Even though it may seem slow-moving and subtle, yoga asana (the physical stretching component of yoga) will leave you feeling feel stiff or sore from time to time.
Delayed onset muscle soreness, known as DMOS, has nothing to do with how fit or experienced you are, your spiritual beliefs or your weight.
It can affect you whether you are a sofa sloth who decides to make sudden changes or a sportsperson who trains for marathons on a regular basis! It also impacts on people who are active in more moderate ways.
“You may think your muscles are active, but some yoga poses will still stretch them in unfamiliar ways. Muscles can also become sore because they’ve been overused.”
-Loren Fishman (medical doctor-director).
What to do?
When I get sore muscles, a nice walk stretches out my body. If that’s not enough, a hot water bottle applied to my stiff limbs feels good. Sometimes I alternate with ice every five minutes or so, but mostly I prefer heat. Experiment for yourself to see what suits you best.
The most important thing is to be gentle with your body. Patience is always required.
Show love to your muscles
Massage is something that I enjoy, and as a highly sensitive person I am fussy about what oils and scents are used. While self-massage is helpful, of course going to a therapist is a wonderful treat.
To get the most from a massage your must speak up about what your needs are and be clear about what you do not like. Massage therapists are not mind readers. If you communicate well then the therapist will have more chance of helping you to discover what you do like.
Yoga nidra (see photo below) is another great approach to releasing tension muscle by muscle.
Eating after yoga
Fresh food can’t prevent sore muscles, but it is crucial for our wellbeing and it supports recovery and resilience.
Getting nutrients into the body by eating carbs and proteins after any form of exercise helps it to rebuild muscle protein and glycogen which are important for energy and stimulating new muscle growth.
Three tips to care for your body if it is aching after physical activity:
1. GET PLENTY OF SLEEP
Going to bed early and having good quality sleep is effective on so many levels! Winding down and having a restful night will help your body’s neuroendocrine system to prepare the tissues for repair.
Sleep will bring your body into ‘rest and digest’ mode, which is the prime state for relief from muscle aches to happen.[iii]
2. DRINK MORE WATER.
Water is life. Always aim to keep hydrated. Drink even more on the days that you feel tender. Water will aid your recovery.
I never drink water ice cold: room temperature or warm is kinder to my gut.
Even though it might seem like the last thing you want to do if you are full of aches, movement can ease physical tightness. Just take it easy. Gentle yoga will limber you up again.
There are endless robust studies showing the benefits of yoga. It can reduce pain and disability. Even in people patients with chronic low back pain it can be practiced safely [iv]. The key word here is ‘safe’. Slow and steady is best, so always listen to your body. Bí curamach.*
So now you know the story.
It is common to feel tight or sore in your muscles after intense activity. Sleep supports the body’s healing mechanisms. Keeping well hydrated with water is always a good idea.
If you feel tender or uncomfortable a day or two after yoga, don’t sit still as if you are seizing up. Get moving, but take it easy and maybe practice yoga for a shorter period.
Till next time…
* Bí curamach, pronounced ‘be coor-am-och’ is the Irish phrase for ‘be careful’.
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[i] MD, and medical director of Manhattan Physical Medicine.
[ii] Song-gyu et al (2013), ‘Additional effects of taurine on the benefits of BCAA intake for the delayed-onset muscle soreness and muscle damage induced by high-intensity eccentric exercise’, Advances in experimental medicine and biology, pg. 179-187.
[iii] Advice from Amy C. Sedgewick, emergency medicine doctor / Yoga Medicine certified instructor.
[iv] Chang et al (2016), ‘Yoga as a treatment for chronic low back pain: A systematic review of the literature’, Journal of orthopedics & rheumatology.
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