Migraine Breathing Exercises: Reclaim control over your body and mind

We breathe all the time without thinking about it. But practising specific techniques can help us relax and take control of our body and mind
woman sitting on bed meditating

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We’ve all heard the phrase ‘take a deep breath’ when we are confronted with stress, anxiety, or experiencing a migraine. What you may not know is that ‘breathing’ is not just something you do all the time. It is a skill that you can learn. In fact, breathing exercises can even help you to manage a migraine attack.

In a study from 2014, patients reported that both the intensity and the frequency of their migraine attacks reduced across the 6 weeks of practising yoga and breathing exercises. Exercises like the ones practised in the study make you more aware of your body. They help to focus your mind on the sensation of breathing which can help you to handle the attack. Today, we’re going to run through some of the key techniques that you can learn to bring your breath, and your pain, under your control.

Breathing exercises the help manage migraine

Belly Breathing

For all these exercises, find a comfortable and calming place to sit. Then, to ‘belly breath’ we first place one hand right beneath your ribs on your stomach. Place the other hand on your chest. We will then breathe in slowly through the nose, making sure to keep the chest still and to push the belly out as we breath. Then slowly exhale, feeling your belly pulls inward. As for all these techniques, you should then repeat this cycle while focussing on that connection.

4-7-8

The 4-7-8 technique starts similarly to ‘belly breathing,’ beginning with a hand on your belly and one on your chest. From this start point, breath in from the stomach, counting 4 seconds in your head. Then, hold your breath for seven counts, before exhaling for a count of eight until there is no air left in your stomach. 

Visualised Breathing

Visualised breathing can take many forms, the important thing is to find a mental image that make you feel peaceful and at home. For instance, you might try imagining that the air you inhale as you slowly breath in all the peacefulness, calmness, and love of the world being drawn into you. Then, as you breath out, imagine you are pushing all the tension out of your body as you exhale. 

Deep Rhythmic Breathing

Deep rhythmc breathing is another great technique to help get your breath under control if it is short and hurried. Begin by taking long, slow breaths, inhaling and exhaling slowly. For instance, count to five as you inhale, take a second pause, and count to five as you exhale. As your breathing comes more under control, feel yourself bringing your body – and your pain – under your control and management.

Yoga

If you have enjoyed these techniques so far, you may enjoy some light yoga! Yoga is an ancient Hindu practice that mixes careful breathing, calming meditation with body poses that stretch your muscles and tendons. While your experience of migraine may be too overwhelming to use this technique to handle an attack, practising it may help you de-stress in day to day life.

woman in purple shirt doing a yoga pose
Seated twist

Whatever technique you prefer, breathing techniques can help you manage anxiety, stress, and migraine attacks. They can also be a fun way of bonding across the family – your parents may see some benefits of relaxation too!

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