Hit the mat for an hour of asanas and you should walk away calm and clear headed. But, what if your yoga routine is regularly leaving you lightheaded, instead?
If you experience dizziness during certain poses and deep breathing, you’re far from alone. “It’s not uncommon to find people feeling a little dizzy during a yoga practice. There are a variety of factors that might contribute to it—from low blood sugar to holding your breath,” says Aaptiv Trainer Ceasar F. Barajas.
Knowing that you’re not alone can be comforting, but it doesn’t help banish your dizziness. Keep reading for more on what might be going on to cause that shakiness, plus what you can do regain your sense of stability.
Balance your breath
One common cause of feeling dizzy or losing your sense of balance while on the mat: your breath. Yes, focusing on your breath is an important part of your practice. But, even if you’re thinking about it constantly, you might be doing it wrong. If you’re holding your breath too long, breathing too quickly, or even breathing too deeply, you could wind up dizzy.
“The scientific explanation with deep exhales is that dizziness comes from breathing out carbon dioxide faster than the body produces it, which causes the blood to be less acidic and can cause a chemical alteration in your nerve function to make you feel light-headed,” explains Barajas. The good news is that the cure is simple. Just make a point to breathe more slowly and a little less deeply, he says.
Pick the right poses
When it comes to certain poses that make people lightheaded, there are some common culprits. “Inversions, standing forward folds, and some head-back poses like camel can aggravate dizziness,” says Barajas.
You obviously can’t exactly pick your poses if you’re in a guided class, but you can sit or do child’s pose through any that you’ve noticed make you dizzy. Also, keep in mind that the poses themselves might not be your problem. It could be how you’re moving in and out of them that’s causing your dizziness.
Transitioning from an inversion or a deep forward fold to an upright stance too quickly might leave you lightheaded, explains Barajas. Move slowly in and out of poses where you’ve felt dizzy before, he says. Also, don’t be afraid to lean on a nearby wall for support—especially if you’ve found that a particular pose distorts your sense of space.
Think about the thermometer
It’s not surprising that the heat of the room where you’re practicing yoga can sometimes leads to lightheadedness. Dizziness is quite common in hot yoga settings—a full 60 percent of participants said that they experienced it in a study published in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy.
With room temperatures in hot vinyasa classes hovering in the 90s and Bikram inching up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, the heat can literally go to your head (and leave your dehydrated, which also can cause dizziness, says Barajas).
Make sure to sip on water if you do go to hot yoga. And, even if you love to sweat, if you find yourself feeling faint, consider opting for a more moderate-temp class, instead.
Slow your flow
Your dizziness during downward dog might not be something to worry about. But you still shouldn’t try to flow right through it. If you’re feeling any kind of dizziness during a practice, stop and sit still, or lie down on your mat for a minute, recommends Barajas. “Take note of your breathing: Are you breathing into your belly?” he asks. “Ideally, you should be breathing into the abdomen as opposed to just into the chest, which is known as thoracic or clavicular breathing.”
If experiencing dizziness in class, he says, stop what you’re doing and slowly breathe into your belly so that it puffs out like a balloon. (Resting your hand on your belly while you do so can help to ensure that you’re breathing into the right area, he says.)
Bowing your head down can also help relieve lightheadedness. “Stopping movement and finding stillness gives your body a chance to equilibrate,” says Barajas.
Talk to your doctor
Dizziness is often not a significant medical concern, but if it’s recurring, you shouldn’t just shake it off. If you find yourself experiencing dizziness on a regular basis, explains Barajas, consult with your healthcare provider to rule out any other causes.
If you’re looking for yoga classes that are separated by beginner, intermediate and advanced, check out Aaptiv. We have yoga workouts that will match your pace and fitness level.