Light-Headedness During Breathing Exercises


Hello, hope you are well? I just wanted to ask, in the breathing with stress and anxiety (in Meditation for beginners) I find in trying to do it I get light-headed. I assume then that I am doing it wrong. Can you help with some advice how to do it correctly, please? Also I find that when doing meditation I drift off with thinking about things in my mind. Thank you all so much for this site, I am really starting to notice a difference in myself since I joined. Many thanks, Lisa-Kathleen

—lisa-kathleen, South Africa


Dear Lisa-Kathleen,

I am not 100% sure which breathing exercise you are referring to, to overcome stress and anxiety. It must however be a cooling breath: maybe Yogananda’s even-breathing technique, or the alternate nostril breathing, or deep diaphragmatic breathing, which alleviates stress and anxiety.

At any rate, if you feel you get light-headed, there are a few things to consider:

– Make sure your exhalation is as long as your inhalation. If not, the breathing exercise will make itself more easily felt in the head.

– If it still happens, the reason might be that you are new to deep breathing, and your body is still adjusting to the increased oxygen inflow. Practice with natural awareness: when you feel that it is enough for your head, stop the practice. Breathing exercises should never be overdone.

– Another element is that breathing exercises move prana, energy, and if it rises one can have the effect of feeling “light-headed” (especially if you are what Ayurveda calls a Vata-person, in whom the air element predominates). In this case the same rule applies: feel carefully what your body is telling you. If it says “enough,” stop it, otherwise your pranayama will be counter-productive.

Try to practice with slow, long, deep, and relaxed breaths. Watch the effect: it should always be beneficial, healthy, happy, balanced, harmonious.

About your mind drifting in meditation: sadly, that’s the most normal thing in the meditative world. The whole process of meditation is to try to calm that restless mind (plus the breath, heart, and feelings). In the Autobiography of a Yogi, you will see in the chapter “An Experience in Cosmic Consciousness” that even Yogananda, right before entering into the samadhi state (Cosmic Consiousness), meditated with his “mind distributed like leaves in a storm.”

So just do your best. Concentration is like a muscle, it builds over time. Also there will be periods in which meditation works well, then others in which it doesn’t seem to work at all. Just keep going, do your best, never miss a meditation.

Meditation is a long-distance run, Swami Kriyananda explains. It takes patience and perseverance, creativity (to keep the mind interested), and continuing inspiration (from this website, from books, friends, recorded talks…), to always keep going with enthusiasm.

God bless you in your efforts,