As I sat in a fluorescent-lit classroom surrounded by men and women in their 40s, I listened to each person share a story about how migraines had taken over their lives since their teen years. This can't be how my story ends, I thought to myself, I cannot suffer from this pain for the rest of my life.
At that point, I was tormented by migraines that lasted 48 to 72 hours every other week. The pain was crippling, and it forced me to stay in bed missing work and activities I loved most, like yoga. My paid time off had completely dissolved, and other areas of my health had started to wither, but I did not allow myself to become a victim of this pain. I attended plant medicine workshops, breath workshops, and just about everything under the alternative medicinal sun eager to find relief.
Migraines affect 18 percent of women and 6 percent of men in the United States, and at this time, there is no remedy that cures all. Each person has different triggers and symptoms, making it near impossible to develop a cure. While there are acute prescriptions and daily preventives, they prescribe a life of catatonia and lethargy, which has never been a part of my plan. The last six years have been a journey of finding my own personal cure, and I would never have thought to have found it upside down.
The fresh circulation of blood and reversed flow of gravity proved to be my saving grace when I integrated a daily inversion practice into my life. Specifically for migraines, it relaxes the muscles in the face, skull, and neck while clearing out toxins that contribute to head tension and pain. I started experiencing fewer of my migraines and more of the life I wanted to live, free from pain. The therapeutic effects of inversions can assist with a multitude of health problems, including lower back pain, insomnia, osteoarthritis, and more. By following the daily practice below, you may just find a solution to your chronic pain.
Here are three inversions to try.
Nose to wall, toes to wall.
This practice has been crucial in my journey to handstand. Rather than kicking up, which tends to cause your legs to shoot over your hips, simply crawl your legs up the wall and walk your hands in until your nose grazes the wall. If you are unable to stack your body, try walking your hands out 3 to 6 inches. Focus on breathing in and out for a count of four and maintain this position for at least 30 seconds, twice a day.
This is one of my favorite inversions as I find it most accessible to beginners. You can utilize the wall if you do not have a steady arm balance practice. Begin by creating a basket with your palms interlaced and finding tabletop pose. From tabletop, place your head in between your palms for support and walk your feet toward your head until you begin to feel your hips stack directly above the hands and head. With your entire body engaged, slowly lift one leg at a time and straighten your legs above the hips. Hold this posture for 3 to 6 minutes in intervals, and remember to breathe evenly and slowly to release tension.
If you have ever practiced yoga, you've more than likely found yourself in downward-facing dog. While your feet may remain on the ground, this foundational pose gets your head below the heart and can be a great tool for those who aren't comfortable with being fully inverted. Taking an inverted V-shape, walk your hands shoulder-width distance apart and press into the index finger and thumb pads. Relax the shoulders, head, and neck, gazing back toward your belly button or a wall. If you have tight hamstrings, take a slight bend in the knees, and press your hips up and back. Hold this posture for 10 full inhales and exhales for a complete release.
The act of getting upside down is advantageous for our cardiovascular, lymphatic, endocrine, and nervous systems. It increases the blood flow and oxygen to the brain and gives it more nutrients to function faster.
Inversions, whether it's a handstand, forearm headstand, or even downward-facing dog, have always been alluring to my yoga practice. These beautiful postures take strength, focus, and patience to nail, and I never imagined all the health benefits that come from getting your head below your heart.