Friday, March 1, 2013

Migraine-Friendly Yoga

I've been practicing some version of yoga for years; even before the migraines I discovered how good it made my body feel and I try to get at least few minutes of stretching in every day.

I don't always succeed, though. Some days I'm too stiff to push myself, some days I don't get out of my comfy chair/bed more than is required for my bladder, and some days I simply forget, but on the days when I can devote my body and mind to some time of nothing but gentle, stretching poses, I usually feel better for it.

Of course, everyone is different, and everyone's migraines are different. My challenges may not be the same as your challenges, and I just want to remind everyone that if you are going to start a new exercise regimen, even one as gentle as my kind of yoga, to be mindful of your body and not to push yourself harder than you should.

I often start out on the floor, in child's pose. I usually put my arms straight forward, but if I need the support because my back, neck, and/or head hurt too much to fully extend, I'll place them under my forehead, or along my sides, or curled around my head. The point is to stretch as well as I can. No more.

From there, I'll move into the cat series, which I can usually do with no modifications. This arching and flexing stretch feels so good, especially for the pelvic tilting. It's simultaneously gentle on my lower back, and effective. If I feel well enough, I'll do some modified push-ups while I'm down there, too.

If my head is up to it, I'll move into the dog poses, but I often have to skip this series. Anything inverted can be dangerous for my migrainy head, leading to -or exacerbating already existing- throbbing, aching, stabbing, nausea, dizziness and confusion, and I'd rather play it safe than sorry.

The exception to my inversion aversion is salutation to the sun. I'm more likely to give this one a chance even if my head is twinging, because for this series, properly-timed breathing can be amazing for preventing head-repercussions. It's a standing stretch up, a gentle reach back, and then a super-fun dive into a forward bend. I go pretty slow and hold each pose long enough to take a few breaths. I repeat the sequence several times, and always, always, always have something nearby to lean on, for sudden and unpredictable strikes of the dizzies.

Somewhere in the middle of sun salutation, I often switch it up with some side bends, which look nothing like that link when I do them, I think that woman's spine is made of rubber tubing. It's really important to distribute your weight evenly between your feet while side bending, it really helps reduce the chance of back strain.

My very favorite pose is the warrior, which almost always leads me to triangle, which I also adore. These are great for stretching my hips, getting my pelvis back where it belongs and increasing bloodflow and flexibility to my sciatica. However, triangle pose is another one that I always make sure I have a chair or something nearby to grab onto if I start losing my balance.

When I first started with yoga, way back when I was migraine-free, I was totally in love with Rodney Yee. I love his manner and the way he accomplishes the poses, and though I can't keep up with him anymore, he's still an inspiration for me. When I'm looking for yoga tips or ideas nowadays, I usually look for pregnancy or elderly yoga, since those are really closer to my speed.

So, is anyone else a yoga fan? What are your favorite poses?


Migrainista said...

I absolutely love yoga. Back before my migraines turned chronic I used to practice regularly. I still do lots of these kinds of gentle poses too. Don't know that I have a favorite, but I can no longer do downward facing dog. It always upsets my head.