Yoga as you like it: Mind that headache

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Yoga as you like it: Mind that headache
By Bharat Thakur, Special to Unwind
Published: November 09, 2007, 23:39

Migraine debilitates one for hours and, although there is no cure, yogic asanas can help reduce the pain.

Migraine is a vascular headache caused by the inflammation and irritation of the nerve endings. This results from the expansion of the blood vessels on the surface of the brain.

Acute pain may be felt on one or both sides of the head, at the back of the neck, around the eyes or in the face or in the sinuses.

This pain can be severe and, if left untreated, can last from as little as four hours to even 72 hours.

The pain is often preceded by a sensory warning sign or the seeing of an aura, flashes of light or getting blind spots. A tingling sensation in the arms and legs may also serve as a warning.

Triggers for migraine attacks vary from person to person. The factors causing it include stress, certain foods, weather changes, odours, change in sleeping habits and hormonal fluctuations.

Yoga therapy for migraine generally focuses on prevention, which also includes stress reduction.

Yoga can also help reduce the headache by providing relief to sensory overload and relaxing your mind.

Pranayama for migraine

Yoga places much importance on breathing. Not only do pranayamas strengthen the lungs and improve oxygen levels, they also help restore and gradually balance the flow of prana or vital energy to the brain and soothe the nerves.

Kapalbhati pranayama

Sit back on your heels, place palms on knees and hold the back straight.
Exhale forcefully and rapidly in quick successions through the nose, pulling the stomach towards the spine as you exhale. Inhalation is automatic and should be passive between every two exhalations.
Practise 30 to 50 inhalations at a stretch.
Repeat 3 times.

Nadi shodhana pranayama (Alternate-nostril breathing)

Sit in padmasana. To do that, sit with legs stretched out and back held straight.
Bend one leg and place the foot on opposite thigh. Bend the other leg and place the foot on the thigh of the bent leg. Place your hands on your knees.
Curl the forefinger and middle finger of your right hand. Close your eyes and practise deep breathing.
Close your right nostril with the thumb and place the ring finger between eyebrows. Inhale to a count of 5.
Now, close the left nostril with your ring finger. Hold your breath for a count of 10.
Raise your thumb between eyebrows and to a count of 10 slowly exhale through right nostril.
Now, breathe in again through the right nostril to a count of 5. Close the right nostril with your thumb and hold your breath to a count of 10. Place ring finger between eyebrows and exhale through left nostril to count of 10.
Repeat complete cycle.

Kriyas for migraine
Kriyas rid the body of toxins and strengthen the 72,000 nadis which are energy channels in our body and form a kind of electrical circuit.

Jal neti

Use a neti pot or a long-stemmed teapot.
Add 1 teaspoon salt to 1/2 litre lukewarm water and fill the neti pot.
Stand relaxed with legs apart, bend forward and tilt your head to one side as shown. Keep the mouth open so you can breathe through it.
Place the nozzle in the nostril that is facing upwards and slowly pour water into it. The water will flow out through the other nostril.
Straighten up, blow nose gently to remove any mucous.
Now, close one nostril and rapidly exhale 10 to 15 times through the other.
Repeat with other nostril.
Lastly, inhale and exhale rapidly 10 to 15 times with both nostrils open.

Inverted asanas for migraine

During migraine there is decreased blood flow to the brain. Inverted asanas help loosen the cervical and shoulder areas and also increase blood flow to the brain.

Caution: Those suffering from hernia, high blood pressure, heart conditions and severe back problems should not carry out these exercises.

Sarvangasana (Shoulder-stand pose)


Lie flat on your back, arms by the sides. Slowly raise both legs to a 90 degrees position.
Lift your hips and back off the floor and bring the legs towards your head, supporting the hips with your hands.
Slowly lower the hands and bring legs to 90 degrees. Support the whole body on shoulders so that the trunk and legs are in a straight line. Keep your chin pressed to the chest.
Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
Lower your back and legs without jerky movements.
(More asanas on migraine next week)

– Bharat Thakur is the founder of Bharat Thakur’s Artistic Yoga. For questions on yoga, write to For information, log on to

One thought on “Yoga as you like it: Mind that headache

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