Migraine headaches while meditating


I get migraines when I meditate. This has gone on for many years and happens with different meditation practices, incl. Buddhist styles, guided imagery, etc. What causes this? Is Amanda style meditation different? Or can you suggest a remedy?

—Susan, USA


Dear Susan,

Do the migraines only occur with meditation or do you have them at other times? I assume you mean only when meditating. If so, that is very unusual.

I remember when I first began to meditate many years ago that I would get a headache sometimes from trying to hard especially in a physical way as I tried to concentrate. Relaxation I learned from my teacher, Swami Kriyananda, is the key. He was told the same by his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda.

I don’t think it is a matter of any particular technique but the simple fact is no deep results in meditation can be achieved without deep relaxation.

The process of relaxation can begin with movement, and especially with conscious, aware movement, esp yoga. Yogananda created a 14 minute movement routine called Energization Exercises. Search on Youtube!

Plus certain breath control techniques (pranayama) as you are probably already familiar with can be helpful. But one that Yogananda taught that I haven’t seen anywhere else that is especially effective is called the DOUBLE BREATH. Inhale through the nose: short/long; tense the whole body; expel the breath through the mouth forcefully in a double exhalation: huh…huh…….

A calm self-guided body scan relaxing individual parts comes next followed by a careful adjusting of the posture into a natural, relaxed yet upright spine (whether in a chair or floor). I wonder if your posture is an issue? Back muscles? Spinal curvature? If you are on the floor maybe your position is creating some tension esp in neck and back? For posture you should have a guide in person or on zoom. I think posture may be the source of your migraines.

Maybe you are “jumping” too quickly into your meditation without taking the time to both energize and then relax deeply.

Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t ask if you have medical support but I am assuming that these migraines only happen when you attempt to meditate. Still, it would be good to make sure there isn’t some other medical issue involved here.

Nayaswami Hriman