Are you feeling a bit achy and sore after yoga class? Maybe you’re brand new to yoga. Or maybe it’s been a while since you practiced, maybe you’re learning some new postures, or maybe you’re trying a new style of yoga that’s especially intense.
There’s no denying that a really good yoga session can feel amazing. And there’s nothing like getting a good, deep stretch in those muscles you don’t use regularly. It may seem like you use your muscles in your daily life, but certain yoga poses will stretch them in more challenging ways.
The thing is, muscles can become sore after yoga if they are overworked, just like any other type of exercise. This type of soreness after yoga is common. It’s called delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, and it generally occurs within 12-48 hours after exercise.
The level of discomfort after yoga can vary greatly from person to person – depending on the style and intensity of your yoga session, as well as your fitness level. But even an advanced yogi can still experience muscle soreness after yoga practice from time to time.
Let’s take a deeper look at the cause of the discomfort and what your body needs after yoga to speed up muscle recovery and overcome fatigue.
1. What Causes Muscle Soreness After Yoga Practice?
While yoga is generally considered a low-impact form of exercise, it can still put a major strain on your muscles. The eccentric muscle contractions that are common in almost all types of yoga can cause microscopic tears in the muscles and fascial tissues.
These micro-tears trigger an inflammatory response in the immune system, which is the cause of muscle soreness after yoga and other types of exercise.
But it’s important to know that this type of inflammation and muscle soreness isn’t always a bad thing. A reasonable amount of pain and soreness after yoga is actually beneficial. It means that your muscles got a good workout, and when they recover, they’ll be even stronger than they were before. Over time, you’ll experience muscle growth and better performance both on and off the mat.
2. Is Pain After Yoga Normal?
Soreness after yoga is normal, but extreme pain and discomfort after yoga aren’t normal or beneficial. If you’re dealing with extreme pain after a yoga class on a regular basis, there’s a good chance you’re overextending your muscles or doing the poses incorrectly. Talk to an experienced instructor to see what corrections you might need to make.
If your post-yoga pain is so extreme that it is interfering with your daily life, or you are noticing swelling or muscle spasms, give your healthcare provider a call for advice.
And, if you’re in the middle of a class and experience sudden or intense pain, stop what you’re doing immediately and rest until the pain subsides. If it doesn’t subside after a few minutes, you may have pulled or torn a muscle. A visit to your healthcare provider is probably required.
3. How to Prevent Soreness After Yoga Class?
With the low impact stretching and periods of rest and meditation that are so vital to yoga practice, it seems like a gentle and even easy way to exercise. And while that is absolutely true for many forms of yoga, it’s not uncommon to experience discomfort during class that often becomes soreness after yoga.
That’s because you’re stretching your muscles in unfamiliar ways and engaging muscles you don’t often use in everyday life. Even the most active person can experience muscle discomfort during a yoga class, followed by soreness afterward.
If you’re struggling with a pose during your yoga class, ask your instructor for modifications that can help you maintain the pose more comfortably. And when you’re doing the poses, only go as far as you feel comfortable. If you experience discomfort that you can’t breathe through, back off into a more neutral pose.
Are you in need of inspiration for some easier (or more difficult) poses? With our free Sequence Builder you can browse through asana groups and poses to find different variations you might not have known before.
With consistent practice, each yoga class will get easier. Keep in mind that yoga is highly recommended as a non-drug treatment for chronic pain relief.
With time and proper form, any discomfort you’re experiencing during class will subside and you will begin to notice tremendous benefits on and off the mat.
4. How to Cope With Soreness after yoga?
You probably walked into your first yoga class expecting to feel fantastic afterward. Feeling sore for hours and days afterward probably came as quite a surprise. Try to remember that as you practice more and more, the benefits will far outweigh any soreness you experience.
Although delayed muscle soreness will generally go away on its own, there are several strategies you can use to cope with soreness and speed recovery after a tough yoga session.
It’s true that your body heals while you sleep. Any damaged muscles or tissues will heal faster with rest, which means you feel better sooner. Shoot for a full eight hours of sleep at night, and if you’re feeling especially sore after yoga class, consider taking a nap to give your body a head start on the healing process.
4.2. Take Things Slow
If you were planning to do yoga every day, you might want to rethink that strategy. When you’re dealing with a lot of soreness and muscle pain after yoga, you’re better off taking things a little slower.
Try attending a class three or four days a week and doing a lower intensity form of yoga. Build up your number of sessions and the intensity gradually as the soreness goes away. Don’t force yourself to push through several workouts each week because your body won’t have time to heal and recover between sessions.
4.3. Hydrate Before and After Yoga
According to holistic & integrative medicine experts, “Much of our health and wellness depends on our inner balance of hydration, vitamins, and nutrients.” Hydrating the body properly before and after yoga class not only improves your energy and mental focus, it also helps to prevent and reduce muscle soreness.
On average, women should consume 2.7 liters and men should consume 3.7 liters of water every single day, but most of us fall far short of that. And when it’s hot or you’re exercising, your requirements are even higher.
About an hour before class, drink one or two glasses of water. (Don’t consume anything in the 30 minutes immediately before class.) After class, drink another two glasses of water to help your body flush out toxins and metabolic waste released during yoga, which can contribute to soreness.
4.4. Try Some Hydrotherapy
Hydrotherapy is fantastic for relieving soreness and muscle tension after yoga. Soaking in a warm bath or hot tub will feel fantastic and it may help your muscles relax and heal more quickly.
Adding magnesium-rich Epsom salts to your bath can amp up the benefits. Magnesium is an electrolyte that reduces inflammation and improves nerve, enzyme, and muscle function. It may also relieve pain and soreness.
4.5. Alternate Ice and Heat
If the soreness is really bothering you, consider taking a break and alternately applying ice and heat to the area. A heating pad or hot water bottle can relieve pain and loosen tight muscles. It also increases blood flow to the area, which may speed healing.
Ice can be helpful for post-yoga soreness too. It reduces swelling and inflammation to relieve pain and help damaged tissue heal. However, some people find that ice actually increases soreness. If you feel that it’s not helping, stick to heat only.
Try alternating between heat and ice every five minutes or so. Always protect your skin with a towel or some type of cover to avoid burning from heat or extreme cold. Never apply the heating pad or ice pack directly to bare skin.
4.6. Stretch It Out
If you’re experiencing some minor soreness after yoga class, a little light stretching may help reduce the discomfort and stiffness. Don’t forget to warm up your muscles with a few minutes of walking or some other gentle exercise before stretching.
4.7. Invest in a Foam Roller
Foam rolling is a great way to promote muscle recovery after yoga and other forms of exercise. It’s a stretching and self-myofascial massage technique that relieves muscle tension and increases range of motion.
4.8. Have a Massage
Having a massage can also ease muscle tension and soreness after yoga. Massage increases blood flow to the area which may speed healing and relieve inflammation and pain.
4.9. Try Topical Analgesics
Topical analgesics can provide immediate relief if the pain is in a localized area. Creams that contain arnica, capsaicin, and essential oils are great options if you want to go all-natural. Or look for Bio freeze, Bengay, Icy Hot, and other muscle rubs at your local drug store.
4.10. Take BCAAs
Branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs, are often recommended by athletes for reducing post-workout soreness. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and BCAAs are the amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which have a specific chemical structure.
Research shows that taking a combination of the amino acid taurine and BCAAs before and after exercise may reduce muscle damage during exercise and reduce soreness following your workout. You can get BCAAs in supplement form or incorporate them into your diet by eating more protein-rich foods.
4.11. Consider OTC Pain Relievers
Remember, a moderate amount of soreness after yoga is a good thing. That inflammation is how the body repairs damaged tissue, so taking painkillers unnecessarily could actually slow healing.
That being said, if the muscle soreness after yoga is so intense that it interferes with your sleep or other daily activities, consider taking an OTC pain reliever. Ibuprofen or naproxen can help you get through the worst of the pain and inflammation. After all, you can’t heal if you can’t rest.
The use of these nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) should be as minimal as possible to avoid potential side effects. If you have an ulcer, stomach issues, or other health condition be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before taking NSAIDs.
5. What to Eat After Yoga to Speed Healing and Recovery?
Nutrition should play a key role in your yoga practice, not only for fueling your workouts but also for speeding healing and recovery. What you eat after yoga can help replenish lost nutrients and boost your energy levels, too.
Here’s what should be included in your post-yoga meal or snack:
Repairing and building muscle are essential for reducing soreness after yoga or any other type of workout. Since protein is the main building block of muscle, it should be included in your post-yoga meal or snack. High-quality protein will help you recover more quickly and ensure that your muscles become even stronger over time.
Good sources of protein after yoga include hummus, Greek yogurt, nuts, seeds, eggs, cheese, nut butters, and nut milks. Protein bars and protein powders can also be an easy and convenient option. Consider adding a scoop of protein powder to a fruit smoothie for an easy post-workout meal hydrating and full of beneficial antioxidants.
There’s a lot of twisting, turning, stretching, and focusing that goes on during yoga class. It’s quite common to feel depleted both mentally and physically after a challenging session. Consuming carbohydrates after yoga will boost your energy levels, give your brain a boost, and refuel your muscles.
Slow-burning, complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, will provide long-lasting energy to get you through the rest of your day. On the other hand, fruit and leafy green vegetables are great sources of simple carbs to give you a quick burst of energy and some much-needed hydration.
Both options also provide additional vitamins and minerals to replenish what you’ve used during yoga class and help your body recover more quickly. Carbs also help replenish glycogen stores, which is the fuel your muscles use during exercise.
5.3. Healthy Fats
Small amounts of healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, and nuts are amazing for long-lasting energy after yoga. They’ll also help you feel more satiated, which can be helpful if you’re trying to lose weight.
Consuming omega-3 fatty acids after yoga can also support protein synthesis and improve muscle growth. Omega-3s are also fantastic for reducing inflammation and muscle soreness if you’ve really overdone it. Fatty fish, flax seeds, and algae are good sources of omega-3s.
5.4. Easy Post Yoga Meal and Snack Ideas
Combining the nutrients listed above into one post-yoga meal or snack will speed recovery after yoga and may help to reduce soreness in the future. Here are some easy ideas to try:
- Hummus and whole-grain crackers
- Cottage cheese or Greek yogurt and fresh fruit
- Oatmeal with fruit and a scoop of protein powder
- Whole-grain crackers with tuna
- Salmon with sweet potato
- Omelet with cheese, veggies, and avocado
- Whole grain toast with nut butter and fruit
5.5. Timing of Your Post-Yoga Meal or Snack
Timing is just as important as what you eat after yoga. Your body absorbs nutrients and rebuilds glycogen and protein stores more efficiently right after exercise. It’s best to consume your post-yoga meal or snack as soon as possible after class.
You don’t have to be super precise with the timing, but you’ll get the best results if you eat within 45-minutes after yoga. Waiting for as little as two hours to eat can reduce glycogen synthesis by up to 50%.
6. Wrapping Things Up
Experiencing some soreness after yoga is perfectly normal and can even be beneficial, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer through it. The strategies discussed in this article can help you reduce pain and inflammation after a challenging class and help you build muscle so you’re even stronger over time.
The most important things to remember are to stay hydrated and provide your body with the right nutrients as soon as possible after class. This will replace anything you’ve lost during your workout so that your body has the fuel it needs for recovery.
Apart from that, a gentler yoga practice will help reduce soreness after a yoga class that has been more challenging and intense. On TINT, you find a variety of restorative yoga classes that will leave you both relaxed and energized.
Maybe you’ll find your fit in Chris Su‘s Yin yoga workshop The Power of Deep and Mindful Relaxation.
If you’re looking for a shorter practice and a quick relief for soreness after yoga, try Elli Hachmann‘s Restore Yoga practice or Alexandra Harfield‘s class Embrace Softness or use her short Restful Stretch to end any yoga class.
This article was provided by Nicole McCray, an experienced content writer with a passion for all aspects of wellness. She worked a side gig at a yoga studio for years before becoming a mom, and absolutely fell in love with holistic and alternative therapies during her first pregnancy. She’s been proclaimed the “health nut” amongst family and friends, and when she’s not writing, Nicole can be found studying to become a health coach and reading up on all aspects of healthy living.