One of the many reasons we love yoga is that it makes us limber and supple -- in the long run, anyway. As with most exercise, though, suddenly getting into yoga or pushing past your familiar limits may temporarily have the opposite effect of sore, tight muscles. But don't let that scare you off yoga. You're almost certainly suffering from a case of delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS.
Stick with yoga and you'll be stronger and less prone to injury. Youll also enjoy an enhanced range of motion that's sure to improve your life. DOMS lasts for a couple of days but Yoga is forever.
What is DOMS?
DOMS is the same thing that happens to us after lifting weights and other exercises that push muscles past their current limits. Yoga requires your muscles to resist against your own body weight and to contract and elongate past their comfort zone. The fact that you're sore means that you're changing your muscles.
Scientists don't entirely agree on exactly what causes DOMS, but the possibilities range from connective tissue damage, muscle damage, inflammation, spasm and enzyme imbalance. At the end of the day, though, it's really just part of the the "no pain, no gain deal" and the body's way of rebuilding itself. The inflammation is the signal for your body to grow new muscle fibers to compensate for the tenderizing your muscles took from the workout.
DOMS is most likely to set in from 12 to 72 hours after your yoga class and usually begins to subside after 72 hours.
Treatment and Prevention
Do More Yoga: If you're feeling stiff and sore after a yoga class, your inclination may be to restrict your movement. However, following up the next day with an easier level yoga class -- or just doing 15 minutes of of stretching at home -- may help reduce stiffness and soreness. Go easy on the sorest muscles, though, and give them a chance to heal from your prior yoga workout.
Home Care: Ice packs can be helpful for strained muscles. While the ethos of many yoga instructors is to stay drug-free, there's no known medical reason for not taking anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Alleve).
Drink Water: Small tears in the muscle and resulting waste products produced are possible causes of DOMS. That's one reason it's good to drink a lot of water after a yoga class. In addition to rehydrating you, it may help flush out the waste that may irritate nerve endings.
Warm Up: Warming up your muscles with gentle stretches and movements can help reduce DOMS symptoms. Although most yoga instructors are trained to begin classes slowly, we do encounter the occasional overzealous Yoga teacher. If you feel like your body is being jolted into action too rapidly for your muscles to warm up properly, you may want to switch to an easier class -- or find another instructor.