There are certain things yogis knows their bodies will feel during a particularly intense flow class: stretched for one, strong for another. But…lightheaded? Not so much. If you’re feeling dizzy during a flow, when you should be embracing the good vibes, it could be your body’s way of telling you to chill out for a second.
“Dizziness is scientifically caused by the inner ear and fluids in the head—the disturbance of this make us dizzy, which is the feeling that we are moving without actually moving,” explains Kajuan Douglas, founder of New York City’s hottest new yoga studio, Merge New York. He points to five main reasons why you might be feeling a little woozy on your mat: hunger, dehydration, lack of balance, pacing and rhythm, and focus.
While these issues can happen in any yoga class (or any fitness class, for that matter), the combination of heat, dehydration, and quick transitions in a hot vinyasa flow class could exacerbate the situation, making you more prone to feeling wobbly. “When the yoga class is hot yoga, your blood vessels get dilated, and when your blood vessels get dilated, your blood pressure falls,” explains cardiologist Nieca Goldberg, MD, medical director of the women’s heart program at NYU Langone’s Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health. “So the lightheadedness you’re getting may be due to low blood pressure.”
Particular poses, too, may be to blame. The main culprits (to the surprise of exactly no one) are inversions. “An inversion is any pose where the head is below the heart,” says Douglas, noting that you should steer clear of handstands, headstands, and even downward dog if you’re feeling lightheaded. “Generally, you feel dizzy through the transition into the posture. So we have to enter the poses mindfully, which doesn’t necessarily mean slowly. Approach is key.”
According to Dr. Goldberg, you may also experience some dizziness when transitioning between lying, seated, and standing poses. “You might feel most light-headed when you’re standing, because blood pressure goes down when you’re standing,” she says. If you’ve loaded up on H2O before class, you probably won’t notice a difference, but if you’re dehydrated, that’s when problems set in. “We get these symptoms in young athletic people, and it’s simply because you’re not hydrated enough. And if you’re not hydrated, your blood pressure is low.” The easiest ways to avoid dizziness, she explains, is to plan ahead by drinking lots of water and having a light snack before stepping on the mat.
If you do find the room spinning while you’re trying to pretzel yourself into a pose, take a second to chill. Hang out in child’s pose or a meditative seat, and close your eyes, or find a focal point to help balance things out in your brain. “Doing sama vritti which is nicknamed ‘square breathing’ can help calm you down as you find you centering moment,” says Douglas.
If you’re getting these dizzy feelings frequently or fainting after class, it could be a sign of a bigger issue, and you should consult a doctor. Otherwise, hydrate, take it s-l-o-w, and (most importantly) listen to your body. Always.
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