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Yoga for Ankylosing Spondylitis

Reviewed by Dr Jeffrey Lederman, DO

Ankylosing Spondylitis is a rare inflammatory condition that causes stiffness and pain in the spine and sacroiliac joints in the pelvis. Often characterized by a “bent forward” posture, Ankylosing Spondylitis usually occurs in males between the ages of 20 and 40.

Symptoms include worsening lower back pain in the absence of trauma, stiffness and a decreased ability to bend forward. Often, the pain initially comes and goes and then it worsens as the disease progresses. In later stages of the condition, the individual may notice very limited movement in the lower spine. Ankylosing Spondylitis can ultimately cause the spinal bones to fuse together, which can create a hunched posture and joint damage. The disease also can cause inflammation in other parts of the body, such as the eyes.

Because a top symptom of this condition is stiffness, it is important for an individual to stay active to maintain flexibility. Lack of movement, due to pain, stiffness or both, often causes the symptoms to worsen. An individual with Ankylosing Spondylitis should avoid high-impact activities, which may increase pain and inflammation.

Yoga provides a means for gentle movement that not only opens up stiff muscles and stalls further tissue degeneration but that helps create an overall condition of ease throughout the body. That sense of ease can lead to decreased pain and increased relaxation.

Yoga helps increase flexibility and range of motion in the spine, which can ease stiffness and pain in the back and improve physical strength and posture. Yoga is especially beneficial if the individual starts the practice during the early stages of the disease.

Yoga teaches the individual to pay attention to posture and alignment, not only when doing poses but throughout the day. This focus on being tall and straight may help prevent the spine from moving into a stiff, hunched position.

Another benefit of yoga for those with Ankylosing Spondylitis is that the practice can improve sleep quality. A regular yoga practice can help an individual sleep more soundly because the individual feels more grounded and has less pain. Those with Ankylosing Spondylitis often have trouble sleeping due to the discomfort of the condition.

Also, yoga’s meditative style can help ease emotional tension and stress, which often accompany the physical pain and reduced mobility of Ankylosing Spondylitis.

Melissa Gutierrez a yoga instructor and co-founder of SmartiesBodies adds, “An individual suffering from A.S. could benefit from the meditative aspect of yoga that helps one become more aware of the connection between mind and body. Instead of focusing on specific postures, one could focus on creating a movement practice based on fluid motion both internal (i.e. movement of the breath in the lungs and sensing other organ participation) and external (i.e. how do the bones feel and move?). Using this keen awareness is critical for maintaining healthy spinal function by distinguishing pelvic, sacral and lumbar participation. Doing so will help keep the A.S. sufferer safe in any asana and, more importantly, any challenge in daily life that may be compounded by the illness.”

Select poses from the Yoga Journal that may help alleviate symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis include: (Check with a medical profession before starting a program.)

  • Salabhasana (Locust Pose), which strengthens the muscles of the lower back and reduces lower back pain tendencies
  • Tadasana (Mountain Pose), which helps improve posture
  • Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose), which helps open the shoulders and upper chest
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog), which stretches the back, arms and shoulders

Yoga’s gentle poses can lead to increased range of motion, better posture, less pain and a healthier overall well-being for those with Ankylosing Spondylitis.

References

Written by Jessica Braun. She is a writer and an editor at WholesomeONE and can be reached at jessica.braun[at]wholesomeone[dot]com


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A Better Yoga Chair Pose Twist

Chair pose is a popular yoga pose. In this video, Mel of SmarterBodies shows you how it is traditionally done with a twist. Then she shows how to do the twist and not put undue stress on your neck, shoulders and knees. The result is greater emphasis on the core muscles with a fuller and safer twist.

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Yoga Poses for People with Fibromyalgia

Chaz, a certified yoga instructor and creator of YOGAmazing, has created a series of yoga poses for people suffering from fibromyalgia.  The 20-minute video will take you through a sequence of gentle poses.

Comments on the video’s YouTube page include statements like, “Wow. Excellent workout. I have fibro and this really helped with my aches and pains, even after the first time I did it.

Chronic muscle pain and tightness are typical symptoms of fibromyalgia. Yoga can increase flexibility and endurance, and help reduce the symptoms of fibromyalgia.

[themedy_media type=”youtube” url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYpKxvPC0Go”]

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Jennifer Aniston Uses Yoga to Find Balance

Alternative medicine is something that can change our daily routine, calm us, heal headaches and numerous other common ailments and concerns. That could be why stars like Jennifer Aniston and are jumping on the band wagon to utilize Yoga as a powerful health practice.

Jennifer Aniston, a glowing example of holistic health, has turned to the practice of Yoga to provide balance and comfort in her life. Particularly with Yoga, it was a moment after her first session with a friend that she felt great balance and focus, along with a feeling she hadn’t felt before. That feeling was described as knowing she was right where she needed be at just the right time – presence.

From that moment forward, she practiced and mastered the art of yoga as a disciple of the ancient art. Her instructor and person credited with introducing Aniston to Yoga is Mandy Ingber. As a well-known Instructor of Yogalosophy, Ingber encouraged Anistion to embrace a way of life when she needed to be centered and find balance. Ingber states that Jennifer is extremely good at balancing poses and can outlast her any day on balance poses, citing Tree pose as Aniston’s favorite.

The practice of Yoga has given Aniston amazing presence and her body is proof of that. At 41 years old, the star looks better than ever.

Reference:

  • hellogiggles.com/my-yoga-my-self
  • MindBodyGreen, LLC. 2013
    mindbodygreen.com/0-535/Q-A-with-Mandy-Ingber-Jennifer-Anistons-Yoga-Instructor-on-Yogalosophy.html

Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/77494817@N08/6949342612/

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A Teenager’s Struggle with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Maya Schlesinger began her battle with Rheumatoid Arthritis at 14 years old, having noticed twinges of knee pain in the fall of 2012. After a visit to a pediatric rheumatologist who discovered high inflammatory markers, Maya embarked on a months’ long roller coaster ride of uncovering potential (and frightening) diagnoses and hours of physical therapy that did nothing to ease her mounting pain. Three months after her initial appointment with a pediatric rheumatologist, Maya was officially diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. Following a conventional treatment plan, she was given a cortisone shot and put on a regiment of prescription NSAID’s.

Despite her diagnosis and medication, Maya’s pain continued to worsen. The ache in her knees spread to the rest of her body seemingly overnight. “I couldn’t hold a pencil in class to do work, or open doors without feeling like my wrist was going to give out, or sit up to study for exams for more than half an hour without my back making me feel like an old woman,” Maya recalls. Her rheumatologist offered anti-TNF’s to combat the pain, but Maya was hesitant to take additional medication. She continued her regiment of NSAID’s, despite the extreme fatigue they caused, and battled through the pain.

It wasn’t until the spring of 2013 that Maya’s mother, finding mounting evidence online of the effectiveness of an anti-inflammatory diet in treating Rheumatoid Arthritis, decided to take Maya to see a nutritionist. Under the nutritionist’s care, Maya began a gluten and dairy free diet. Within 6 weeks of her dietary overhaul, Maya stopped taking the NSAID’s and experienced a significant reduction in her pain symptoms. After three months of following an anti-inflammatory diet, Maya “cut out major inflammatory foods and commonly genetically modified foods such as gluten, dairy, nightshade vegetables, eggs, corn, and soy. Overtime we learned my four major sensitivities were gluten, dairy, eggs, and yeast.”

Maya’s anti-inflammatory diet, coupled with a regular exercise routine of yoga and weight lifting, keeps the majority of her RA symptoms at bay without the use of any prescription medication.

Now 16, Maya enjoys a typical teenager’s life in spite of her early diagnosis. Maya’s journey to better health has inspired her to share how a gluten, egg, dairy, yeast, and GMO-free diet has transformed her life with RA. She has created and manages a Facebook page dedicated to better GMO labeling across her home state of New Jersey, the United States, and the world.

In her words, “Under the direction of a certified (and wonderful) nutritionist and a few integrative and alternative medicine doctors, I’ve found myself feeling better than ever.”

Written by Kristin Accorsi

 



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Exercise for Fibromyalgia

Exercising regularly is one of the best ways to manage Fibromyalgia. Exercise can help reduce stress, improve serotonin levels, soothe muscles, and increase strength.

Careful attention, however, should be paid when creating an exercise routine if you’re suffering from FMS. Strenuous activity and high intensity exercise can actually be counterproductive and create more pain and inflammation. But, beginning slowly, finding your own personal limits and working with a fitness professional can dramatically reduce FMS symptoms and is highly recommended.

[themedy_media type=”youtube” url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLZD2c_yooY”]

Meditative-based exercises like Yoga and Tai-chi have proven quite effective in reducing FMS associated pain.

Yoga is an excellent way to increase muscle endurance, flexibility and deliver much needed oxygen to sore muscles. Gentle yoga and restorative practices also offer myofacial release and relieve FMS pain.

The gentle Chinese energy practice of Tai-chi is another great way to remove blockages and unwanted toxins in muscles and blood. Studies show that patients who practiced just 12 weeks of tai-chi slept better, felt better, had less pain, more energy, and better physical and mental health.
Lastly, Muscle Resistance Training can be beneficial to FMS patients. Using low weight and low repetitions, begin exploring your limits by exercising to the initial point of mild fatigue and then stop. Be sure to consult your physician and a fitness professional for an optimal and safe exercise routine.

In addition to these meditative-based exercises, working with a holistically trained professional may help you regain muscle mobility and flexibility. This includes seeing a structural integration specialist, chiropractor or a specialist in osteopathic manipulation.

For more information on Exercise and Fibromyalgia, visit Natural Holistic Therapies for Fibromyalgia.

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Juvenile Fibromyalgia: Identifying and Managing Fibromyalgia in Children

What is Juvenile Fibromyalgia?

Juvenile Primary Fibromyalgia Syndrome (JPFS) is part of a group of conditions collectively known as Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome. Juvenile Primary Fibromyalgia Syndrome, or JPFS, is a condition that results in symptoms of overall musculoskeletal and joint pain and fatigue. Data is sparse in the area of prevalence, but it is thought that up to 7% of children under 18 have JPFS or similar condition. It is more common in females and the diagnosis in children usually occurs between the ages of 13 and 15.

Along with joint pain and fatigue, other symptoms include disturbed sleep, morning stiffness, headaches, abdominal pain, irritable bowel, tight muscles and periods of swelling. Depression and anxiety are often present. JPFS is frequently triggered by an injury, illness or stress. Many patients with JPFS also have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

How Is Juvenile Fibromyalgia Diagnosed?

Diagnosing JPFS starts with a medical exam which includes a family history, physical exam and a tender point test of all 18 sites. Diagnostic tests should be conducted to rule out all rheumatic diseases and arthritis. To meet diagnostic criteria there must be patient report of pain in three or more body areas over a minimum of three months. In addition, at least five painful tender points must be experienced upon palpation during the exam. Additional symptoms such as difficulty with sleep, irritable bowels, fatigue and headache are often present and these symptoms tend to worsen with stress and/or anxiety.

JPFS can have severe effects on a child’s physical and emotional functioning. School attendance, socialization, and general quality of life are all impacted by this condition.

Managing Juvenile Fibromyalgia Holistically

JPFS is incurable but its symptoms can be controlled by understanding and preventing triggers, maintaining a focus on physical and psychosocial wellness,  and effective management of pain symptoms. As with the treatment of any minor, family involvement is a critical part of the treatment plan.

A traditional therapeutic treatment approach involves a team. This team consists of a combination of collaborating professionals to include at minimum: a pediatric  rheumatologist, physical therapist, and psychologist along with the identified patient and his or her family. The traditional treatment course utilizes a combination of medication, exercise, physical therapy and a form of psychotherapy called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

A holistic treatment approach is meant to be “in addition to,” not necessarily “instead of a” traditional treatment approach. In general, holistic treatments focus on addressing all aspects of an individual, not just the physical. The overarching philosophy is to live a more balanced lifestyle and understand that physical illnesses are the symptoms of a greater imbalance that may or may not have a root cause in the physical. Holistic treatment of JPFS may include the traditional therapies discussed above in concert with non-traditional medicine.

Recently published studies suggest that the use of Yoga, Tai Chi, and/or Acupuncture may reduce pain, fatigue and stiffness and improve quality of life in patients with Fibromyalgia. Many living with Fibromyalgia manage their diet and nutrition to alleviate symptoms and also utilize therapeutic massage to ease muscle soreness. However, there has not been enough scientific evidence supporting the use of vitamins, nutrition or massage to date.

Many alternative treatments can assist with pain management in Fibromyalgia.  Though patients report positive outcomes in using these alternative treatments, scientific support has not been substantially rigorous enough to make any hard effectiveness claims. Nonetheless, so many are searching for holistic treatments and will consider these minimally-invasive treatments to avoid medication side-effects and to adopt a balanced approach to health and wellness.

The following alternative treatments have been used in the treatment of Fibromyalgia:

No child need be robbed of a full life following a diagnosis of JPFS. Incorporating a holistic approach to the treatment of JPFS most often includes the traditional route of coping strategies, physical exercise, physical therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, and perhaps medication with any of the alternative treatments that help reduce or alleviate the associated symptoms of Fibromyalgia.

By Alicia DiFabio, Psy.D.

Resources

  • fibromyalgia-treatment.com
  • Treating Juvenile Fibromyalgia by Jennifer Cerbasi, (2012) FoxNews.com
  • webmd.com – Fibromyalgia Guide
  • KidsHealth.org – Fibromyalgia.

 

Alicia DiFabio, Psy.D. is a freelance writer with a doctorate in psychology. Her personal essays and parenting articles have appeared in various newspapers and magazines. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and four girls, one of whom has extensive special needs. She can be found writing about her adventures in parenting at her blog, Lost In Holland.

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Recognizing the Symptoms of Migraines in Children and How to Provide Relief

Migraines are more than just terrible headaches; they are extreme pains with nausea along with other symptoms. Aside from the pain in the head, migraines are often connected with many other disorders such as depression, fibromyalgia, and even obesity. Sometimes, however, migraines can show symptoms that don’t present as the typical symptoms – especially in children.

Children’s symptoms from migraines feel similar to those of their adult counterparts, however because children translate pain differently than adults it’s important to recognize the symptoms early to give children the best possible options for relief. For children, especially boys, migraines occur in about 10% of those under the age of 10. Oftentimes, pain in the head is not the most dominating symptom for children. Symptoms to look for are:

  • Unexplained nausea or vomiting
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Dizziness

Other indicators can come in the form of behavior changes during the onset of a migraine. These include:

  • Irritability
  • Food cravings or loss of appetite
  • Sensitivity to touch, smell, or sound

Once diagnosed, treating migraines in children can come from a variety of resources. One of the main triggers for migraines and the associated symptoms is lack of sleep or deprivation of sleep. The best treatment for juvenile migraines begins with structured sleep patterns and routines. Most children need at least 8 to 10 hours of sleep for proper function, however many need even more than that to really reduce migraine symptoms.

Another option for treating migraines in children is to incorporate a balanced diet without skipping meals that includes healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, riboflavin, and magnesium. Proper hydration will also help prevent major migraine onset. 6 to 8 glasses of water a day will greatly reduce both the onset and the severity of a migraine for a child. Avoid processed sugar that is often found in sugary drinks and common kids snacks as this can sometimes bring on some migraine symptoms.

While there are a number of medications that can be used once a child is diagnosed with migraines, there are also a number of natural and herbal supplements that may provide as much relief as medication. Some herbal remedies to include are butterbur, magnesium, riboflavin, CoQ10, and feverfew. Finally, adding some basic relaxation routines for children like kid-based yoga or quiet time breathing can provide substantial relief for children that are willing to slow down long enough to employ them. Avoiding long term eye strain from computer screens, TVs, and mobile devices are also a good starting point to ending migraine symptoms for children.

Children feel pain differently than adults, they translate pain differently, and most importantly they explain pain differently. Diagnosing migraines may be tricky for a parent, but looking for notable symptoms and trusting instincts, parents can be the best medication for their children’s migraine symptoms.

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Yoga for Children – A Natural and Fun Way to Reduce Stress

Children are expected to take increasing responsibility for their actions once school starts. They have to begin heeding boundaries in another place with other people, which may be new and unfamiliar to them. This can be a recipe for intense stress, so let’s set them up for a successful academic and social experience. By teaching them how to be familiar with the sensations they feel in their physical bodies and how they react to those sensations, yoga may be just the answer.

Ugh, another article telling you how your child would benefit from yet another activity. At this point, yoga and kids together may sound cliché. But let me ask you parents another question:

Does your child suffer from migraines, fibromyalgia or other chronic pain issues?

It is not unheard of for young children to suffer from the aforementioned chronicity’s. If they do how are they supposed to handle the normal everyday demands of the school environment that children find stressful without making themselves feel worse? Chances are, if your little one is not prepared for this kind of stress it is making her/his symptoms worse. (Note: not a criticism, most children aren’t prepared even with the most well-intentioned and educated parents. Some stress management is learning as you go.) We know that the poor management of responses to stress, in any situation, can lead to a plethora of negative physical experiences. As adults, who are supposedly more familiar with stress, we still suffer from tension induced headaches, inflammation, allergies, insomnia, weight gain…blah blah blah.

So, empower your young ones, especially if they are already dealing with chronic pain issues. Stress can trigger migraines and worsen the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia as well as increase the inflammation response found in osteoarthritis. A surprising amount of young people are being diagnosed with osteoarthritis, which can often be found to accompany a diagnosis of migraines and fibromyalgia. A mindfulness practice, like yoga, can teach them to be in touch with how their bodies manifest tension. Through this awareness, children can begin the process of taking charge of their reactions, physical, emotional and mental. Empowering them to do so can in turn empower them to prevent a migraine attack or other stress induced condition. They learn to control their experiences with pain associated with fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. Being in control of the physical body while encountering stress might even reduce the inflammation that worsens symptoms, which can limit range of motion and cause more unnecessary stress in a child’s body.

Sounds so good you might start doing yoga as a family!

By Melissa Gutierrez


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Using Yoga to Get the Most Out of Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a fantastic healing modality that can address many physical and emotional issues, as well as mental stress. Your acupuncturist works to balance your energy by clearing the meridians, or specific channels, through which your energy runs. You can help your acupuncturist out by doing yoga before your session.

An intelligently designed yoga practice can help to clear out some of those blocked channels allowing your acupuncturist’s work to go deeper without having to pay attention to superficial issues that you could be taking care of yourself.

If you don’t have time to do a full hour or even 30 minutes of yoga try this short yoga routine:

  • Get centered by breathing with a rhythm that helps you to feel a little more relaxed and helps you connect to a deeper (physically, mentally, whatever) sense of yourself. Once you’ve connected to that place use your breath to help you take an internal inventory of where you are able to relax and where you are tense.
  • See if you can release the detected tension by feeling the movement of your breath ripple throughout the body and particularly into that place. Be patient and don’t push. Try moving through that area by stretching or making circles with surrounding joints. If you can’t feel release stop, give yourself a break and try again a little later.
  • After your quickie practice feel if you can detect any differences in your body. Have you been able to make a difference in your own sense of balance? Were you able to get a better idea of what your body might need to relax? Don’t underestimate the benefits of this short practice!

Connecting to your breath in this way can help you to align joints and release tension in muscles that will allow your acupuncturist to focus on addressing the root cause of your issue as opposed to having to spend time on any symptoms that may be a result of an underlying cause. Help her to do her best work! Doing this before you get needled could be the most cost effective technique to help you get the most from your session.

By: Melissa Gutierrez

Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/83905817

Holistic Health Resources for Acupuncture

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How Dorothy Hamill Stays Active with Osteoarthritis

In 1976 Dorothy Hamill took a gold medal in figure skating at the green age of 19, now in her 50’s Hamill still manages to keep active despite having the chronic pain and discomfort of osteoarthritis. While exercising has always been seen as a chore for Hamill, she has found many other ways to stay active, keep skating, and maintain her pain management with Osteoarthritis.

Dorothy Hamill spends a lot of time on the ice still to this day, but she does admit that with her Osteoarthritis it takes more time to stretch, warm up, and get moving. Even with a vigorous warm up and stretching routine, Hamill says there is still stiffness in her neck, hip, and knees which renders her less flexible. While for many this would stop them from doing something like skating, for Hamill it motivated her to keep moving and to work through her symptoms. It’s not without purpose, however, she does follow some simple techniques to stay active and on the ice.

Walking everyday has been a big help for Dorothy Hamill. While she claims daily exercise routines is a chore for her, walking her dogs through her Baltimore neighborhood is something she actually enjoys and looks forward to. It keeps her loose and physically active while maintaining a low impact cardio routine that is essential for treatment in Osteoarthritis. She also spends more time warming up on the ice to really utilize the temperature differences on the rink from cold and hot to keep her muscles loose. Hamill spends more time using stretching and relaxation techniques while doing some yoga to keep as much flexibility as possible.

Dorothy Hamill uses skating as her motivation. It is her passion, income, and a way of life for her. Focusing on the goal of continuing that, Hamill has found a way to work through her symptoms and continue to skate. Keeping active, making healthy food choices, and add simple yoga to her daily routine have allowed Hamill to continue to be a driving force in the Olympic world and an inspiration for all.

Reference:

  • arthritistoday.org/what-you-can-do/arthritis-stories/athletes/dorothy-hamill.php
  • lef.org/magazine/mag2012/nov2012_Dorothy_Hammill_01.htm

Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/aapd418/8382749298/

Natural Treatments for Osteoarthritis

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Using Yoga to Treat Your Migraines: What You Should Know

The reasons or “triggers” that cause migraine headaches are many, varied, and complicated. The severe pain that characterizes a migraine can often be made worse with physical activity. Often times, migraine sufferers are told to include yoga as part of alternative treatments. Here are 2 ways to use the physical aspects of yoga safely to help you deal with migraines.

 

1. Have a consistent practice that you can use to manage stress levels and improve your aptitude with different breathing techniques. Do this before you have a migraine! Yoga can help relieve the tension that sometimes leads to any kind of headache, so you can possibly prevent one. Also, focused breathing might relieve tension and evidence suggests that breathing (with focused intention) can help you to control pain. But trying to figure out how to do that while in the midst of dealing with a migraine is not really an option. Learn the tools and practice before it happens. Use yoga as a preventative, not as an in the moment treatment.

2. Know what feels good and what doesn’t for you specifically. There is a problem when folks try to use yoga postures, asana, as prescriptions for any issue. Be wary of teachers who want to “prescribe” poses as cures. Use yoga to help you get know yourself; what helps you to feel better and what does not. For example, I’ve heard the horrible advice that doing Downward Dog can help increase blood flow to brain and relieve the migraine. WRONG!!! Inversions do not increase blood flow to the brain. The blood brain barrier prevents that exactly (or should). Also, being upside down can exacerbate pain and feelings of nausea that often accompany migraines, so have fun vomitting on the yoga teacher who told you to do that

That being said, if for some reason being upside down helps you. Great! But don’t expect yoga to come with a complete prescription sequence that works for everybody. We are all unique individuals who experience yoga and headaches differently. What works for one does not necessarily work for the other. What worked for you one day may not work the next. The practice is mainly there to increase your body awareness so you can make better choices that help you to prevent and manage your migraine symptoms. Yoga can be an extremely effective part of you migraine treatment plan, as long as you know how to use it.

By: Melissa Gutierrez