This morning I woke up and saw a crescent shaped prism right before my eyes. When I closed them, it was still there. This has happened to me only once before and the prism grew until I couldn’t see – setting up a massive panic attack and a trip to the ER. All I could imagine was “brain tumor”.  (It must be made clear that although many of the common aches and tweaks are often receptive to movement therapies and our beloved YTU Balls, we must remember the limits of our scope of practice. Our primary responsibility is to the health and safety of our students/clients. It is our obligation to refer folks to a physician when things involve any sudden onset of pain or other symptoms such as weight loss, weight gain, loss of appetite, disturbed sleep, etc.)

After thousands of dollars in tests and an intense three day headache, I was told I experienced what is known as an ocular migraine. Both of my encounters with these visual disturbances were one sided, painless and sudden in their onset. Both started as a little reflective prism-like arc in the corner of my vision field.

Most ocular migraines, also known as optical migraines or migraines with aura, completely disappear within 20-60 minutes. My first started in the corner of my eye while I was driving and began to spread so quickly I pulled over to the side of the road. The fact that I was literally blinded while driving set me into flight mode – as it’s tough to fight when you can’t see! My heart rate and blood pressure skyrocketed, my ability to get a grip, not to mention my rational decision making ability tanked, and I found myself flashing on my last words to my children, my husband. It was terrifying.

After the ER and the 72 hour headache of champions, I did a bit of research and found that migraines, with or without visual disturbances, have a variety of possible causes including: opthalmic issues,  food triggers (allergies or sensitivities to additives, sweeteners, caffeine, chocolate – gasp!, etc.), odors, light, sleep deprivation, emotional stress, and muscular tension in the upper body, specifically the levator scapulae, SCM, scalenes, upper trapezius, sub-occipital extensors, and pectoralis major and minor.

There exists a category of headache that I point to when recognizing my own experience. The Cervicogenic Headache (CGH) mainly occurs due to nerve, joint and muscular problems related to the cervical spine, specifically C 1 – C 3.  Sensory input from the roots of the nerves in this area literally make a pain in the neck refer to the head and face. Some people feel pressure in the temples, forehead, or all over while I had a vision disturbance.

(For more on CGH, read up! AND

Both of my episodes occurred in the morning after what must have been award worthy jaw-clentch-a-thons in my sleep. Although it is not clear if head forward position (HFP) causes TMJD or TMJD causes HFP, there exists a link to migraines, and the other 14 categories of headaches according to the IHS (the International Headache Society). Yes. It exists.

Knowledge is power. Today, instead of freaking out, I grabbed my alpha, my YTU regular balls, and a yoga block and gently unlocked my jaw, released my temporalis and masseter, and finished up with the sub-occipitals. What struck me most was about 3 seconds after I started self massage for migraines on my temple area, the prism disappeared. Because I was able to do some migraine treatment at home to help myself, I didn’t lose it. I didn’t panic. No ER. No huge bill from my medical insurance.

Empowering, this embodied anatomy. We are so in tune with our students and clients we often wait for a problem to pop up to tune up our own tissues. Although I tend to my glutes, TFL, psoas, QL, and upper back daily because of the strenuous swimming, cycling and running I do, I forgot how trashed these unsung heroes can get.  Can I get an amen?

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Read “Avoiding Migraine Triggers Won’t Make Them Disappear.”

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I really appreciate your work and helpful article on YTU Therapy Balls, awareness & Prevention that is very helpful to everyone! it’s imperative. Reading this post will make everyone feel better about “Migraine”.

Clarissa Stewart

It’s amazing how many things these therapy balls can treat. Many of my clients come to me with migraines. I will definitely share some of these techniques with them.

Maria Nieves Perez

My husband has suffered from this type of migraines, he also sees a prism and starts to loss vision. His migraine comes mostly for chronic stress and it makes so much sense to use the YTU balls as a tools to regulate and release tension in the musculature that gets very tense whit stress. I will absolutely share this with him.
Thanks !!

Maria del carmen restrepo

Since I was a teenager I have suffered from migraines, sometimes the pain is so strong that I barely can move and I can’t stand the light. Since I discovered the YTU balls i have been able to manage much better those days when I get the migraine. I massage the occipital muscles and the temporalis muscles. It really helps. I really relate with this article. Thank you for sharing.

Véronique Lamothe

Wow!! I’m impress of the YTU ball therapy.


Thank you Cari for sharing this experience! I have experienced this as well and it is terrifying. I was a student and very stressed. My, now husband, knew right away it was a migraine coming on and picked me from class and treated the muscles you mentioned and a few more. I feel asleep on his massage therapy table and woke 30 min later fine. The truth is it’s not easy to get into a massage therapist on such short notice or get yourself on your own. This why I love these tune up ball so much. It is very… Read more »


Thanks for the post, Cari.
Since a few years I´m struggeling with migrains myself. Since I discovered the Therapy balls it got much better. If I get lazy with my ball rolling I´m paying the price no later then next month. Discipline is helping me on the way to a migraine- free life.

Carole Giuliani (Thyret)

I will definitely be grabbing my yoga tune up balls next time I feel a migraine coming on! So much better than popping a pain killer, thank you.


This was very interesting, thank you. For me, I usually need a combination of a few factors to get a full-blown migrane — for instance, teaching in a hot environment. If I do too many chaturrangas (even kneeling ones) I am almost guaranteed to get a migraine the following day. (Anyone else with that issue?) I don’t have an aura, just horrible ocular and frontal throbbing pain, usually combined with (and possibly caused by) extremely sore occiput (bones and muscles). I need to research the CGH more in depth, and also become braver at experimenting with balls before the migraine… Read more »


My granddaughter suffers from migraines. I look forward to working with her with the YTU balls. Very inspired by your story, thank you so much!!!


I hope to never experience an ocular migraine. Horrible experience for you. Truly amazing that the rolling helps and you feel empowered. I’ll remember your experience and share with other migraine sufferers.


This article made my night! I suffer from migraines and have not been able to find many ways to work with them to find relief. Reading how applying pressure with the YTU balls helps to provide relief, gives me hope when the next time comes that my migraines begin. I would much rather self massage to help me alleviate the pressure!! Once I self practice on myself, this will be a great item to address in my classes as I know that I am not alone with suffering from migraines! Thankyou!

Jennifer Mayer

Thank you for your article, Cari! I have had migraines since I was 9 years old. Although, I have tools in my YTU toolbox, to this day I tend to panic when I know one is coming on. My go-to is sub occipital traction. This article is a fantastic reminder that my masseter and temporalis are attention deprived.


I am definitely going to try this. I have suffered migraines with aura in the past (at one point I was getting one every other day!), then they seemed to disappear for a bit. Last year they started up again but this time with no pain, just the visual disturbance which would, only last about 10-15 minutes and then completely disappear. Scary. I have really tried to work on relieving tension in my shoulders and neck but have never worked on my temporal is, mastered or sub occipitals. Knock on wood – I haven’t had one for months now but… Read more »

Jason Koh

Hi Cari, great post. Problem –> mechanism –> solution. Also, your background info is helpful. Thanks.

Miao Zhang

I have severe migraines on a regular basis and I can totally relate to your pain. Reading this article really gave me a new perspective on migraines and what I can do to alleviate it or stop it in the first place. I just did a neck release/massage with Amanda in her class a couple of hours ago and I still feel the relief around my neck and sub-occipital area. Thanks to these YTU balls!

Amy Moore

Great article. My mom recently suffered something similar. Maybe next time the balls can be an opportunity for relief for her and other migraine suffers that I know. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience.

Laura Davies

Migraines, I think, are often muscular in origin, so rolling the muscles makes total sense, yet how quick are people to jump to medical, drug-related fixes instead?

Beth Giorgi

I am so glad I was able to find this article. I have several family members that would benefit from this work. One of them has so many neck and shoulder issues . She is very high stressed. I never thought about using the ball on the levator to help a migraine! It makes so much sense! I am very excited to be able to teach the Roll Model ball work to my classes and clients!

Tracey Arnold

Next time I get a headache, I’ll try rolling it out with the YTU balls. If that works for me, I’ll definitely pass this information on to those I know who suffer from migraines. Thank you.


Thanks for sharing your journey with others. I too used to get frequent migraine headaches. But thanks to yoga, YTU Therapy Balls, and acupuncture I have managed to keep them at bay 90% of the time. Rolling out my head, face and jaws makes all the difference in the world.


AMEN! I suffered from migraines as a teenager and like you had tons of medical tests to no avail. What took forever to put together, and is highlighted perfectly here, is that the release of tension in my body (yoga, massage, etc.) was the key to ending this trauma for me. I know the warning signs now that a headache is on the way (mixed up speech is a big one for me), but I haven’t tried the therapy balls for relief / prevention yet. Sincerely hoping I never need to try it, but stoked to have a new tool… Read more »

Vanessa Coulombe

T hanks for sharring

Matt Halawnicki

Powerful tool when releasing muscles associated with migraines.


Aaaaaaaaaaamen!!!! Love this article. I can definitely relate. Although I have never suffered from migraines, headaches, jaw and neck pain have plagued my life…until Yoga tune up. The relief that I feel after rolling goes beyond the physical. I’m also relieved on a psychological level. It was exhausting trying to figure out if the pain was a result of stress, joint dysfunction, TMJ issues, muscular dysfunction….the list goes on. I no longer have to endlessly pursue answers for my headaches because regardless of the cause, rolling has relieved the pain and drastically reduced the amount and severity of headaches. Yay!

Debra Forselius

I too suffered from migraine headaches after an accident. The Dr gave me drugs and said not much they can do for this. I found that unacceptable. The YTU balls have saved me from the severity I used to get. By rolling with the balls, I can often get rid of most of it so it doesn’t cause virtigo. Great reminder too that we are not Doctor’s, we need to send our clients to seek medical advice. There can be other major under laying issues. Thank you.

Max Bayuk

Good reminder that YTU teachers are not doctors and shouldn’t pretend to be them… but can sometimes help with things even doctors can’t!


Thank you Cari for sharing that story with us. I’ve been getting headaches that I’m not used to. I will definitely try the temple area.

Thank you!

Elise Fabricant

Although it probably wasn’t as severe as a migraine, I have suffered a giant headache for the past three days (actually while in the middle of a YTU Level 1 training). At first I wondered if rolling on the YTU balls may have provoked the headache, but I am hoping the timing is co-incidental! What is true, though, is this headache has inspired me to learn more about headaches in general, and migraines specifically, because I can now better empathize with my clients and students who deal with them regularly. I would eventually love to know more specific protocols to… Read more »

Beverly N.

Sorry about the typo. You deserve a big AMEN. Thanks again Cari.

Beverly N.

In my YTU class, my training teacher emphasizes staying within the boundaries of our competencies and not to diagnose medical conditions. It sounds like medical diagnosis guided your use of YTU therapy balls. I’m glad that you were able to determine a medical basis for your symptoms. I like what you said regarding waiting for issues to pop up before we tune up. And yes, I deserve a big AMEN!

Katherine Deicke

I love how many different ways there are to heal the human body, mentally and physically without medication. Knowledge is truth and when we get to know our bodys, or are students of our bodies, we can treat ourselves with so much care and sometimes simple modifications and exercises!


I have suffered with migraines since I was 10 years old. Like you said, there are countless causes of migraines and over the last 13 years I have lost count of the amount of remedies I have tried and doctors I have visited. Recently, excluding gluten from my diet has helped tremendously. However, I still do get headaches far more often than most people and it is something that I still struggle with. I am looking forward to trying these techniques at the onset of a migraine to see if it has the same positive effect on me! Thank you… Read more »

Linh Taylor

I’m often suffered from migraine once or twice a year. It’s amazing how releasing tension in temporalis, masseter, and sub-occipitals did the trick for you. I need to keep this in mind. Because I usually feel a Migraine before it attacks with full force, glad to know that may be I can prevent the headache.


Stress and low confidence play a big role in issues like TMJ and migraines. If we are scared we close our chest off, if we are put down we let our head come forward, if we are stressed we clench our jaw, and all of the above also make the upper traps fire too fast. And almost everything we do puts us in this forward body position. It is amazing how fast the muscles that support our head react and shorten. This really compresses the neck vertebrae. We go to amazing lengths to solve this problem. I personally have suffered… Read more »

Julie Brown

I have had experiences with vertigo migranes. I am interested in trying and incorporating YTU balls into my daily regime. I also have Jaw and sinus issues. I am hoping that use of the YTU balls will begin to change the tissue and holding patterns of my facial, temporal, and shoulders .

Sarah Sachs

Thanks for sharing, I will definitely incorporate some of the YTU ball practice into my classes with students that are prone to migranes.

Jennie Cohen

Wow, that’s really cool that self-massage so effectively relieved the symptoms.
In Light on Yoga BKS Iyengar lists headstand and shoulderstand as curative postures for migraine. The explanation of CGH inspires me to wonder what a medical professional or migraine specialist would make of these recommendations.

Tess Ball

I can’t wait to share this with my boss! While I haven’t experienced a migraine, I’ve seen how miserable, unpredictable and debilitating they can be. It’s so great that you’ve found such and easy, tangible way to use self-love and healing to replace the go-to freakout that we all know so well. Thanks for sharing.


I’ve had a couple of incidents of these halos that you describe, but mine have the added attraction of being fluttery. First time I kept turning my head and looking behind me trying to find what “critter” was invading my space. While it’s not painful, it is scary and distracting. Your post reminded me to talk to my eye doc about this. Your explanation of the connection to cervical issues has set me on the path to get more information for my peace of mind and health. Thank you.


I love this! Exactly what you’re speaking to is what happens to me on a constant basis… I’ve tried changing my bed, my mattress (“get a better mattress, get a better sleep sorta theory”) and I regularly tend to my upper trapezuis, but never thought about taking it towards the temples or that my migraines could be correlated with TMJD or otherwise sleeping positions. This was amazing, I’m gonna check out the links and go grab my alpha ball! The worst thing about migraines, is it just puts you in such a bad mood without any warning…


I recently started getting migraines, and I find them completely incapacitating. No pain killers work. The worst part for me is when I get the aura, and know there is nothing I can do to stop the impending migraine. It’s great knowing I can just grab my YTU balls!


I have recently started getting migraines and I find them completely in capacitating. No pain killer works. The worst part is whenI get the aura, and know there is nothing I can do to stop the impending migraine. I love the idea that I can just grab my YTU balls!


I was really intrigued when I saw the title of this post. I’ve had several debilitating migraines in the past few years. They seem to pop up out of nowhere and leave me physically and socially disabled for several hours at the least. I have not been able to find a trigger point yet so it’s great to know that I might be able to use my YTU balls to help lessen the effects or catch and stop them altogether. As I read on I was amazing to find out that you use the YTU balls to alleviate jaw tension… Read more »

Liz Swift

I have suffered from migraines all my life. Most recently my PT was having me lay on a still point inducer to relieve tension, and the possible culprit of my headaches, in my lavator scapulae and sub-occipitals. I found it awkward. I am happy to realize that my YTU balls might be able to help in the same way.


I spent years trying to find the source and fix my month long headaches that would spike into terrible migraines. Eventually physical therapy and massage helped, but had I had my YTU balls then things could have been much easier.

Rebecca Weible

I was so happy to see this as this article. i’ve suffered from migraines for years and I’ve been able to pinpoint avoidable triggers such as birth control and certain foods but menstrual and stress migraines (which are typically aura migraines for me) have seemed beyond my control. I’m happy to hear that by applying pressure to the muscles around the head and neck I can hopefully save myself a miserable day (or three) next time a migraine comes trolling.