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Author: Natalia Gordeeva 

Translated by: Aleks Papin  


Introduction :

Currently migraine, by virtue of its hereditary nature and its complex pathogenesis, is an incurable disease, in most cases. However, modern medicine and pharmacology are constantly studying the mechanisms of this problem, trying to find new methods of relief.

Despite the fact that migraine is a mild disease, it can have a negative impact on the quality of life, and on the world economy which suffers enormous losses as a result. According to the WHO, headaches and migraines cost humanity $232 billion a year, as people during a severe attack are virtually in  the inability to work, and to follow a normal daily life.

According to statistics, migraine affects about 14% of the population; according to the WHO, for women migraine occupies the 12th place, and for men the 19th, in the list of diseases that have the most influence on human health. (Filatova EG, 2014).


The studies :

The most important studies on this subject have been conducted in the United States. One of them included a survey of more than 23 thousand people conducted in order to find out the most common methods used by subjects with this disease. As a result, statistically, it was found that most migraine patients (30.2%) used CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) - an area of therapy called "mind-body", i.e. :

  • deep breathing exercises - 23.9%

  • meditation - 16.8%

  • yoga - 9.2%

  • relaxation - 5.6%

  • from guided imagery - 4.2%.

  • Other survey respondents prefer:

  • use of herbs or other nutritional supplements - 23.7%

  • manual therapy and massage - 20.6%

  • homeopathy and acupuncture - (. Wells RE et al, 2011) - 5.2%.


It should be noted that, for example, the major migraine treatment guidelines accepted by the Headache Consortium US now include cognitive and behavioral recommendations for the treatment of the disease, based on data from 39 controlled trials. They show that relaxation (meditation), biofeedback, EMG (electromyography), and cognitive-behavioral therapy can be considered as options for the treatment and prevention of migraine attacks, and also, in addition to prophylactic drug treatment. in order to achieve further clinical improvement in migraine.

The article notes that practicing yoga can alter heart rate, blood pressure, galvanic skin response, respiratory rate, fasting blood glucose level, as well as intraocular pressure (Wahbeh H. et al. , 2008).


This all brings us to our topic – understanding how the elements of yoga affect migraine, attack frequency and intensity; therefore they act on the improvement of the patient's quality of life. Note that this problem is currently the subject of research by many experts.


Thus, our study focused on a group of patients (60 people), aged 15 to 60, from a neurology department. Prior to the start of the study, patients were carefully examined for an accurate diagnosis; from this study, were also excluded people who received head and neck injuries in the last 2 years, as well as pregnant and lactating women. According to the terms of the study, the frequency of migraine attacks in participants ranged from 5 to 15 times per month, for at least two years of their lives.


The patients were divided into two equal groups. One group that received standard care (SS), another group received additional yoga therapy classes (Y group). The study lasted 6 weeks. During this period, all patients were asked to keep a headache frequency diary, where they recorded the frequency and intensity of pain.

In addition, it was necessary to evaluate the therapy according to the following parameters:

  • "more harmful than helpful"

  • “neither harmful nor useful”

  • or “more useful than harmful”.

Groups of patients (Y) did yoga 5 times a week for one hour.

The session included relaxation and breathing exercises, asanas and Savasana. The authors point out that particular attention has been paid to the alignment of the posture during the execution of the asanas, and to a conscious and concentrated practice. Here are the elements that were incorporated into each training session:


- Sukshma vyayama: fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders - rotation; the neck - flexion \ extension, rotation; stretching hands/arms with relaxation breathing;


- Breathing relaxation in Shashankasana


- Asanas: a set of Surya Namaskar (2 rounds), Padahastasana, Ardha Chakrasana, Trikonasana, Bhujangasana, Vakrasana, Ushtrasana


- Relaxation 2: Savasana, Yoga Nidra, or other deep relaxation techniques.


At the end of the test period, the study patients were surveyed using a questionnaire (HIT-6 form); in addition, all participants were tested in a laboratory specialized in the plant system. Their ECG data before and after the study were tested and compared, as well as the conformity of ECG signals with the rate of respiration, and the analysis of heart rate variability (HRV).


The result showed a reduction in pain intensity and frequency in both groups, but the (Y) group showed an improvement in all clinical parameters compared to the (SS) group. Thus, the intensity of headaches decreased in the (SS) group by 2%, in the (Y) group - by 6%.

The results :

Regarding the evaluation of the therapy: it was rated as “more useful than harmful” in the group (Y) at 100%, and in the group (SS) - at 73.3%.

In addition, group (Y) had a significant improvement in HRV parameters, and a noticeable decrease in heart rate.


Thus, taking into account all the parameters of HRV, the group (Y) showed a decrease in the tone of the sympathetic nervous system, as well as an increase in the tone of the vagus nerve and in the case of the group (SS) it was observed only a decrease in sympathetic tone, without any change in the tone of the vagus nerve.

Thus, we can conclude that increasing vagus nerve tone through yoga practice can improve the health of the cardiovascular system (Kisan R. Al., 2014).


In the work cited above, Kisan R. and his co-authors noted that for the treatment of migraine regular exercise is often recommended. Many studies have highlighted a beneficial effect of aerobic exercise on the frequency and intensity of migraine attacks and the duration of these attacks, as well as the general condition of the patient. Nevertheless, about 22% of migraine patients complained that exercise was a triggering factor for the attack and therefore some patients avoid exercise and are less physically active.

In contrast, the slow movements of yoga, in which muscle tension is static, are performed with concentration. People must learn to recognize and understand their body and movement.

Studies have shown that yoga, as a slow, thoughtful type of exercise, outperforms aerobics in improving mood, and relieving stress and depression. As the author points out, yoga can influence cortisol levels by lowering it, and bringing stability to the vegetative balance.


In general, based on the above study, we can say that yoga and yoga therapy, for a patient suffering from migraine, can improve the course of the disease and favorably influence the quality and quantity of attacks. .


It makes sense that regular practice should include elements that balance the patient's vegetal nervous system (even strengthen vagus nerve tone).

It must also include pranayama, which brings about hyperventilation and the effect of hypercapnia. It is also important to practice asanas where you bend over backwards, and asanas with a relaxing effect: - prolonged Savasana, meditation, and yoga nidra.


For an improvement of the effects of reflex it is advised to apply Vyayamas and tractions/stretchings on the parts of the neck and the shoulders. Moreover, in order to improve the functions of the central nervous system the regular practice of neti sutra will be favorable. However, the benefits of such practices still need further study.



Here are links to some Ayurvedic remedies for migraine relief that can be found in Ayurvedic Pharmacies in France:  


Sootha Shekara rasa


Mahavaata Vidhwansana rasa




Shah Bindu Taila

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