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Shape: Can Yoga Really Help Treat a Migraine?

Shape recently interviewed Ilan Danan, MD MSc, a neurologist and pain management specialist at the Center for Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute, about yoga as a form of migraine relief.

While there is no cure for migraines, the Shape article explains that there are many treatments and prevention strategies that can alleviate symptoms and lessen migraine pain and sensitivities. In fact, studies have shown that yoga, combined with medication, may help reduce migraine symptoms.

Yoga is useful to many migraine patients, Danan said, because it involves meditation.

“The meditative elements of yoga may also play a role in migraine relief,” Danan said. “That’s because mindfulness and meditation can help activate your parasympathetic nervous system—the part of your nervous system that can slow your heart rate and regulate digestion—and in turn, slowing your heart and breathing rate, essentially helping you relax.”

The result, Danan said, can be less pain.

“Yoga can create a sense of balance and an overall improvement in things like [chronic] pain, headaches, and migraines,” Danan told Shape. “It certainly acts in opposition to things like your fight-or-flight reaction, and the way your body acts in high-stress situations.”

And while the article cautions that yoga alone is not sufficient to treat migraines, it is a helpful tool and often pairs well with standard medication.

“Doing yoga is a way to be proactive about your health,” Danan said. “That's something I advocate for."