Today while I was scrolling through the meditation subreddit, I came across a post asking why meditation makes you dizzy. This is the third time that I’ve seen someone ask this question this week, and so I wanted to write this article to explain why meditation causes dizziness and other issues such as lightheadedness, as well as to provide some helpful tips that you can use to solve the problem.
Is Meditation Making You Dizzy?
As I mentioned, a lot of meditators have been experiencing this problem. Some of the many comments I’ve heard about this include:
“If I meditate for more than 12 minutes my sense of balance starts to spin [like I’m drunk]”.
Another person said “[The] best way to describe it is like the sensation of falling over”.
And another, “I start to feel like I’m falling over or just really lightheaded”.
The above are just a handful of comments from meditators who have been getting dizzy, feeling nauseous, experiencing the sensation of spinning, and in some cases falling over.
So why exactly is this happening?
Why Meditation Makes You Feel Like You’re Spinning
There are many possible reasons why meditation makes you dizzy. For starters, if you’re doing a meditation that focuses on breathing, it could be due to a change in oxygen levels in your brain. Some of the beginner meditators in my lessons have made the mistake of forcefully controlling the breath before coming to me. Forcing the breath can change the amount of oxygen in the brain. When the brain lacks oxygen it can’t fire signals to communicate with the body, and that in turn can cause you to feel like you’re spinning. I advise my students to not overly control thr breath and also to double check their posture, making sure their spine is straight and their chest open, which will help to ensure proper breathing.
Another potential reason is that you’re simply standing up too quickly after meditating. This can make you lightheaded due to a condition called orthostatic hypotension, which is low blood pressure that happens after sitting or lying down.
Now let’s talk about dissociation, which is one of the common side effects of meditation. Many people have come to me to get help with this specific problem. Dissociation is a feeling of being disconnected from ourselves and can include disconnection from the body. Studies have previously shown that some meditation techniques such as Vipassana can cause dissociation, and recent research shows that dissociation, in turn, can cause dizziness.
Finally, another cause of dizziness is the way the mind and body process emotions. Strong emotions like worry, fear, and anger can cause dizziness according to Royal Devon University Healthcare. I remember years ago when I had to leave Canada to return home to England for personal reasons, at the airport I was so stressed it felt like the entire world was spinning. Because some forms of meditation can cause heightened emotions (for instance Heart Chakra meditation), this could be yet another cause of dizziness.
So, as you can see, there are several reasons why meditation might make you lightheaded and dizzy. But what can you do about it?
How To Stop Dizziness When Meditating
We now know that when we are meditating we might get dizzy if we control the breath too much, standing up too much afterwards, or experience dissociation. And because we know this, we can take remedial actions.
There are a few specific things that I recommend my students do when they feel dizzy. Let’s discuss the breath first. We don’t need to control the breath when we meditate. While it is true that some meditations, such as Tibetan Nine Round Breathing, do involve quite detailed breathing procedures, the majority do not. It is actually something of a fallacy that we need to actively breathe deeply and slowly. Yes, when meditating the breath does become slow and deep but not because we are forcing it, just because the breath naturally changes when we relax. You do not need to actively control your breathing when you meditate, and by not doing so you will reduce the risk of dizziness when meditating.
Next, let’s discuss how to finish a meditation session. The biggest mistake that you can make is to quickly end your session and jump up off your seat. That jolt when you stand up could easily make you lightheaded. The sudden switch from Zen-like relaxation back to normal is also quite jarring for your brain. No, there’s no wisdom in rushing. Instead, slow down and take your time returning to normal. I recommend slowly opening your eyes to a count of five, bringing mindful awareness back to your body, and then standing up gradually. That’s a much gentler way for your mind to return back to normal. Oh, and if you do get dizzy doing meditation sitting or lying down, you can always meditate standing up like they sometimes do in Daoism.
Finally, let’s discuss dissociation. This condition has been something of an “Elephant in the room” for meditation, and is one of the most common side effects of the practice. Essentially, many forms of meditation (most breathwork, Vipassana, Self Inquiry and more) can cause us to disconnect from our thoughts, our feelings, and our bodies, and this in turn can lead to dizziness. I have previously written about meditation and dissociation. Here, let me just say that this problem is quite easily remedied, and the solution is to switch up your techniques so you’re not just doing dissociative practices like Vipassana but also associative techniques such as Tai Chi and Body Scan. And also avoid techniques that make you feel emotional, thereby decreasing the risk of emotion-led dizziness.
Meditation Can Also HELP With Dizziness
Above we looked at the reasons meditation can cause dizziness and what to do about it. But I’ve also been able to help people with pre-existing dizziness to heal with meditation. Meditation makes us calmer, which is essential because stress worsens dizziness. Meditation can also reduce other emotions to help decrease dizziness. Especially effective are Integrated Body Mind Training techniques like tai chi and qigong, which have been scientifically shown to reduce many of the causes of dizziness, such as hypotension, dissociation, and vestibular disorders (inner ear disorders).
Meditation can cause lightheadedness and dizziness. This is especially common in beginners, who are not accustomed to the deep relaxation or the breathwork involved in meditation, and who perhaps are more likely to make mistakes when meditating. The good news is that this certainly is not a “Stop sign”. Just because you’ve experienced dizziness when meditating doesn’t mean you should stop. It just means you should make a couple of adjustments. By not controlling your breathing, by ending your sessions more gradually, and by mixing up your techniques, you can enjoy the benefits of meditation, such as focus and relaxation, while avoiding the head-spinning.
Giving Is Caring
Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations and is the author of four books on meditation. He has been featured in Psychology Today, Breathe Magazine, Healthline, Psych Central and Lion’s Roar.
Paul studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
Paul’s biggest inspirations include Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Jack Kornfield.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison