Last Thursday I was singing the praises about my very first Yoga class. Earlier this week, I was on the verge of quitting.
Yes, you read correctly. You see, I have a confession: I deliberately withheld information in last week’s post. After my first class was over, I developed one killer of a headache.
No big deal I thought. I get headaches every so often, and I just attributed it to being one of those days. Except it wasn’t. After my second class, guess what? Another headache. And this one lasted until the next morning. This happened after every single class. What on earth was going on with me?
Beyond frustrated, I began searching for answers on the Internet. Have any of you ever had an unusual ache or pain and decided that it would be a good idea to search the Internet for a possible diagnosis? I’m going to guess that most of you have. And if you have, then you know how terrifying and/or frustrating it can be to read about what terrible thing you might have contracted.
Have an achy elbow? Ooh. That’s bad. You might have an alien implant in your arm. Left eye won’t stop watering? Oh, no! Maybe you’re going blind! Tender, red skin? Sorry, but it could be that you’ve got bot flies burrowing underneath your dermis.
By now you’ve probably guessed that I Googled my headache problem on the Net. Here are just a few of the search results:
1. Something is being released in the body and the headache is actually good for you.
2. You need a spinal realignment.
3. the headache is a sign of a serious underlying condition. Go see a doctor.
4. Don’t worry about it. It’s just a sign that the body is weak and needs to get stronger.
O k a y…..
I decided that my best chance for an answer would be to ask my yoga instructor. Her response: “I’ve never had anyone complain of a headache after class. Are you eating enough protein? You should have some protein about 2 hours before class.” Sigh. She apparently doesn’t follow my blog and has no idea about my new fondness for Greek Yogurt.
By the time my husband came home from work, I was miserable. Here was something that I really enjoyed doing; something that, while doing it, was beneficial to my physical and mental well-being, but afterwards was causing me pain. I explained to him what was happening, and he immediately asked me a question that surprised me. ‘How’s your breathing?’ Say what?
This is coming from a man who knows absolutely nothing about, nor has any interest in yoga aside from a fantasy which combines all that flexibility with other, more naughty thoughts. Use your imagination; that’s all I’m saying.
He could see the confusion on my face and began to elaborate. ‘Don’t you like, do weird poses and then hold them for a while?’
‘Yes,’ I said, cautiously.
‘Well, if you’re not breathing deeply enough, that can give you one hell of a headache.’
‘How do you know that?’ I asked.
He proceeded to tell me that when he first started scuba diving, he wanted to stay underwater for as long as possible; to do that, he wouldn’t take in deep breaths of air – he’d breathe shallow. ‘After the second or third time, I’d come up to shore and the other divers could tell I was miserable. They said that if you don’t breathe deeply enough then CO2 (which normally expels when one exhales) builds up in the body. That’s what was giving me the headaches.’
Before I could respond to that question, he immediately asked another: ‘Are you drinking enough water?’ I dismissed that question pretty quickly. Of course I drink enough before classes. Still, to humor him, I mentally went through my mornings leading up to the classes and noted exactly what and when I was drinking.
(I’m taking a deep breath as I type the following paragraph, as I will be shaking my head and rolling my eyes in embarrassment).
I did drink plenty of fluids. In the form of black tea, which is a morning ritual of mine. Very little water. Long story short, since caffeine is a diuretic and since that was all I’d had to drink, I was, without a doubt, completely dehydrated by class time.
Here is where I bring up for the millionth time how much I appreciate this community. I had mentioned my headaches to a very dear reader, who responded with an email which I received shortly after my conversation with my husband. In it, she wrote:
I just read an article in the New York Times about how drinking more water can help to reduce migraines. As a dedicated dieter/maintainer, I suspect you already drink lots of water, but just in case you don’t, the article says 9 cups of liquid total (that’s water and any other liquid) per day for women. Maybe you should try a glass of water just before you start your lesson.
That settled it. About an hour before my fourth class I made sure that I had consumed at least 32 ounces of water or more, and had a bottle waiting for me after class as well. In class I concentrated more on my breathing instead of doing the poses correctly. Breathe deeply for four seconds – exhale slowly for eight seconds. I haven’t had a headache since.
So, what’s my lesson in all of this? First and foremost, I completely underestimated the practice of yoga. Just because you don’t necessarily sweat doesn’t mean that your body isn’t working hard, so make sure that you’re fully hydrated before any exercise class! Second, even though I should have known better, I obviously took for granted that I was doing everything right even when I wasn’t. The answer was as plain as the nose on my face.
A special thanks to Vickie, Wendy, Marion, and an extra big shout out to my husband for their tips and advice.