Dizziness and Numbness During Meditation

Question

Often after meditating I feel dizzy. I mean I feel lightheaded and everything around me feels like it is spinning around. Also sometimes I can’t feel the body I live in. It’s an experience like my body has become very light like a feather, and also I can’t feel my hands and legs. It just seems that my body is simply weightless. What are these experiences? Please provide me guidance.

—Buddha, India

Answer

Dear Buddha,

The experience you describe of dizziness and numbness during meditation sounds to me like there is a problem with your breathing during meditation. Our breath during meditation should be slow and the expansion of the lungs when we inhale is primarily around the lower ribs and belly. When the breath flows in our belly expands and when the breath flows out our belly gently collapses as air flows out of the lungs. This is called diaphragmatic breathing. The breath may become shallow as we go deeper in meditation. The breath during meditation is not rapid or forcefully deep. The experiences you describe sound consistent with hyperventilation. During hyperventilation, we are breathing rapidly, trying to inhale deeply, and often breathing in our upper chest. We can start to feel short of breath, dizzy, light-headed. or numb, and can feel anxious. These experiences can actually cause us to breathe even more rapidly thus making the problem worse. In hyperventilation, we are not exhaling sufficiently, and there becomes an imbalance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood.

One important key to successful meditation is relaxation. When we are relaxed we naturally breathe diaphragmatically. Try doing a few relaxing hatha yoga poses before meditation. Do not choose poses that involve forceful breathing techniques or a lot of physical exertion. As you sit to meditate allow your breath to flow in and out naturally, gently through the nose and down in the belly. Do not try to control the breath in any way. Do not breathe through the mouth unless your nose is blocked. A meditation technique we use at Ananda is watching the breath. Gently gaze upward at the point between the eyebrows, the seat of divine awareness. Bring your attention to the flow of breath as it naturally enters and exits the nose. Become aware of the breath higher up in the nose. Allow the breath to become naturally calm. Try this for as long as you are feeling a sense of centeredness and for you a sense of groundedness in the body. You may find that initially, just 5 minutes or less of this technique is best. It is time to end your practice for the session if you notice a return of the disturbing symptoms.

If you would like to learn more about the meditation techniques offered by Ananda, I suggest taking a look at the book Lessons in Meditation.

Many blessings on your meditation practice,
Nayaswami Mukti