Yoga and keto? Your guide, according to an RYT

Yoga and keto- 4 women with yoga gear and in yoga clothes

Curious about yoga and keto—and if that’s the perfect combination of exercise and eating for you? Lots of women are wondering the exact same thing. We paired up with a registered yoga teacher for some specific answers, so you get all the info you need (and then some)!

What’s keto? Is there a right and wrong way to do it?

Yoga and keto- plate of eggs, veggies, meat, and avocado

Keto’s short for ketogenic. It’s a way of eating that really came into its own in the 1920s and 1930s—when it was discovered that it helped patients with epilepsy. Put simply, on keto you’ll drastically reduce the number of carbohydrates you eat and increase your fat to about 70–80% of your calorie intake. Once you do this, your body has to switch its primary energy source away from carbs. As a result, it turns to fat for energy. This leads to increased fat burn and weight loss.

But not all types of keto are equal. Ever heard of lazy keto? It’s real. Sometimes people think they’re doing keto when, really, they’re just eating low carb. Or, they use keto as an excuse to lose weight while eating their favorite fatty foods—but forget to actually get their body the nutrients it needs. Even though you’re aiming for high fat content and low carbs, you still need to make room for nutrient-dense foods and veggies in your diet.

Is keto okay for everyone? What about yoga?

Yoga and keto- woman sitting on yoga mat eating lunch- salad with tomato, carrots, spring mix

Keto can really work for some people, but it’s not the right way of eating for everyone. Some women end up eating too few calories overall. Or, they fast when their bodies truly need nourishment. Women’s bodies are really sensitive to changes in energy input. Drastically changing your macronutrients can eventually lead to lower thyroid function and even affect how regular your period is.

“Yoga is really about the breath and being present, so it’s absolutely for everyone,” says Cindy, RYT-200. No matter what your limitations or health, there’s a form of yoga that you can do—whether it’s restorative or gentle, hatha, a vinyasa flow, or even more athletic styles. But, if you’ve started a new way of eating, be careful with hot yoga and power classes. Your body interprets new diets as stress and that does change hormone levels. You might be operating with more cortisol, reduced thyroid hormones, altered hunger and satiety hormones, and changes in your estrogen and progesterone (which influence reproduction and your electrolytes and hydration status). “Starting any kind of diet and attempting a power or hot yoga class isn’t a good idea,” Cindy explains. “Give your body time to adjust before putting it through something so physically demanding and intense.”

Can yoga and keto be good for my body?

Yoga and keto- young woman standing in tropical kitchen cooking stirfry on stove top

It can, depending on your health and if you take a lot of care to do yoga and keto in a nutritious, nourishing way. That means finding a yoga style that works for your body—and that honors your health conditions and history. If you’re chronically stressed or anxious, or feeling wiped out, don’t cross gentler forms of yoga off your list in favor of power classes. Don’t leave before savasana or skip the opening meditation. Aim to give your body what it needs when it needs it.

And what does healthy keto look like? Make sure you’re not relying entirely on high-fat meat or dairy to get your daily requirements of fat. You want to incorporate sources like olive or avocado oil to help. But also remember: you don’t have to “fat bomb” your coffee or other foods just because, according to holistic nutritionist Angela Mavridis (who is also the founder of TRIBALÍ Foods). In other words, if you’re already feeling full and good, there’s no need to work in more and more fat.

I’m doing yoga and keto, but I get kind of dizzy in class. Why is that?

Yoga and keto- five yoga students in studio with lots of natural light in crescent lunge

Sometimes, the connection between your inner ear and brain takes a few seconds to adjust after you change movements. As a result, you might feel dizzy for a minute. It’s a really unsettling feeling. But having an oh-I’m-dizzy-but-it-didn’t-last moment or two in yoga class actually isn’t that unusual.

“The absolute most common reason dizziness happens in class is because you unconsciously hold your breath. Pranayama—or breath work—usually gets students feeling back to normal fast,” Cindy, RYT-200, says. “But when you go from sitting to standing, come out of an inversion (where your head is below your knees), or even when the head is positioned a certain way, there’s the potential to get dizzy,” she adds. “It can also be because you’re a little dehydrated or you haven’t eaten in a while.” If dizziness happens a lot in class, she recommends that first, you take a breather in child’s pose. “Move closer to a wall to give yourself some extra support during standing postures. Also, you’ll want to think about if you’re getting enough food and water before class. So often, that answer is no.”

Dizziness when you’re just starting keto

If you’re just starting keto and heading to yoga, you might be more susceptible to dizziness. As your body switches from using carbs for energy to ketones, you can experience what’s been dubbed the keto flu. No, you don’t actually have an infection. But you might feel kind of sick: with low energy, some dizziness, or even brain fog for the first two weeks. A really great way to help yourself during this time period is to drink bone broth to up your hydration and your sodium.

Dizziness after you’ve been on keto 2+ weeks

But what if you’ve been doing keto a while—so it’s not the keto flu—and you’re still dizzy in yoga? It might be time to take a closer look at how you’re doing keto and what changes you could make so that you’re doing it in a healthier way. One problem that can happen on keto is that women end up restricting their calories at the same time—whether intentionally or not. Because fat is satiating, some women may end up eating 500-700 fewer calories than what they ordinarily would. This can make you more likely to be dizzy. Another reason you could feel wobbly on keto? You might not be getting enough vitamins and minerals—or your blood sugar might be low.

Can keto help me get better at yoga?

Woman on yoga mat in an asana (variation on dhanurasana)

“I think that’s really individual,” says Cindy, RYT-200. “It depends on what improving your yoga practice means to you. Is it about pushing yourself to the limit and having the energy and fortitude for advanced asanas?” So can keto improve your energy? “Quote from dietitian with response and why.”

One quick Google search brings up quite a few articles that say keto and yoga make for the perfect pair. In fact, a lot of articles say keto requires focus and so does yoga. So, if you’re focused in one area, that naturally means you’ll be better focused overall, right? Not necessarily.

“Honestly, keto may help you in some ways. But you don’t need laser focus or a special diet to improve your yoga practice,” Cindy explains. “It just takes consistency in whatever aspects you want to grow and get better at.” So, what if you’re really wanting a way of eating that aligns with the true spirit of yoga? “I’d say that mindful and intuitive eating are much closer to that than keto,” Cindy adds. They ask you to honor your body’s cues and needs, and they emphasize being present—whether you’re eating or just in the moment. That’s really central to yogic philosophy.”

Cindy Hodits, RYT