What to do When Your Workout Makes You Woozy [My super side crow shoulder freeze yoga adventure!]

by Charlotte on November 21, 2013 · 35 comments

yogadizzy

Power yoga may be my new favorite workout, if only because this happened this morning: There we were, an hour into a leg-quaking, arm-shaking class when the teacher told us to we were going to take a quick break to try something new. Having been to plenty of yoga classes in my day I immediately realized that a) unless you’re laying flat down on your mat there’s no such thing as a “break” and b) “new” always means tricky. But despite my muscles silently threatening me with total boycott if I did anything fancy, I followed her instructions to crouch down onto my heels. As soon as she told us to move both hands to one side, I knew what was coming. My old nemesis Side Crow:

sidecrow

 

This isn’t Emily but it’s basically what she looks like.

I know yoga’s all peaceful and whatever but I’m just going to say it. I hate Side Crow. I’m probably doing it wrong but I always end up with all my weight on my one supporting wrist and it just doesn’t seem right to pit gravity against the teeny tiny part of my body responsible for typing, ping pong and pageant-waving. Gravity always wins.

As I resigned myself to playing Weeble Wobble for the next few minutes, I glanced over at my friend Emily. This was only her second yoga class ever and while she was killing it – seriously, girl is a natural - hand balances are pretty tricky. Especially when you’re tired. But as I watched her, I realized that unlike my jaded self, she had no idea what was happening. No clue at all! Which is when the awesome happened.

She blithely followed the teacher’s instructions as we slowly rose up onto our toes, shifted our balance, brought our knees to one elbow and – just like the teacher told us – started to tip forward. I watched as Emily tipped. Then tipped some more. Then passed the point of no tip return and in the slowest fall ever inched towards the floor until she ended up looking exactly like this:

headstand

 

Yep, yoga turned her into a big, black dude. 

As she peered at me through her arms – her expression a priceless mix of surprise and glee – I realized what she’d done. I’ve watched every dance movie in creation and she’d gone all the way through yoga to You’ve Been Served. Shoulder Freeze! Brilliant! I like that way better than Side Crow any day. She laughed and fell out of it. I fell out of my tenuous perch as well (which I’d like to say was because I was laughing but we all know it’s because I can’t do Side Crow anyhow). We rolled around for awhile like two really bad b-boys before it was time to stand up again.

And when we did: Whoa. I saw spots. My peripheral vision went black. I couldn’t hear. I felt nauseous and hot. You know, all the things I do right before I faint. But thankfully it passed after a few seconds. I wish I could say that was the first time I’ve ever gotten dizzy when I workout but it actually happens a lot, especially when I do something that requires a lot of up and down, like yoga. (And breakdancing.) And putting away laundry.

I’m a fainter. I’ve always been partial to swooning –  and it turns out Emily is too – but it turns out that this kind of dizziness during exercise is a real thing.

That’s right, a condition normally associated with overly sensitive (or just overly corsetted) 19th-century rich ladies is felling super healthy Gym Buddies left and right. And it’s not just fainting but general light-headedness, dizziness and blacked out vision. Researchers say this phenomenon is perfectly normal. And it will kill us. Yipee!

Called Orthostatic Hypotension, it’s a seldom talked about side effect of exercise. While one of the known (great) side effects of exercise is lowered blood pressure, this can turn into a bit of a problem in situations that further lower your blood pressure such as suddenly stopping a vigorous exercise or suddenly changing positions. (I think I’m suddenly seeing a pattern!) So far, so fun, right? And then researchers from the University of North Carolina found that another problem is early demise, writing that “People with orthostatic hypotension were 1.34 times more likely to develop heart failure than patients without.” Avid exercisers that already have low blood pressure are at particular risk for orthostatic hypotension. As ehow.com explains,

“Exercise can cause sudden changes in blood pressure. A change of 20 points in your blood pressure can cause you dizziness or even fainting. This happens because for that moment the brain isn’t getting enough blood. Athletes and those who exercise regularly tend to have lower blood pressure and slower heart rate. So a sudden drop of 20 points could easily put an athlete into the realm of low blood pressure.”

My normal blood pressure and resting heart rate are usually quite low. Because of this, my predilection to swoon has become a joke with my husband as I have fainted a few times while he’s hugging me – handsome men just have that effect on me, I guess! I’ve also fainted at least twice with each pregnancy. (Pregnancy is another condition that lowers your blood pressure.) But non-preggo, non-hugging fainting is pretty rare for me. More commonly I’m just dizzy, light-headed, nauseated and have spotty vision for a few seconds. It’s remedied by remembering to stand up slowly and steadying myself with a wall or chair for a few seconds until the feeling passes. Except for the rare occasion when I actually hit the floor, these spells are barely noticeable and are not very bothersome to me.

The gym, however, amplifies these – both in intensity and in danger. For instance after doing Tabata sprints around the track with Gym Buddy Allison one day, we both reeled to the floor in a strange, slow fall. It seems to have been a combination of working so hard and then stopping so suddenly (we were not going to run even one extra step at that level of exertion, much less take a cool-down lap!) that brought both of us momentarily insensate. Similar to that, while doing my long runs I’m fine but the second I stop running (which of course I do immediately because I’m a “sprint to the finish line” kind of girl) I usually have to sit down for a few seconds on the end of my treadmill and wait for my vision to clear before I can walk to the paper towel dispenser and spritz my ‘mill down with ineffective-yet-mandatory cleaning spray.

So what’s a girl to do when a spell hits right in the middle of yoga? I looked up remedies for yoga-induced dizziness and found some interesting suggestions, some more helpful, others more hilarious: (I’ve listed them in the order you probably want to try them. You’re welcome.)

6 Tips to Try When Your Workout Makes You Woozy

- Contract and breathe. Yoga Journal advises potential swooners to “Contract the calf and thigh muscles strongly to squeeze blood from leg veins toward the heart. Start this action before you start to come up [out of the pose] and continue it while coming up and after you are upright. (2) Come up slowly to give reflexes time to respond. (3) Inhale while coming up. This lowers pressure in the chest, thereby helping blood flow into the heart.”

- Chin to chest. Ask Ananada adds, “As you come out of the pose, keep chin to chest. Even once you’re upright, keep chin to chest for several breaths before straightening your neck.”

- Jump to worst possible conclusion. Health Central scarily warns that dizziness in yoga could be from “inner ear disturbances, cardiovascular problems, drugs and medication side effects, neurologic disorders, endocrine, infectious diseases, neurocardiogenic syncope, herbs, etc” and that all of these need to be evaluated by a doctor. They add you will need “tests such as an MRI, EEG, carotid ultrasound, EKG, Echocardiogram, a TILT test, hormone and blood tests, as indicated after a thorough exam and evaluation.  You may need an evaluation by multiple specialists including a cardiologist, neurologist or ENT specialist.”

- Give yourself a coffee enema. Another site listed “chronic constipation” as toxins can cause dizziness.

- Stop menstruating. Apparently your lady blood is betraying you (again!) on two fronts. First, a heavy flow can cause anemia which can make you dizzy. (Which makes sense.) Second, according to some yoga peeps, you shouldn’t do any kind of inversions when you’re doing Crimson Crow (or Red Warrior) pose because – and I swear I didn’t make this up – your blood will go back up into your uterus causing you all kinds of blockage issues.

- Dump your d-bag boyfriend. According to Raviana.com, “The most common cause for dizziness during a yoga practice is a locked solar plexus area (from stress and emotional holding patterns).” They recommend getting rid of major stressors and sources of negativity around you. And also maybe try a juice cleanse. Because why not?

So what about you – Do you get dizzy or light-headed easily? Does it happen during yoga ever?? Any other suggestions for me to help mitigate the woozies?

 

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Tess November 21, 2013 at 6:27 am

I have this and it seems to run in my family. (We also have low blood sugar issues — if we’re not fainting we’re hungry-cranky. Fun!) It was at its absolute worst when I was struggling with anorexia and I used to black out so dramatically that I thought I was having seizures. Aside from staying hydrated and not jumping out of bed (or a hot bath) too quickly, I don’t worry about it. To tell the truth, once the first woozy moment passes I get a kind of warm and relaxed feeling that I kind of like. (I KNOW this makes me sound like a weirdo, but coming around after fainting is actually quite pleasant for me.)

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Charlotte November 26, 2013 at 8:48 pm

“hungry cranky” – that totally just described so many of my family members too haha! And I love how your description kind of sounds like peeing yourself;) Honestly I’d rather feel that than the nauseous, hot feeling I usually get!

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JLVerde November 21, 2013 at 6:56 am

No dizzy advice but I envy your ability to do any type of crow pose. I get to the tippy toe point and that’s about it (and I even have to perch on a block!). It’s one of those poses that make me feel like a bad@ss and keeps me practicing (there are a lot of those in yoga, now that I think about it).

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Charlotte November 26, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Oh I don’t make it look good. Hand balances are not my strong suit!!

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Megan @ Meg Go Run November 21, 2013 at 7:08 am

The only time I get woozy is if I don’t properly fuel myself OR I decide to do HIIT circuits outside when it’s like 90 degrees. I have no tips for overcoming that except DON’T DO IT!

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Charlotte November 26, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Hahah – excellent tip!!

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Annie November 21, 2013 at 7:45 am

Oh side crow – I never mastered you either. All of the really spectacular bruises I’ve gotten via my yoga practice were from side crow. Nothing like slamming your forearm into the floor with your entire weight behind you!

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Charlotte November 26, 2013 at 8:49 pm

I know, right?? I got an awesome black-and-blue spot on my hip from that class and it’s almost been a week and it’s still there!

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Naomi/Dragonmamma November 21, 2013 at 7:56 am

I used to have this problem until I learned how to do somersaults about five years ago and purposely worked them into my regular routine. Seems to be an inner-ear thing with me more than a blood pressure change.

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Joemama November 21, 2013 at 2:47 pm

He he, I love this! ” “I’m not fainting, I’m somersaulting! Wheeee”
That. Is. Awesome.

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Charlotte November 26, 2013 at 8:50 pm

This made me laugh out loud. Love you Joemama!

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Charlotte November 26, 2013 at 8:50 pm

So interesting! I need to try those again! I used to do them more often but since I landed on my neck a few years ago doing one I kinda quit…

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Heather C November 21, 2013 at 9:10 am

I am 6 feet tall but have the blood pressure and resting heart rate of a corpse so pretty much whenever I go from laying down or even sitting to standing the blood doesn’t get to the old brain and things get fuzzy. I have only passed out a handful of times, once after getting off the leg press at the gym. I read some years ago that fighter pilots, in order to avoid blacking out, contract their core muscles hard and kind of pump them. I have started doing this when I get faint in situations where it would look odd for me to bend over and put my hands on my knees (what I do at home). I have found it really works. Apparently, it forced blood to your brain oxygenating things.

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Charlotte November 26, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Interesting! I will totally try this next time!!!

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Jess November 21, 2013 at 9:35 am

I will have to give some of those a shot! When I was little I used to try and get as far as possible while I had no vision, or balance…. Now I take it more slowly. It takes at least 30 seconds to sit and then stand when I wake up. I also go black when I run up our stairs. I am thinkin my heart has pretty wussy strength because of it all. And way to go Emily!

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Joemama November 21, 2013 at 4:43 pm

I used to do that when I was little, too! Then I took a header into the doorjamb and OW! Now I bend over and breathe through it. I black out sometimes doing laundry ’cause I have a stacked washer/dryer and bending over to get the wet stuff and standing up to put it in the dryer makes me dizzy. So, so dizzy. Wheeee! *thump*

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Charlotte November 26, 2013 at 8:51 pm

That makes me laugh – I love kids!

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Sindee November 21, 2013 at 9:42 am

Charlotte:
I can’t stop laughing from your post. Laughing because Emily is my BFF and I can absolutely picture her doing this and can hear her cackle of a laugh right now! She is a natural. She’s excellent at everything she does! I’m so glad you two found each other! Hopefully we’ll meet one day when I come up and visit!
Keep up the fantastic work! You are amazing!

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Charlotte November 26, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Yay! Emily is the best and not just at yoga!! She’s such a sweetheart! Come visit soon – we can all breakdance together;)

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Emily December 1, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Aww, you guys are too nice! Love you both!!

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Bethany November 21, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Solutions 3-6 are spectacularly hilarious! :)

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Charlotte November 26, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Thanks;)

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cat November 21, 2013 at 3:04 pm

I have orthostatic hypotension. So does my sis and father. Our cardiologists advice? Eat a lot of salt. Don’t be skinny. Lay down immediately upon getting dizzy.

Chubby with a salt lick? Yes please

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Charlotte November 26, 2013 at 8:53 pm

“Chubby with a salt lick” buwhahaha! Awesome! They told me to eat more salt too. Happy to oblige!

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Dr. J November 22, 2013 at 9:11 am

I replied to this?? Spam?

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Charlotte November 26, 2013 at 8:53 pm

Sorry – my filter is weird sometimes!

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cursingmama November 22, 2013 at 12:06 pm

I have learned that, despite what a lot of so called nutrition experts will say, not getting enough quality protein with a shot of carbs before a work out (and water.. lots of water) will increase my inclination to tip ass over tea kettle. I like a handful of nuts & a banana with a tall glass of water; the old man drinks some nasty meat based chocolate flavored protein shake (I think it tastes worse then it sounds).

When I feel it coming on I stop what I’m doing, find a safe place to plant my back side so I don’t do an unintended cartwheel, breathe, lower my head to let the blood get there & hydrate. I also usually call my work out done until I can eat something healthy & a “nutrition bar” doesn’t count. Ever.

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Charlotte November 26, 2013 at 8:54 pm

MEAT based chocolate protein shake??! I have heard of meat protein shakes but didn’t realize they tasted like it. Ugh.

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cursingmama November 26, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Meat based protein shakes are very real & they come in a variety of flavors. Ewwwwww. My husband is a purchaser of a brand called Carnivore & his favorite flavor is a mix of chocolate & vanilla caramel.

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Ryan Byars November 22, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Side crow looks ridiculously difficult. All the more reason for me to try out yoga. I’ve always wanted to and I think it is really cool when someone can use their strength and balance to hold the most difficult positions or poses.

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Charlotte November 26, 2013 at 8:54 pm

It is really cool when done right! A lot of bruises between here and there but totally worth it when you get it!

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David Murrell November 22, 2013 at 2:12 pm

“Give yourself a coffee enema”, that’s hilarious. It’s also interesting. I didn’t put two and two together with toxins from constipation causing dizziness.

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Charlotte November 26, 2013 at 8:55 pm

I honestly don’t know if that’s true or not. If you try it out, let me know if it helps;)

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Stephanie November 22, 2013 at 2:37 pm

How interesting! Thanks for posting on this. I, too, sometimes get lightheaded, see stars, etc. I also have a low resting HR and low BP. I never actually faint, though.

Good tips, but I think I’d rather swoon than have a coffee enema. :)

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Charlotte November 26, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Amen to that!

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