Today I was emailed by a student who has practiced regularly with us for about 5 weeks now. She asked a question I have often been asked by new comers to yoga regarding dizziness and increased heart rate during practice – especially when raising from standing forward bends. I thought that my response to her may be of interest or use to others so here it is…..
It is not an uncommon problem to feel dizziness in practice and this is related to the breath patterning. It is vital to check that you are breathing very slowly and avoid holding the breath during practice. Asanas require free circulation of the blood and plenty of oxygen to the muscles and organs. Holding the breath naturally lowers oxygen levels and the resulting raised carbon dioxide levels in the chest can make it difficult for blood to return from the body to the heart. Dizziness can occur with this as the blood pressure sensors in the heart, chest and neck detect too little blood volume within the heart, or too little pressure being pumped up towards the heart.
Standing up from Uttanasana (standing forward bend) can cause so much blood to flow downhill into the legs and abdomen and too little blood fills the heart. Your reflexes quickly compensate for this by raising the heart rate and constricting blood vessels to raise pressure. If reflexes are sluggish and pressure falls in the heart, dizziness can arise before the accelerated heart rate kicks in.
I takes time, practice and awareness, but to prevent this there are three main steps – all of which I constantly reiterate in class.
1) Once the legs are staring contract the thighs to squeeze the blood from leg veins towards the heart
2) Come up slowly to give reflexes time to respond.
3) Inhale when coming up, lowering the pressure in the chest, helping blood flow to the heart.