Let’s go back to 2008, when I attended my first yoga class. It was a gentle, restorative class that usually culminated in downward facing dog. Over two years I learned the basics of the poses and got a little stronger, but most importantly the class was a weekly touchstone for me during a stressful and traumatic period of my life. I never missed a class if I could help it because it was the only time my mind was quiet. Three years ago I switched to an Anusara yoga class–this class STARTS in downward facing dog! At first I was not strong enough to hold the poses, but between yoga and taking swim lessons to prepare for my first triathlon, there came a day when I realized I could stand up straight without pain FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE. This was a game changer!

Throughout my yoga journey I have kept my neck in neutral positions when possible, due to some old injuries. Finally late last fall I began to be able to turn my head or bend my neck into the fullest expression of the poses. It feels amazing to be in proper alignment! I do wonder, however, if this was a contributing factor to my vertigo — it is a change in how I move and it predates the onset of this latest episode by a few months. One additional change is that I was finally strong enough to do a forearm stand. I set this as a goal for 2012 and then promptly forgot about it. Around November I started working on it after every class. At the beginning of January, a few days short of my goal, I kicked up into Pincha Mayurasana against the wall.  It was a glorious success and clear sign of how my practice has progressed!

A few weeks later, in a fast vinyasa class, I triggered the vertigo. As I’ve described, it was extraordinarily mild, and I continued to attend yoga and even went to a handstand workshop. I experienced a few brief moments of positional vertigo in specific poses but not consistently enough for me to stop attending class. But then the vertigo didn’t go away, and so for the past month I have avoided yoga.

I went to class two weeks ago. It seemed like a reasonable next step in my recovery. I avoided turning my right ear down to the ground and was fine. All of the time we spent in downward facing dog was no problem. Then yesterday I returned and found downward facing dog was problematic, and I foolishly worked on handstand prep. I felt so sick, sicker than I have for a while. There I was, sitting in the middle of the studio floor, watching my classmates do handstands as the room spun around me. I scooted back against the wall and bent my knees so my feet were flat on the floor (this helps with proprioception), and cried. My yoga buddies were so kind after class. I self-treated, then we drove to a nearby cafe to get some food. Sitting and holding my head still for over an hour helped my nausea die down, and eventually I felt well enough to drive–carefully, slowly–home.

I am so frustrated! Yoga is one of the methods I use for self-care, but I can’t do it. My physical therapist says I should avoid yoga until I have been free of symptoms for at least a month, and when I return I should avoid turning my head in the ways that are problematic. OK, I will wait!