What to Do When Yoga Makes You Sore

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Yoga is supposed to feel good, right? So what should you do when it makes you hurt? If the pain is coming from muscle soreness, there's no need to worry. The soreness you're feeling is temporary and can be prevented by, you guessed it, doing more yoga more regularly.

Why You Feel Sore

One of the reasons that yoga feels so good and is so good for you is that it gets into places in your body that haven't seen the light of day in a long time. We normally go about our days repeating the same set of motions over and over, letting all those neglected nooks and crannies get dusty from disuse. Then yoga comes in and shakes everything up by shining a bright light into those dark corners.

Even if you exercise regularly, your muscles probably don't get the same kind of intensity as they do when you keep your thigh parallel to the floor in a warrior II for ten breaths or stretch your hamstring deeply in pyramid pose. The eventual result of all this sustained attention is improved strength and flexibility. But along the way, you are probably going to experience some soreness.

In fact, it's pretty common to have sore muscles a day or two after doing yoga, especially if you are just starting out or practice infrequently. Delayed onset muscle soreness usually occurs 12-48 hours after exercising, which differentiates it from the sudden and immediate pain you would feel from pulling a muscle. Soreness also will usually go away on its own much faster than the pain from a more serious injury.

What You Can Do About Muscle Soreness

  1. Rest: Rest your sore muscles for an extra day.
  2. Heat: Take a hot bath to help your muscles relax. Some yogis swear by Epsom salts baths, though their effects on muscle pain are not scientifically known. Likewise the homeopathic remedy arnica, which is also popular but unproven.
  3. Medication: Taking Ibuprofen helps relieve pain and reduce inflammation, both of which will make you feel better.
  4. Gentle exercise: If you can stand it, lightly stretching the sore area can help reduce stiffness and bring back something close to normal range of motion. Make sure to take it super easy. Warming up the muscles with some other form of gentle exercise can also help. For instance, if you have sore legs from yoga, twenty minutes of easy work on the elliptical trainer can make them feel better.
  5. Practice yoga regularly: Do more yoga! If you continue to do yoga consistently, you will likely discover you experience less soreness each time. At least three times a week is ideal if you want to maintain your progress. While doing yoga once or fewer times a week is still great for relieving stress and clearing your mind, it's probably going to result in soreness every time. 
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