I teach a lot of Beginners. If you've been reading here for awhile, you know that I find great joy in seeing someones journey from apprehension to pure love for their yoga practice. I also do my very best to try and dissolve the apprehension they may feel prior to their first class by ensuring them they will be safe and won't be forced to do anything they don't feel comfortable doing. When a student approaches me after class and I ask them about their experience, I always hope they will say it was "great", "better than they thought", or at the very least "it wasn't so bad". However, mixed in with the positive reviews, I have heard from a few students over the past year that they enjoyed their class, but now feel nauseated or had felt nauseated at some point during the class. I can often see the concern on their faces as they wonder what this "yoga thing" has done to their bodies! Today, I wanted to address this question/concern by sharing a few of the reasons you may feel nauseated - especially after your first class - and what you can do if this happens to you. Of course, I am not a medical professional, and anyone who is venturing into new physical activity should always check with their doctor before they begin. Also, if you have any previous medical history that would make you more susceptible to nausea, dizziness, or fainting, these tips won't necessarily apply to you and you should speak to your doctor.
So, why may you feel nauseated during or after your class? The first question I usually ask students is if they have any other flu like symptoms or have had any in the past day or so. The second thing I ask is what they ate today and when they ate prior to class. One reason people may feel unwell during a class is because they have eaten right before. If you eat a lot, or for some people not enough, prior to practising physical activity, it can effect how you feel. If you have a stomach full of food and you are moving upside down in Downward Dog, you may feel that food churning around in there. If you haven't eaten enough that day you may be more susceptible to lower blood pressure symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness and nausea. Your safest bet is to eat a small amount of food and drink some water at least an hour or so ahead of your practice. However, everyone is different, so be sure to listen to your body and see what works best for you regarding an eating schedule.
Another reason you may feel nauseated, especially after your first class, is because Yoga poses and breathing exercises can work to detox your body. Now, before you jump all over me....let me finish... ALL PHYSICAL ACTIVITY HELPS THE BODY TO GET RID OF TOXINS!!! So, you are more likely to feel nauseated after Yoga if you haven't been participating in much physical activity previously. I'm not saying Yoga is a magical detox practice, however, Yoga does encourage practitioners to take LONGER and DEEPER breaths. Breathing deeply benefits your body in many ways, one of them being to rid the body of toxins (note: the only specific statistic I can find on this says 70% of the body's waste is released through the breath but I can't find where that fact is sited from). Breathing deeply may also aid in digestion and food assimilation by increasing the amount of oxygen that gets to the digestive organs. So, add a few twisting postures in (which may compress your organs a bit) and it sounds like a pretty good recipe for nausea - no? Bottom line, if you are feeling nauseated, dizzy, or generally unwell, just take some time in Childs Pose, or Savasana while taking some slow and steady breaths and see if it passes. You may even want to pause and think about what poses your were doing before you became nauseated. Make sure to talk to your Yoga teacher after class and let them know about your experience and if it keeps happening always speak to your doctor.
In my experience, people who reported feeling unwell after their first class did not stay feeling that way for long and did not experience the same thing in their second class - either because they changed their eating schedule that day or simply because their body started to get used to what happened in the practice. Additionally, I have seen probably over 100 beginners throughout this year and have a memory of only 3 people reporting feeling unwell after class, so please don't let this deter you. I simply wanted to address this topic to let you know that it may happen - you are not alone - but it doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't go back and try again!
Questions about this or anything else Yoga related?? Leave me a comment below and I would love to answer them in another "Yoga Student Question" post!!!