Pranayama headaches

Q&A and discussion on yoga and other avenues of mysticism

Moderator: Moderators - Public

Pranayama headaches

Postby Herr Meow » Mon May 20, 2013 5:26 pm

After a year or so of consistent pranayama practice, I'm starting to get headaches after sessions of 16 in, 32 out (no khumbaka). Strangely, if I go back to the rate of 15 in, 30 out, the headaches don't occur. They never come during the practice itself, rather they tend to come on a few hours afterward. The headaches aren't extreme, but they're definitely a concern, enough to cause me to roll back to 15, 30 until I figure out what's going on. If I push it a little (ie: continue to practice at 16, 32 after a day or two of minor headaches), I get a feeling of heat and pressure in the upper head (usually right near the crown, but often extending down toward the neck/face).

Aside from the headaches, practicing at 16, 32 results in feelings of bliss all throughout the body as well as a definite increase in concentration (quite notable - as if the mind were a smooth mirror reflecting itself back at itself, for lack of a better description). All throughout my practice (starting with 8 in, 16 out) I've regularly had instances of pleasurable energy rush up my spine throughout the day - this doesn't happen when I'm practicing at 16, 32, but it comes back if I go back down to 15, 30.

Haven't had any respiratory problems or anything like that. I've taken great care to pace myself, never pushing further if the breath isn't steady and easy, stopping at the slightest shortness of breath, etc. I have had a fair amount of experience with Kundalini phenomena as a result of both ritual and meditation, nothing major but definitely I'm no stranger to energy rushing up and/or down the spine.

My short term solution is simply to continue to practice at 15, 30 for now, though I'd be very grateful if anybody had some insight as to why the higher rate might be causing headaches.
User avatar
Herr Meow
Silver Member
Silver Member
 
Posts: 51
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2008 2:15 pm
Location: Seattle, WA

Re: Pranayama headaches

Postby Jim Eshelman » Tue May 21, 2013 4:23 am

How is your blood pressure... now and historically?
Love is the law, love under will.
Yours in L.V.X.,
Jim Eshelman
www.jeshelman.com
"Success is thy proof: argue not; convert not; talk not overmuch!" - CCXX 3:42
User avatar
Jim Eshelman
Lost His Marbles
 
Posts: 9579
Joined: Sat Jun 04, 2005 1:41 pm
Location: Los Angeles, CA

Re: Pranayama headaches

Postby Angel of Death » Tue May 21, 2013 5:08 am

My initial thought was that the cause of the headache/inflammation might be in your posture, or how you are holding yourself during the practice. If the spine, especially the upper atlas vertebrae are even slightly off alignment, over time the practioner can develop serious side effects.

In some yoga schools (Iyengar) a students does not begin breathe work till they have at least three years of solid asana correction, and then only working with a trained teacher.

I personally would recommend that you attend a class on Iyengar Yoga at the Center in Seattle. The teachers are highly skilled and could take a look at your posture to see if that needs correcting.

Pranayama is serious business and if you are having negative results you are wise to pull back and seek help. I blacked out once during my teenage attempts to do breath work.
Love is the Law.
User avatar
Angel of Death
Ultimate Spark of the Intimate Fire
Ultimate Spark of the Intimate Fire
 
Posts: 957
Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2009 8:52 am
Location: Heaven

Re: Pranayama headaches

Postby Herr Meow » Tue May 21, 2013 8:12 am

Jim Eshelman wrote:How is your blood pressure... now and historically?


Haven't had it checked for upwards of a year or so, but historically it's been normal (somewhere around 120/75 if I remember correctly). I'll go have it checked again, haven't done so since I began regular pranayma.
User avatar
Herr Meow
Silver Member
Silver Member
 
Posts: 51
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2008 2:15 pm
Location: Seattle, WA

Re: Pranayama headaches

Postby Herr Meow » Tue May 21, 2013 8:18 am

Angel of Death wrote:My initial thought was that the cause of the headache/inflammation might be in your posture, or how you are holding yourself during the practice. If the spine, especially the upper atlas vertebrae are even slightly off alignment, over time the practioner can develop serious side effects.


Seem to have good posture - but then, it's certainly possible that my subjective impression could be off :) Practiced asana for about a year before adding pranayama (technically more, as I've been using the same position for meditation on and off for quite a few years). While I find that a book can sit balanced on my head without wavering for quite some time, I wouldn't absolutely rule out a kink in my posture somewhere.

Angel of Death wrote:I personally would recommend that you attend a class on Iyengar Yoga at the Center in Seattle.


Not a bad suggestion. I'll try it out.
User avatar
Herr Meow
Silver Member
Silver Member
 
Posts: 51
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2008 2:15 pm
Location: Seattle, WA

Re: Pranayama headaches

Postby chris S » Tue May 21, 2013 1:34 pm

Just a couple of things, it can be overlooked..
Breath work can bring 'stuff' up, do you have any past emotional stress that your holding down, and/or how's your diet, do you consider it quite good? It can also expose a sluggish digestive system. Just a couple of possibilities.
chris S
Gold Member
Gold Member
 
Posts: 97
Joined: Sat Feb 09, 2013 6:39 pm
Location: rocks pebbles and sand

Re: Pranayama headaches

Postby Herr Meow » Tue May 21, 2013 2:04 pm

Jim Eshelman wrote:How is your blood pressure... now and historically?


Just stopped in and got my BP checked with the naturopath - 128/76, which is definitely higher than it used to be (looking through my records, as I've been seeing this naturopath for a few years, I started around 122/72, then managed to get it down to something like 112/70 during the period in which I was merely practicing an hour of asana per day).

OK, Jim, you've certainly got my attention :) I'd love to hear any ideas you have as to why (assuming it's linked) the pranayama might be affecting my blood pressure, and any suggestions you might have regarding further practice. (And thanks much for alerting me to check my BP in the first place - at the very least, I plan to hold off on further higher-rate pranayama, and monitor my BP until I get it closer to where it used to be).
User avatar
Herr Meow
Silver Member
Silver Member
 
Posts: 51
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2008 2:15 pm
Location: Seattle, WA

Re: Pranayama headaches

Postby Faust » Tue May 21, 2013 2:13 pm

As far as I know If your force to much air in your lungs it increases the intra-thoracic pressure and consequently your blood pressure during retention. As a side effect you can get headaches. On the other hand I is not usual to get headaches from 130/80.

I would ask if you are releasing the air too fast or if you are forcing your lung to hold too much air (maybe to increase the retention period).
User avatar
Faust
Stone of Precious Water
Stone of Precious Water
 
Posts: 181
Joined: Fri Aug 05, 2011 7:04 am

Re: Pranayama headaches

Postby Hermes » Tue May 21, 2013 3:16 pm

Maybe check you physical condition unbalances. I think physically yoga is like a sport. And it's rather specific on how it impacts the body. Like for instance body building, or shooting (and contrary to such sports as swimming or martial arts). These are types of "sports" which if you do a lot require counter-balancing ones to compensate the physical alchemy they produce, otherwise the unbalance may become big.
Hermes
Ultimate Spark of the Intimate Fire
Ultimate Spark of the Intimate Fire
 
Posts: 451
Joined: Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:46 pm

Re: Pranayama headaches

Postby Herr Meow » Tue May 21, 2013 3:21 pm

Faust wrote:I would ask if you are releasing the air too fast or if you are forcing your lung to hold too much air (maybe to increase the retention period).


I'm not retaining the breath at all between inhale and exhale, but it is possible that I might not be quite squeezing all of the air out on exhale. Definitely worth looking at.
User avatar
Herr Meow
Silver Member
Silver Member
 
Posts: 51
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2008 2:15 pm
Location: Seattle, WA

Re: Pranayama headaches

Postby Herr Meow » Tue May 21, 2013 3:28 pm

kasper81 wrote:I trhink he meant the blood-pressure is causing the headaches

nothing to do with pranayama?

pranayama is good for plasma and all the organs so maybe it's cholesterol and your diet


Ah, could be. The strange thing there would be that, when I back off from the pranayama (at 16, 32), the headaches disappear completely. Could still be coincidence, despite the fact that I've experimented with it relatively extensively (without ever pushing it too far) over the last couple of months.

As for medical advice, standard medical opinion would consider my current BP numbers (128/76) within the "normal" range, though I like them to be significantly lower. Medical follow-up is definitely in my near future (if for nothing else, to continue monitoring my numbers).

kasper81 wrote:do you smoke tobacco or anything and how much alcohol do you drink a week? i'm guessing btw seek proper medical advice


No tobacco (or anything else inhaled) and very moderate alcohol, regular exercise, reasonable diet - generally, I'm at low risk for high blood pressure.
User avatar
Herr Meow
Silver Member
Silver Member
 
Posts: 51
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2008 2:15 pm
Location: Seattle, WA

Re: Pranayama headaches

Postby Jim Eshelman » Tue May 21, 2013 6:36 pm

Herr Meow wrote:Just stopped in and got my BP checked with the naturopath

And you didn't have it checked while doing pranayama. I suspect that it caps 140 and then drops quickly, and that you are feeling the effect of the change.

OK, Jim, you've certainly got my attention :) I'd love to hear any ideas you have as to why (assuming it's linked) the pranayama might be affecting my blood pressure, and any suggestions you might have regarding further practice. (And thanks much for alerting me to check my BP in the first place - at the very least, I plan to hold off on further higher-rate pranayama, and monitor my BP until I get it closer to where it used to be).

There are all sorts of reasons it could affect this, including some I probably haven't thought of. I suggest you look up the various conditions that raise blood pressure and see if they apply.

Let me give you a really natural one: When we lift a heavy weight, our blood pressure naturally spikes. (It's hydraulics, basically.) It then returns to normal after a few seconds. That's all natural. But any similar strain or exertion can raise it rapidly (for short periods) as well.

Hypertension isn't just high blood pressure. Blood pressure gets "high" a lot of times during the day, but then returns to normal in a healthy, non-hypertensive individual. When a "blood pressure condition" develops, that initially means that when it rises, it doesn't drop back down to normal as readily as it used to. It "rides high" for longer. A headache could be from the heightened state, or from a sudden drop.

Do you, for example, also have headache after an unusually intense orgasm?

Your "at rest" blood pressure is still quite comfortable healthy range. The question is, what does it reach in abnormal situations? And how fast does it return to your "at rest" baseline.

Of course, don't take anything I say as truth on this. Read on your own, consult your doctor, etc.

Depending on age, family history, current water retention (blood pressure is like water pressure: a factor of how wide the pipes are vs. how much volume is being pushed through the pipes), weight and weight fluctuations, etc. - it just might be that your BP is starting to destabilize a bit. Or, it may be that you need to refine your method of pranayama.
Love is the law, love under will.
Yours in L.V.X.,
Jim Eshelman
www.jeshelman.com
"Success is thy proof: argue not; convert not; talk not overmuch!" - CCXX 3:42
User avatar
Jim Eshelman
Lost His Marbles
 
Posts: 9579
Joined: Sat Jun 04, 2005 1:41 pm
Location: Los Angeles, CA

Re: Pranayama headaches

Postby Jim Eshelman » Tue May 21, 2013 6:37 pm

Faust wrote:I would ask if you are releasing the air too fast or if you are forcing your lung to hold too much air (maybe to increase the retention period).

Yes. Do you get any dizziness with this?
Love is the law, love under will.
Yours in L.V.X.,
Jim Eshelman
www.jeshelman.com
"Success is thy proof: argue not; convert not; talk not overmuch!" - CCXX 3:42
User avatar
Jim Eshelman
Lost His Marbles
 
Posts: 9579
Joined: Sat Jun 04, 2005 1:41 pm
Location: Los Angeles, CA

Re: Pranayama headaches

Postby Herr Meow » Tue May 21, 2013 10:48 pm

Jim Eshelman wrote:And you didn't have it checked while doing pranayama. [...]

Thanks for the replies. Interesting - it definitely sounds as if that could be it. That could explain the gap between pranayama and the headache (blood pressure slowly returning to normal).

Jim Eshelman wrote:Do you, for example, also have headache after an unusually intense orgasm?

Not at all. Intense orgasms are generally followed by blissful periods of relaxation.

Jim Eshelman wrote:Depending on age, family history, current water retention (blood pressure is like water pressure: a factor of how wide the pipes are vs. how much volume is being pushed through the pipes), weight and weight fluctuations, etc. - it just might be that your BP is starting to destabilize a bit. Or, it may be that you need to refine your method of pranayama.

I definitely plan on looking further into BP related issues. I'm especially curious to see what happens if I do a blood pressure reading during, or immediately after, a few rounds of pranayama. Do you have any specific recommendations as far as refinement goes? I would think added retention periods (at a lower rate at first) would be the next step.
User avatar
Herr Meow
Silver Member
Silver Member
 
Posts: 51
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2008 2:15 pm
Location: Seattle, WA

Re: Pranayama headaches

Postby Herr Meow » Tue May 21, 2013 10:48 pm

Jim Eshelman wrote:
Faust wrote:I would ask if you are releasing the air too fast or if you are forcing your lung to hold too much air (maybe to increase the retention period).

Yes. Do you get any dizziness with this?


Never had any dizziness at any point during or after practice, no.
User avatar
Herr Meow
Silver Member
Silver Member
 
Posts: 51
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2008 2:15 pm
Location: Seattle, WA

Re: Pranayama headaches

Postby Jim Eshelman » Wed May 22, 2013 4:16 am

Herr Meow wrote:Do you have any specific recommendations as far as refinement goes? I would think added retention periods (at a lower rate at first) would be the next step.

I don't think it's that sort of thing at all. (Not the count.) I would suspect something basic to the physiology, maybe something that someone would have to be present watching you do. The main avenue to move down is this, I think: Pranayama should be without strain. As you increase the rate, I suspect you introduce some level of physical strain, meaning, that the prior level isn't yet "perfectly steady and easy."
Love is the law, love under will.
Yours in L.V.X.,
Jim Eshelman
www.jeshelman.com
"Success is thy proof: argue not; convert not; talk not overmuch!" - CCXX 3:42
User avatar
Jim Eshelman
Lost His Marbles
 
Posts: 9579
Joined: Sat Jun 04, 2005 1:41 pm
Location: Los Angeles, CA

Re: Pranayama headaches

Postby Herr Meow » Wed May 22, 2013 7:25 am

Jim Eshelman wrote:The main avenue to move down is this, I think: Pranayama should be without strain. As you increase the rate, I suspect you introduce some level of physical strain, meaning, that the prior level isn't yet "perfectly steady and easy."

That sounds right, given that the issues don't occur when I maintain a slightly lower rate. I'll look for the points at which strain is introduced at the lower levels. Thanks again, JIm.
User avatar
Herr Meow
Silver Member
Silver Member
 
Posts: 51
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2008 2:15 pm
Location: Seattle, WA

Re: Pranayama headaches

Postby Herr Meow » Wed May 22, 2013 7:26 am

kasper81 wrote:
Herr Meow wrote:After a year or so of consistent pranayama practice, I'm starting to get headaches after sessions of 16 in, 32 out (no khumbaka). S.


Actually shouldn't it be out in not in out?

Not telling

Asking


Yup. For whatever reason, I record it in the journal as in, out, and transcribed it thus here.
User avatar
Herr Meow
Silver Member
Silver Member
 
Posts: 51
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2008 2:15 pm
Location: Seattle, WA

Re: Pranayama headaches

Postby Herr Meow » Wed May 22, 2013 12:23 pm

kasper81 wrote:i'm not a yoga-master but

1) is it possible you have a bit of tooth decay and a nerve is exposed?

2) maybe it's not tooth decay and maybe if you just continued it may cease ie it's a hurdle to be faced

3) how about consulting your inner "guide" via divination. Pull ONE card out a Tarot spread then post it here


Hmm. Tooth decay. I suppose it's possible, though it seems unlikely - no pain in the jaw or lower face or anything like that.

Done plenty of work with #3 (which is a good suggestion, BTW), and have received much guidance, but generally more along the lines of spiritual direction rather than direct practical instruction (OTOH, just asking seems to open whatever doors are needed - such as the thought occurring to me to post my questions on this forum).
User avatar
Herr Meow
Silver Member
Silver Member
 
Posts: 51
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2008 2:15 pm
Location: Seattle, WA

Re: Pranayama headaches

Postby landis » Wed May 22, 2013 3:22 pm

I hope this isn't off topic but sometimes pranayama aggravates my sinus allergies and congests my sinuses. I also have a deviated septum. This is probably why I prefer anapanasati and satipatthana to induce samadhi instead (BTW, many modern Buddhist teachers--e.g., Gil Fronsdal, Andrea Fella--indicate that "concentration" is a poor translation of samadhi and that better translations are "unifying or integrating the mind," "settling the mind," "collecting the mind," "composing the mind" as these better honour the etymology.).
My blog: thislandismylandis.wordpress.com

Wander alone; bearing the Light and thy Staff.
And be the Light so bright that no man seeth thee.
Be not moved by aught without or within:
keep Silence in all ways
."

The Book of Thoth, p. 257 (on Atu IX, The Hermit).
User avatar
landis
Gold Member
Gold Member
 
Posts: 73
Joined: Mon Mar 11, 2013 1:37 pm
Location: Portland, Oregon

Re: Pranayama headaches

Postby Angel of Death » Fri May 24, 2013 6:22 am

Just an addition thought,
Headaches for many are caused by dehydration. Since we loose water vapor through our breathe, you may simply need to drink a bit more water before you practice.
Love is the Law.
User avatar
Angel of Death
Ultimate Spark of the Intimate Fire
Ultimate Spark of the Intimate Fire
 
Posts: 957
Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2009 8:52 am
Location: Heaven

Re: Pranayama headaches

Postby Herr Meow » Sat May 25, 2013 8:30 am

kasper81 wrote:Herr Meow , and everyone else. maybe you have found your limits and you are a 15 30 man?. For the rest of your life 15 30 is your limit? Is this so bad? is it a problem?

I want to know because this relates to all of us where physical problems may occur at a certain breath count. Isn't itn our ego which wants to push further? Does it matter?


I'm not sure that I would be the one to ask about that. My plan is simply to continue at a lower rate with an eye to traces of strain, and see what happens from there. As to whether or not there's a physical limit, I wouldn't know until quite a few more years of practice at least (even then, who knows, maybe a breakthrough could come after a decade or more).
User avatar
Herr Meow
Silver Member
Silver Member
 
Posts: 51
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2008 2:15 pm
Location: Seattle, WA


Return to Mysticism

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Yahoo [Bot] and 1 guest