Although yoga is touted as a gentle, low-impact exercise, you should experience some muscle soreness after a good practice. Yoga poses put mild stress on your joints and challenge you to stand or sit for periods of time in positions you don't normally occupy. Sharp or severe muscle pains aren't a good sign, but general soreness means your muscles are getting stronger and more flexible.
Although some muscle soreness is natural after any exercise, it is possible to injure yourself during a yoga practice. If you're experiencing sharp, debilitating pain, seek medical attention right away to rule out a muscle sprain. To prevent injuries, warm up before beginning your practice and work within your comfort level -- getting the form right on basic poses is more important than overstretching. If a pose hurts, stop or modify it and take a break if you need to.
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen, also called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories or NSAIDs, are effective muscle pain relievers for most people. However, habitual use can cause stomach irritation. Never take more than the recommended daily dose, and tell your doctor if you find yourself using pain relievers on a regular basis -- you may have an underlying condition or just need to take it easy for a while.
According to Ayurvedic theory -- a form of alternative medicine favored by many yogis -- muscle pain comes from excess "vata" energy, which has cool and dry properties. Excess vata can be counterbalanced by moist heat, so taking a warm bath or placing a hot water bottle on your sore muscles can ease pain. Although alternative therapies may not work as well as conventional treatment, there's little risk in trying moist heat, especially as an alternative to excessive doses of pain relievers. However, ice is a better treatment for acute strains and sprains.
You may also be able to find natural muscle pain relief in your kitchen. According to both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicinal theory, herbs such as ginger, turmeric, fennel, camphor and clove can soothe sore muscles, as well as menthol-based ointments. Add these herbs to a warm bath or massage them into your skin with vegetable oil. To avoid possible allergic reactions, don't use any herbs you haven't ingested or applied topically in the past.