Tingling during yoga could be a sign of spiritual awakening, but in reality, it's most likely a restriction of blood flow or compression of a nerve. Tingling may also feel like a burning or numbing sensation in your arm or leg, but it also describes that pins and needles feeling you get when a part of your body is falling asleep. Some teachers may tell you to breathe through it, but tingling is generally a feeling to avoid in yoga.
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Of course, if you're lying in Savasana and tingling with energy and ecstasy, then savor it. This prana is what yoga is all about. Other tingling, though, is a reason to be mindful of your movement.
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Blood Flow Restriction
You might experience blood flow restriction during meditation, in which you're sitting cross legged for long periods of time, or in a yin practice where you hold poses for several minutes at a time. Although yoga instructors sometimes encourage you to endure the tingling, it's in your best interest to try to relieve it.
A major artery runs along the inside of the pelvis. As you sit or fold over your legs, you compress it, which restricts blood flow to your lower legs. Your foot, shins or thighs may become numb and fall asleep. How intense this compression is depends on your personal anatomy — some people may not find the compression results in tingling at all, while others may actually experience the tingling as pain.
Instead of just sitting with it and observing these warning signs from your body, shift your position. As Yin Yoga teacher and author Bernie Clark notes, you might want to sit on a cushion to decrease the amount of hip or spine flexion, widen your legs or, if you're cross-legged, bring the other foot in toward your pelvis first.
You may experience nerve compression in yoga at the shoulders, spine or buttocks. The nerve compression doesn't necessarily affect the place where the compression occurs, but might radiate elsewhere. For example, if you compress the sciatic nerve in your buttocks, you may feel tingling down through the leg.
Forward folds — especially for those who have complications with the discs in your back — are an example of positions that could compress the sciatic nerve. Folding less aggressively, bending your knees in a fold and, if seated, sitting on an elevated cushion all help alleviate the potential source of compression.
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Thoracic outlet syndrome results when you compress the nerves that run into your arm. The way some people's shoulder joints are shaped can make this compression happen when they raise their arms up overhead, such as in Extended Mountain pose or Warrior I. If you find this is true for you, simply widen the distance between your arms and don't try to get them right next to your ears. You might also opt for putting your hands at heart center instead of overhead.
Tingling that lingers long after practice and lasts throughout the day should be looked at by a medical professional. It could indicate a serious medical condition or nutritional deficiency. Sudden tingling and numbness could also indicate something serious that shouldn't be ignored.