online tutorial. It’s as easy as searching for “beginner yoga” on Youtube and choosing an instructor who makes you feel comfortable.
Go to a yoga class. Whether it’s at your local gym or a yoga studio, just make sure to tell the person it’s your first time so they can recommend the right call for you.
Test out an app. Yoga Wake Up, who we partnered with to create this article, created morning routines designed to start your day right (and even has guided meditation). We particularly like Yoga Wake Up because of their screen-free, audio-guided experience. This makes it a great option for those with migraine that can be triggered by screen time.
One important note from Dr. Crystal is to avoid hot yoga because the heat can trigger attacks and to avoid extreme neck movements or any positions that cause neck pain.
But other than that, there’s very little harm in trying it out. The biggest piece of advice we can give you is that it doesn’t matter how you get started, but just that you do it if you think it could be the right stress reliever for you.
What are other ways to reduce stress levels that aren’t yoga?
So, you read all this (or skimmed down to this part) and don’t think yoga is the right way to reduce your stress. That’s ok! It’s not for everyone, especially if exercise itself is one on your triggers.
Instead, you can try meditation, deep breathing exercises, free journaling, taking a bath, spending time with people you love, establishing boundaries with your co-workers, or listening to music.
This list is long and seemingly random, but that’s because there are so many ways to reduce stress. It really depends on what works for you.
For more stress-busting tips, check out our guide to stress management for migraine sufferers here.
This article was created in partnership with Yoga Wake Up, an app that delivers audio-guided yoga and meditation to your bedside, like a “yoga alarm clock.” Not sure you’re ready to subscribe? No problem, the app is FREE to download and comes with two free audio sessions.