Posted by: seattledizzygroup | May 31, 2018

Gentle Yoga for Improving Balance


Gentle Yoga

Easy Modified Yoga for Those with Chronic Dizziness & Imbalance

by Bev Holstun

Yoga Instructor

 (Presented to Seattle Dizzy Group on 5/12/18)

This presentation discusses how practicing yoga and deep breathing meditation can help increase mindfulness, relieve stress and anxiety, and improve balance and well-being.  Many Gentle Yoga stretches and Restorative Yoga poses are appropriate for those with chronic dizziness and imbalance.  (Try easy, modified exercises which can be done from a seated or supported position to accommodate postural limitations and restricted head movement).


Yoga is a 5,000-year old scientific technique for spiritual development. Yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning “union”, thus its goal is the unification of body, mind, and spirit. Because the science of yoga is so old, it has developed many paths toward obtaining the goal of union. This state of union is called samadhi or enlightenment, where we experience the unity of not just our mind-body-spirit, but experience the whole universe as one interconnected whole.

Yoga is not a religion, but a scientific methodology of the experience and integration of the mind, body, and spirit. Yoga is a toolbox for spiritual, mental, and physical health and well-being.

Hatha Yoga

Hatha Yoga (ha=”sun” tha=”moon”) attains this union though a balanced practice of Astanga, the eight limbs of yoga:

(1) Yama – restraints or ethical practices: Ahimsa (nonharming), satya (truthfulness), asteya (nonstealing), bramacharya (abstaining from sensual indulgence), and aparigraha (nonpossessiveness)

(2) Niyama – observances:  Saucha (purity), santosa (contentment), tapas (discipline), svadhyaya (self-study), and isvara pranidhana (surrender to God)

(3) Asana – the physical postures/exercises

(4) Pranayama – breath awareness and control

(5) Pratyahara – inner focus

(6) Dharana – concentration

(7) Dhyana – meditation

(8) Samadhi – absorption

The integration of these practices helps one to develop self-awareness.

Asana is the foundation for this practice and is often practiced alone as a method of holistic exercise, stress reduction, and/or healing.

Yoga Asanas

Asanas are the yoga postures, the physical poses held in Hatha yoga.  Each asana should be steady and comfortable, firm and engaged yet relaxed. There are thousands of yoga asanas that have been developed over the centuries.


Pranayama are breathing exercises developed by the ancient yogis for purification. Prana translates into “life force energy” and Yama translates into “control or mastery of”. Thus, Pranyama is used to control, cultivate, and modify the Prana in the body. Prana is taken in through the air we breathe, and since the Pranayama exercises increase the amount of air we take in, we increase the intake of Prana.

For most Pranayama, the breath is slow and steady, breathed in and out of the nose and down into the belly. Always sit with a straight spine and a relaxed body. While you are practicing Pranayama, let go of any thoughts by focusing on the breathing involved with the Pranayama.

Deep breathing practice:  Gradually lengthen your exhale breath 1-3 beats longer than your inhale breath to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and promote greater relaxation.

Benefits of Hatha Yoga

Relaxation: yoga exercises: gentle stretching, breathing, meditation and guided relaxation calms the nervous system, emotions and releases body tension.

Concentration: focus, attention and concentration are promoted by a yoga practice of mindful movement and body awareness. The practice of balancing postures especially builds concentration.

Toning: holding yoga postures creates isometric exercise, which tones every part of the body, including the internal organs.

Healing: yoga exercises the glands, organs and endocrine system; massaging toning and increasing circulation to stimulate, heal, and eliminate toxins from the body.

Flexibility: yoga postures gently stretch the muscles in the body, increasing the flexibility and lengthening the muscles, tendons and ligaments.

Nourishing: slow gentle movements with deep breathing energize the body rather than tire it. This, combined with relaxation and yoga’s healing benefits, allows daily renewal and nourishment of the body-mind-spirit.


The sound Om was discovered by the ancient yogis to be the vibrational sound of the universe. By chanting this sound, you can connect with this vibration and hence feel connected to the oneness of the universe.


Namaste is a Sanskrit word that does not have an English equivalent. So we usually translate it something like this: “I honor/acknowledge the divine/spirit/light/god within you”. I like to use the words of Thich Nhat Hanh “I bow to you, a Buddha to be”. Like yoga, it’s more about the feeling of the word rather than the mental “meaning”.

Guidelines for Yoga

  • If possible, don’t eat for at least 2 hours before coming to class.  Practicing on an empty stomach will increase your flexibility, concentration, and strength.
  • Always do yoga barefoot. Your feet will stick better to the mat if your socks and shoes are off.
  • Always seek out a position that feels good!  If you feel awkward in a pose of if you feel pain, you are probably forcing the pose.  While doing yoga stretches, seek out gentle releases.  When you are in a pose that requires strength and stamina, pace yourself by paying attention to your breath.  When the breath shortens or must be taken through the mouth, you need to rest.
  • Remember that your lungs are like muscles: they need to be stretched gradually.  If the breath work makes you dizzy or hurts your chest, return to normal breathing.
  • The flexibility of the muscles and the energy level of our bodies change daily.  Never approach a pose without first checking in to how your body is feeling at that particular point in time.
  • You should always stay away from any sharp physical pain.  Work close to your limit (your edge) without going past it.  Create an awareness and understanding of it, but don’t plow into it.
  • Always feel free to come out of a pose before the rest of the class.  Your body is the first voice you should listen to.  The teacher is the second voice you should listen to.  Try not to listen to your ego at all.
  • Yoga is designed to open up the body so that it stands tall, feels positive, and thinks clearly.  Sometimes negative emotions or discomfort will come up during a practice, needing to be cleared before openings can occur.  Treat yourself kindly.  Work close to, but not in pain.  Work slowly and seek out what feels good.  Clearing out old patterns can work wonders for your body and your life if you work gently.
  • Breathe through the nose.  You will benefit from filtered air and a calmer nervous system by doing so.
  • Always drink lots of water after you practice yoga. You will move your body in ways that it is not used to moving, so you may be sore the next day. A warm bath before bed may also help any soreness.

Gentle Yoga

Gentle Yoga uses easy modified yoga stretches/poses practiced while focusing on breath which helps increase mindfulness, relieve stress and anxiety, and improve balance and well-being.

Yoga neck stretch

Gentle Yoga Exercises to Try:

Belly Breathing and lengthen exhale.  (In yoga we move with the breath).

Circle wrists, circle ankles

Shoulder Rolls

Arms overhead (out to side and up)

Circle arms slowly one at a time, both directions, from shoulder (forward, up, back, down 6X, reverse)

Lift and lower elbows with fingers on shoulders.  Then circle elbows. 

Gentle Eagle arms

Gentle Tricep stretch

With shoes and socks off, lift heal of foot to stretch toes and sole of foot (hold 5 – 10 seconds each side)

With shoes and socks off, turn foot over and stretch top of foot (hold 5 – 10 seconds each side)

Balance poses at the wall with one hand on wall or chair

Figure four stretch in chair

Lift and lower legs from the knees, one leg at a time or both at the same time

Restorative Yoga

Restorative Yoga is a conscious relaxation practice where participants lie over blankets and bolsters on the floor in passive, but comfortable yoga poses and focus on breathing for up to 10-20 minutes in each pose.

Yoga restorative pose


Meditation is a focusing of the mind on a single object, creating the cessation of all thought. As thoughts dissipate, the mind becomes quiet, and we are able to be fully in the present moment. The techniques of meditation are simple and easy to learn, but the ability to keep the mind focused takes time, patience and practice. The benefits of a regular meditation practice include reducing stress, tension, anxiety and frustration as well as improving memory, concentration, inner peace and whole body well-being.

Yoga Meditation Pose

Simple Yogic Meditation

Sit in a comfortable position, either cross-legged on the floor or in a chair. Sit up tall with the spine straight, the shoulders relaxed and the chest open. Rest the hands on the knees with the palms facing up or down. Lightly touch the index finger to the thumb. Relax the face, jaw, and belly. To relax your jaw, swallow a couple of times and then keep a little bit of space between your teeth.  Let your tongue relax away from the roof of your mouth and rest lightly on the floor of your mouth, just behind your lower front teeth. Allow the eyes to lightly close. Or gaze slightly downward at a focal point. Breathe slowly, smoothly and deeply in and out through the nose. On your inhale breathe all the way down into the bottom of your lungs filling your lungs completely with air.  As you exhale, release all the old stale air slowly and completely.   As the breath slows and deepens, let go of any thoughts or distractions and allow the mind to focus on the breath. Feel the breath as it moves in and out of the body, feeling it move through the nose, throat, windpipe and lungs. Feel the body as it rises and falls with each breath. Bring as much of your awareness and attention to your body and breath as possible with each moment. As the thoughts return to the mind, let them go, and return the focus back to the body and breath. Practice this meditation for 10-20 minutes. To end, gently let the eyes blink open, inhale the palms together in front of the heart, exhale and gently bow. Take a moment or two before moving on with the rest of your day.

Exercise Resources:

The Melt Method – Book by Sue Hitzmann

Vestibular Disorders Association (VEDA) Home-Based Exercise Article

Bev Holstun Yoga Instructor

Bev Holstun

Yoga Instructor at YMCA Seattle

Yoga Classes:




Presentation information is not meant to be taken as medical advice.

Presentations posted online may include discussion notes, links, images, and other information added by Seattle Dizzy Group.


© Copyright 2018, Seattle Dizzy Group. All rights reserved.


  1. […] Over What Matters” and “Postural Control & Balance” as well as “Gentle Yoga” and also “Vestibular & Auditory […]

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Providing support & community for people living with chronic dizziness & imbalance -- in Seattle & beyond

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