Vertigo and Yoga

I have been struggling with what my doctor believed to be Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) for a couple of years now. It seemed obvious at the time and may actually have been this simple form of vertigo: I would get dizzy from time to time when I got up in the morning. The remedy was to perform the Epley Maneuver or the “Half-Somersault” Maneuver. These procedures would move the particles that had collected in one of the semicircular canals of my inner ear creating a “piston” that would result in an imbalance.

As much of a pain this vertigo was, I could deal with it when it occurred, and since it always occurred in the morning, it never got in the way of my yoga practice. On the weekend starting May 5, however, things changed for the worse. I experienced multiple bouts of vertigo, some of them minor others quiet disorienting. The bigger ones would not go away after performing either the Epley or Half-Somersault. I got a break the following Monday, but setup an appointment with my doctor for the following afternoon. Around 11 a.m. on that Tuesday, May 9, sitting in my cubicle at work, I had the Babe Ruth of vertigo attacks and couldn’t shake it.

Drenched in sweat, I frantically dialed my home number hoping to get my son on the line. After failing to correctly dial the number twice—I could not correctly navigate my fingers to touch the proper keys on my phone—I reached home and had my son pick me up and rush me to my doctor’s office where he saw me immediately.

My doctor tested me for stroke, but that came up negative. He then performed the Epley Maneuver and the vertigo went away. My son drove us home. I was unsatisfied. There had to be something else wrong with me. There appeared to be.

I never completely got over the vertigo. A faint sense of dizziness remains. I could still practice yoga, but lost the nerve to practice with the advanced groups on Monday and Friday, cutting my structured practice down to Sundays and Tuesdays.

The dizziness became worse on Father’s Day; however, it did not prevent me from attending a Sacramento River Cats ball game with my mother and father. I noticed at that time that looking up and down brought on the symptoms more than looking laterally. Still, I was able to enjoy the game and company.

What was depressing about this condition was not just that it wouldn’t go away, but that it was a direct threat to my yoga practice. I believe yoga is the main reason I have lost nearly twenty pounds since January of this year. Diet and commuting eleven miles a day to work and back by bicycle can be given credit, but it wasn’t until I started yoga that I started caring about my body! If yoga went away, I was afraid I would throw it all out the window and go back to my old ways.

I attacked this problem aggressively in three ways: I scoured the web and for solutions to my problem, I looked into ways I could practice yoga in this permanent state of dizziness, and finally, I saw my doctor again and explained that I am suffering from something additional to BPPV or something completely different.

As I write these words, I am about eight hours away from an MRI to see if I have a lesion in my inner ear or somewhere else in my brain. Scary shit! If the MRI does not detect a tumor, he will send me to an Ear, Noise, and Throat specialist. He still thinks I could have suffered a stroke, but I can’t imagine that.

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