The Dizzying Whirling Dervishes

How do they maintain their balance?

You may have seen these white-robed men who are spinning around at great speed. These are monks doing the dervish dance which is a form of active meditation of Sufi origin.

The whirling dervishes can spin on themselves for as long as 2 hours at a rate of 33 to 40 rotations per minute without experiencing dizziness! How is this possible? A study group observed the monks doing the mystical dance to uncover the mystery. But first, here’s a little science…

Our ears do much more than hearing sounds: our inner ear also contains the organ of equilibrium called the vestibular apparatus. This apparatus (remember your biology class anyone? ) contains the utricle, saccule, and three semicircular canals comprising fluid-filled channels that are oriented in different planes to detect gravity (information in a vertical orientation) as well as linear movement. These fluid-filled channels react to body movements by sending small impulses to the brain; which in turn decodes the impulses into messages prompting the body to adapt to the movement and maintain its balance.

Well then, how do the dervishes manage to keep balance and not get dizzy? First, they slowly increase the number of turns tricking the brain to become less and less sensitive to the impulses it receives. Second, they keep their head in a tilted position that balances out the liquids inside the ear channels to minimizes the sensation of imbalance ... Ingenious, right?

At PIGA, we're now left to wonder just how much our minimalist footwraps 😊 in their feet would improve their stability!