Regularly practising yoga may help sufferers of migraines to have fewer, less painful headaches, a study carried out at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi has found.


The study involved 114 people aged between 18 and 50 who suffered from episodic migraine, suffering from four to 14 headaches per month. The team split them into two groups: those that took medication-only and those who took medication but also practised yoga.

The people in the yoga group were taught a one-hour yoga routine that included breathing and relaxation exercises and postures by a qualified instructor three days a week for one month. Then they practiced on their own at home for five days a week over the next two months.

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Both groups received the appropriate medications and counselling about lifestyle changes that may help with migraine, such as getting adequate sleep, eating regular meals and exercising. Over this period, the participants were asked to keep a log about how long their headaches lasted, how severe they were and medications they took.

The team found that symptoms improved in both groups, but that the benefit was higher in the yoga group in all areas but particularly for headache frequency.

The yoga group started with an average of 9.1 headaches per month, and ended up reporting 4.7 - a 48 per cent reduction. The medication-only group reported an average of 7.7 headaches per month at the start of the study and ended up reporting 6.8 per month - a 12 per cent decrease.

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“Migraine is one of the most common headache disorders, but only about half the people taking medication for it get real relief,” said study author Dr Rohit Bhatia. “The good news is that practicing something as simple and accessible as yoga may help much more than medications alone. And all you need is a mat.”


Bhatia noted that the study lasted for just three months so more research is needed to determine whether the benefits of yoga would last for a longer period.

Reader Q&A: Can you cleanse your internal organs with yoga?

Asked by: Anonymous

‘Cleansing your internal organs’ is a very woolly term, much like ‘boosting energy’ or ‘improving digestive transit’. Does yoga make you feel better? For many people the answer is undoubtedly ‘yes’.

But there are no studies in peer-reviewed scientific journals showing that it removes toxins, damaged tissue, dead cells, disease organisms or anything else that you might associate with an organ that was not ‘clean’.

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Jason Goodyer
Jason GoodyerCommissioning editor, BBC Science Focus

Jason is the commissioning editor for BBC Science Focus. He holds an MSc in physics and was named Section Editor of the Year by the British Society of Magazine Editors in 2019. He has been reporting on science and technology for more than a decade. During this time, he's walked the tunnels of the Large Hadron Collider, watched Stephen Hawking deliver his Reith Lecture on Black Holes and reported on everything from simulation universes to dancing cockatoos. He looks after the magazine’s and website’s news sections and makes regular appearances on the Instant Genius Podcast.