What is Vertigo?
Vertigo is a condition where one experiences a dizzy spell where you might have a sensation of spinning and disbalance. This is caused by a disturbance in the sense of balance, equilibrium in the brain and is an inner ear problem. The inner ear is responsible for sending signals to the brain about movements related to gravity. So when one has Vertigo, there is a feeling or lightheadedness, ringing in the ears, difficulty focusing the eyes and imbalance.
The condition affects the inner ear, the part that is responsible for the direction of motion. It arises out of calcium or fluid build-up and sometimes even a virus.
Causes of Vertigo
Vertigo is caused when the nerves around the inner ear are affected. It is also caused due to Menieere’s disease which occurs due to a fluid build up which causes a change in the inner ear. Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo occurs due to tiny calcium deposits that form in the inner ear canal. In this case the inner ear fails to receive enough blood flow. Viruses that cause the common cold and flu attack the inner ear and the nerves surrounding it as well as connecting it to the brain.
In extreme cases this causes severe damage to the skull and may result in nausea and hearing loss. Certain foods or airborne particles (such as dust, molds, pollens, danders, etc.) to which one is allergic too can also trigger the condition.
Sometimes, even Cervical spondylitis and sinusitis can cause vertigo. This is mostly in the elderly. And other common reasons include postural defects and sudden changes in movements.
Symptoms of Vertigo
Vertigo symptoms can come and go, and may last a few minutes to a few hours. Common symptoms include spiraling, tripping, swaying, losing balance or feeling like you’re being pulled in one direction. These symptoms might suddenly occur while walking or standing as well. Sometimes one might experience headaches and ringing in the ears.
How does yoga help with Vertigo
Many yoga practices and postures improve balance and stimulate the nervous system, which can remove these symptoms from the body either completely or to a very large extent. The best part about yoga is that it is a natural treatment and is completely non-invasive. It induces an extreme relaxation response calming the nervous system and creating harmony between the mind and body. Many practices like balancing breathing exercises and certain yoga postures will stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, improve blood circulation and release tension from various body parts.
Yoga Practices for Vertigo
Vertigo exercises yoga include breathing practices, yogasana for vertigo, meditation and yoga nidra (relaxation techniques).
Breathing practices or Pranayama for Vertigo
Alternate Nostril Breathing or Nadi Shodhana Pranayama
This balancing breathing exercise is a calming and tranquilizing effect on the mind and body. It harmonizes the nervous system, relaxes the mind and aids in concentration. It also releases toxins from the body and restores balances between the left and right side of the mind and body. It is one of the most impactful practices to balance the nervous system.
How to do alternate nostril breathing:
- Sit comfortably with your spine erect, shoulders and facial muscles are relaxed.
- Place your left hand on the left knee with palm facing upwards or in Chin Mudra (thumb and index finger gently touching at the tips). Place the tip of the right index finger and middle finger between the eyebrows, the ring finger and little finger on the left nostril, and the thumb on the right nostril. We will use the ring finger and little finger to open or close the left nostril and thumb for the right nostril.
- Gently close the right nostril and breathe out gently through the left nostril.
- Now to begin the practice, start breathing in from the left nostril and then close the left nostril gently with the ring finger. Removing the right thumb from the right nostril, breathe out from the right.
- Breathe in from the right nostril and exhale from the left. This completes one round of the pranayama. Continue inhaling and exhaling from alternate nostrils for a few minutes.
- After every exhalation, remember to breathe in from the same nostril from which you exhaled. Keep your eyes closed and continue taking long, deep, relaxed breaths without any force or effort.
Humming Bee Breathing or Brahmari Pranayama
Brahmari pranayama has a peaceful, healing impact on the mind and body. It lowers blood pressure and relieves hypertension. It also releases cerebral tension, soothing the nerves and helping bring back balance to the mind and body.
How to do Humming Bee Breathing:
- Use your thumbs to close your eyes
- Place your fingers like a Shanmukhi mudra or like a conch shell
- Index finger on the eyelid and middle finger below that, another one above the upper lip, and the little finger just underneath the lips
- Breathe in and as you breathe out make a humming sound so that you will feel the vibration on the top of the head
- Make sure, you are resting your awareness on the top of your head, keep your chest open and elbows out to the sides
- Do this Bhramari breathing exercise for 3 rounds
- Release your hands slowly. Stay with eyes closed, starting from the top of the head feel the vibrations moving down through the face to the shoulders, through the arms and trunk, and all the way down to the tips of the toes, calming yet energizing the entire nervous system
- Slowly open up the eyes and release
Yoga poses for Vertigo and Dizziness
Yoga for vertigo and dizziness includes yoga asanas that help improve balance and coordination. It also helps balance the nervous system, improve blood flow and strengthen the mind-body balance. Here are a few yoga poses for vertigo.
Half shoulder stand or Ardha Sarvangasana
This is a milder inversion which has a strengthening effect on the neck, shoulders, abdomen and back. It invigorates the mind by inducing blood flow to the brain, relaxes the nervous system and releases stress.
How to do Ardha Sarvangasana:
- Lie down on the back, and as you exhale, bring the feet closer to the hips and bend the legs at the knees.
- Slowly start raising the lower part of the body vertically. Use the core muscles and the support of your hands to pull your legs up.
- Your body weight should be on the palms, the elbows, the neck and the back of the head.
- Now stay here for a few deep breaths or as long as comfortable.
- Gently start lowering the hips towards the mat and then the legs. Release the hands from the back and relax in Savasana.
Seated forward bend or Paschimottanasana
This forward bend activates the parasympathetic nervous system and releases stress and anxiety, and removes anger.
How to do Paschimottanasana:
- Sit up with the legs stretched out straight in front of you (Dandasana). Keep the spine straight and toes pointing upwards.
- Inhale, raise both arms above your head and stretch up. As you exhale, bend forward from the hip, chin moving toward the toes. Keep the spine erect. Focus on moving forwards towards the toes, rather than down towards the knees.
- Place your hands on your legs, wherever they reach. Do not try to force yourself closer to the thighs if it is difficult. If you can, grab hold of your toes and pull on them to help you inch forward a little. You can also grab your calves if that’s where you’re comfortable.
- Breathe in, keep your head straight and lengthen the spine. As you exhale, gently try to take your naval closer to the knees. Engage your core and try to use your breath to go deeper into the posture.
- Release the grip; inhale, raise both the arms up and lift the chin and chest as well. Breathe out, lower your arms and come back to Dandasana.
Child’s Pose or Balasana
A relaxing asana, the child’s pose restores balance and calm in the body. It provides relief to the nervous system and relaxes the spine. It also improves blood circulation in the upper body.
How to do Balasana:
- From thunderbolt pose or Vajrasana, bend forward bringing your forehead onto the head. Stretch the hands out in front or place the hands at the base of your spine.
- If you can’t reach the mat, you can place your palms in a fist and place the forehead on the fist.
- Relax here for a few minutes and try to take deep breaths.
- Now to come out of the posture slowly lift up, come back to Vajrasana and then release the legs by straightening them out.
Corpse pose or Savasana
This relaxation pose is wonderful for the nervous system. It brings about a deep, meditative state of rest and relaxation. It helps repair tissues and cells, releasing stress and tension held within. It also lowers blood pressure, anxiety and helps cure insomnia as well. Practicing this posture for a few minutes after the rest of your asana practice is very helpful.
How to do Savasana:
- Lie flat on your back. Use a small pillow below your neck if absolutely required. Or you can also keep a cushion below the knees if you find that more comfortable. Gently close your eyes.
- Keep your legs comfortable apart (about a foot apart) and let your feet and knees relax completely, toes facing outwards to the sides.
- Place your arms alongside slightly away from the body. Leave your palms open, facing upward.
- Once you are in a comfortable posture, relax the whole body. Slowly take your attention to different body parts one by one. Let your breathing be slow and deep.
Meditation and Relaxation for Vertigo
Meditation and Yoga Nidra (relaxation) are two other practices that help harmonize and balance the mind-body. You can practice yoga nidra while lying down in the Savasana. 20-minutes of this practice will completely relax the mind and body, balance the nervous system and keep the parasympathetic nervous system active. Meditation practices will make you more mindful, calmer and relaxed. This awareness will make every movement slow, careful and you will also be more aware throughout the day, which helps in avoiding the causes of vertigo itself. As they say, prevention is always better than cure.
Mantra chanting for Vertigo
Many mantras are good for healing and bringing peace, harmony and balance within the body. Regular chanting of Om, Guru mantra, Gayatri mantra are helpful. Chanting raises your vibrations and increases your energy, creating shifts within the body that are calming, centering and relaxing.
For those with vertigo it is advised to practice asanas slowly and very carefully so as not to lose balance. Get a doctor’s approval and always practice with a teacher to ensure you are practicing in a safe manner. Healthy, free blood flow to the brain cells helps cure vertigo. For this, exercise which stimulates the nervous system and purifies the blood is good. Avoid bending forward suddenly or getting us too fast.