A Study Supporting the Use of Yoga to Heal Your Migraines

How Yoga May Help Your Migraines. Jakob Helbig/Getty Images

Yoga is a mind-body therapy that combines the practice of slow physical exercise with breathing and relaxation. It has been increasingly used in the treatment of pain-related disorders, like migraines.

Let's take a closer look at a study that supports the use of yoga for alleviating migraines.

Yoga Therapy versus Conventional Care

In a study in the International Journal of Yoga, sixty patients diagnosed with migraine with or without aura were randomized to receive either "conventional care" versus "yoga therapy with conventional care."

All of the patients had high Headache Impact Test scores. The six-item Headache Impact Test (HIT-6) provides a global indication of how headaches adversely affect people's lives. It measures the negative impact of headaches on social functioning, role functioning, vitality, cognitive functioning and psychological distress. The test also measures the severity of headache pain.

The yoga group underwent yoga sessions with a trained yoga therapist 5 days a week for six weeks for approximately one hour. These sessions consisted of daily practice of loosening exercises, breathing exercises, asanas—postures done with awareness— and Shavasana.

Both of the groups — the conventional care group and yoga with conventional care group — were asked to maintain a headache diary during the course of these six weeks.

Can Yoga Help Your Migraines?

Results of the study revealed that there were significant reductions in headache frequencyheadache intensity, and HIT-6 scores in both the conventional care group and the yoga with conventional care group.

But, the yoga with conventional care group showed a greater improvement than the conventional care group only.

Interestingly, the participants who received yoga also had an improved vagal tone, as evidenced by lower measured heart rates. This finding supports the hypothesis that yoga helps balance our autonomic nervous system, by supporting a state of calmness, as opposed to stress.

Some Problems with the Study

The participants were not blinded and obviously knew whether or not they were undergoing yoga practices. There was no placebo group, which is a "dummy" or "fake" yoga therapy session. The participants were also only followed for six weeks. There is no data on whether yoga helped migraineurs in the long-term.

Finally, the conventional care group had a significantly higher average HIT-6 score to start off with than the yoga with conventional care group. It's difficult to compare the impact of yoga when the scores were so different from the start.

What Does This Mean for Me If I have Migraines?

While there are limitations to the study's methodology, the results are positive and consistent with the findings of other studies – showing yoga's benefit in alleviating pain.

If you are interested in yoga, try learning more about it. If anything, yoga might help you relax and simply feel good!


Kisan R, et al. Effect of Yoga on migraine: A comprehensive study using clinical profile and cardiac autonomic functions. Int J Yoga. 2014 Jul-Dec; 7(2): 126–32.

John PJ, Sharma N, & Sharma CM, Kankane A. Effectiveness of yoga therapy in the treatment of migraine without aura: a randomized controlled trial. Headache. 2007 May;47(5):654-61.

Yang M, Rendas-Baum R, Varon SF, & Kosinski M. Validation of the Headache Impact Test (HIT-6) across episodic and chronic migraine. Cephalalgia. 2011 Feb; 31(3): 357–67.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this site is for educational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

Continue Reading