Can Yoga Cause Vertigo?

A certain kind of vertigo, or a “spinning dizziness”, could be triggered by certain yoga positions.  Benign paroxysmal position vertigo (“BPPV“) is a condition of the inner ear where tiny crystals become dislodged and incorrectly stimulate the wrong balance nerves in one ear.  This classically causes spells of dizziness lasting 30 seconds or so when certain head movements are made.

Some 50% of BPPV sufferers claim a preceding mild head trauma or whiplash that seemed to be the trigger.  In addition to trauma dislodging the tiny crystals, many yoga poses may act on the inner system in the same way.  The yoga poses of highest risk are the inverted and upward-facing positions.

The good news is BPPV is usually easily treated with simple maneuvers in the office so it’s no reason to avoid yoga altogether.  If you have recently been treated for BPPV though, I recommend waiting about a week before going back to unrestricted yoga.

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4 responses to “Can Yoga Cause Vertigo?

  1. Kevin Huckstep

    I think my present bout of vertigo may be triggered by yoga. What do you mean by “upward-facing” postures?

  2. I recently experienced pretty severe vertigo from doing Triangle and looking upwards. (I think I held it too long and too hard) When I stood up, the whole room spun and I fell over. I made it carefully through the rest of the class after the teacher explained that the SCM muscle contracting or spasming can interfere with the vestibular nerve and she led us through a gentle massage of that muscle. The vertigo lasted through the rest of the day. I thought I was OK the next day and went back to class. Ustrasana (camel pose) brought it on again as did Urdhva Dhanurasana (upward bow pose). I took a week off and all symptoms went away. I went back to yoga and vertigo returned with Virabadrasana I (warrior 1 while looking up). I am a registered yoga teacher, and practice hatha and ashtanga. So today I am going to practice “Yoga for Vertigo” (see http://youtu.be/fqchA9IeF5Q and http://www.healthandyoga.com/html/news/therapy/rtherapy71.asp )

    • Thanks Dale Ann for your experience. Yes it is true the neck muscles and the vestibular system interact strongly. With a vertigo that is so profound and with such acute onset I would bet it was more likely BPPV though. Either way I’m glad it’s better!

  3. That is good to know! My symptoms are completely gone now. So… how do I keep them… gone? Thanks for your response, and your site!

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