How should I feel the day after yoga?
July 31, 2013 2:11 PM   Subscribe

I took an integral yoga class last night. Today, I am sore and achy -- I feel as bad as I did after taking my first boot camp aerobics class (which combined aerobics and weights and was super hard). I expected the kind of soreness you get when you've stretched a bit too much, or maybe the kind when you've walked further than usual, and your muscles feel open and a bit tired and maybe certain movements twinge a bit. Instead, I have a lot of deep muscle soreness, like I've been moving lots of heavy boxes, and I'm incredibly tired and headachy. Is this normal?

A few more details about me: I'm in my 40s and overweight. I have taken yoga before, but not for over a decade. I like exercise classes and have taken a lot of them, including Pilates, which never left me this sore.

I haven't taken a class that involves flexibility for about 3 years, and I don't really stretch on my own, so I'm not that flexible right now. I did most of the yoga moves badly, and couldn't do some of them at all (for example, the inversion and warrior pose -- I did alternate poses during that part of the class). I had to use a strap for many of the poses. It's a level 1/level 2 combined class, and everyone else there (4 other students) seemed to really know what they were doing and seemed to all know each other, so they've likely been at this for a while. I didn't get a lot of individual help from the instructor, except for the alternative poses and how to use the strap.

However, in spite of all that, I really liked the class. I liked the chanting, I like the meditation, I liked trying the poses, I liked the feeling of doing them. I liked pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I think I need a yoga class, but I'm not sure about this class. Is it normal to feel so sore and achy?

Part of the reason I'm asking is that when I've taken yoga before, the instructor would go around and "adjust" you to help you were doing the poses correctly -- they'd move your foot here, move your arm there, or twist the angle of your body just a bit. This instructor didn't do that -- she was at the front of the room and went through all the poses and described things (I found her descriptions really clear). I followed her as best I could. When I wasn't doing a pose, she gave me an alternative, and as I mentioned she helped me with the strap, but she never came around and repositioned me or anyone else.

So I'm wondering -- did I do everything wrong, and is that why I'm so sore and achy? Or is feeling this crappy and awful normal when you take up a new kind of exercise? Should the instructor have helped me more? Or is this just how yoga is done these days? Maybe I'm so sore because I'm getting older (a lot of things are changing about my body -- is this just one of them)?
posted by OrangeDisk to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'm 53 and the first time I did yoga after a long time off I was sore for FIVE DAYS. That showed me how great it was for me and how much my body longed for it. I can't speak to pilates, but it definitely uses different muscles than my fitness bootcamp.

Headachy probably means that you haven't hydrated enough. The way I have been able to combat that in the past is by getting a water bottle with volume marks on it so that I know for sure how much I'm drinking and I keep a running daily total.
posted by janey47 at 2:18 PM on July 31, 2013

If you haven't done yoga in ten years and are overweight and in your 40s and had to do an alternate pose for warrior...I would find it odd if you didn't feel achy and sore and a little beat up.

Yoga can be quite hard. Any new exercise program can leave someone feeling like they got run over by a truck. Eat well today, drink a lot of water, go for a walk, and go back to class tomorrow.

As for the instructor giving personal corrections, sometimes this changes from day to day even with the same instructor. Try it a few more times and see if this instructor, or another one at the same school, does things differently. It could be a sign of a bad instructor or it could be a fluke.
posted by daveliepmann at 2:18 PM on July 31, 2013

It totally depends on the class, but yeah, with more vigorous classes, a bunch of soreness is completely normal.

If you feel like you aren't doing things correctly, approach the yogi next time and ask for more corrections. That's what they are there for.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:19 PM on July 31, 2013

Yup, sounds par for the course. Being headachey, though - were you dehydrated at all? Are you now? Being dehydrated can make the aches worse, in addition to causing headaches. Drink some water!
posted by rtha at 2:20 PM on July 31, 2013

I usually go to a yoga class once a week, but if I haven't gone in awhile I always feel it the next day or two. Especially my abs. Honestly I like it when I'm sore the next day, otherwise I feel like I didn't accomplish anything by going.
posted by jenjenc at 2:21 PM on July 31, 2013

Yup, yoga definitely makes me feel that way if I do a full hour class after not doing it for a long time.
posted by joan_holloway at 2:25 PM on July 31, 2013

Best answer: This is 100% normal after 10 years, even with the gentlest classes, don't worry. Try to stretch a little every day before your next class, otherwise you will tighten up and it will be awful all over again.

I don't recommend the 1/2 classes for you right now, tbh. The level 1 teachers will usually be more alert to your current ability level.
posted by elizardbits at 2:26 PM on July 31, 2013

You also might try the 60 minute classes instead of a full 90min classes.
posted by elizardbits at 2:27 PM on July 31, 2013

posted by entropicamericana at 2:32 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a sore yoga body right now too. I find that a feeling of self-righteousness helps put the soreness into proper perspective.
posted by zscore at 2:37 PM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

Definitely normal. I've been exercising consistently for 15 years but every time I mix it up, I tend to be pretty sore - if you're using muscles in ways they aren't used to, they will let you know. The good news is if you're consistent your body will adapt very quickly. Just a few more times and you probably won't experience any soreness at all.
posted by something something at 2:54 PM on July 31, 2013

weird question? are you double jointed? IF you are that is why you are so achy. people with hyper-motion or ehlers-danos syndrome are advised not to do yoga since it can cause things to pop out of sockets. People who are double jointed their muscles work overtime since joints flex farther then normal.
posted by majortom1981 at 2:55 PM on July 31, 2013

Best answer: Hmm, I'd never heard of Integral Yoga before - it sounds fun!

What you describe sounds very similar to how I feel after a hardcore 90min Ashtanga class, and I've been doing yoga four times a week for about eight months. So, totally normal and to be expected, especially if you've not practiced for a while.

I find yoga uses lots of muscles in much stronger ways than other classes, including pilates (which I also do, so have some basis for comparison). So, just because you're doing other stuff, doesn't mean you can leap into yoga without some payment in terms of muscle soreness :)

I would absolutely recommend that you try a few different yoga classes because in my experience, yoga instructors vary WILDLY in style, and finding something that 'fits' is really important. Yoga isn't 'done' a certain way, but people teach it differently. A good teacher will adjust your posture, either by telling you how you should be feeling (which it sounds like yours did) or physically, and offering modifications to match your ability level (which it also sounds like yours did?).

There might also be a stepped-down beginners class, or a shorter class, which could be a good idea to attend for a little while. Don't be too proud to go to one of these, even if you've done yoga before, even if you're super fit - they're fantastic for making sure you've nailed all the basics before moving onto harder stuff. My actual yoga teacher spends what sounds like hours watching youtube videos of other practioners, learning from them, and gets loads out of something as small as just looking at how someone places their hands for Sun Salutation - and she's been doing this her whole life.

Good for you for picking it up - yoga is awesome!
posted by citands at 3:07 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

This sounds like how I would feel after an intensive weekly Intro to Yoga class that I took several years ago. If you're new to yoga and you're out of shape, it makes sense that you're feeling sore and tired. Yoga works more muscles than you'd expect, and a lot deeper than what you'd expect -- my first few weeks in class I expected my thighs to hurt after spending an entire class working on warrior and other lunges/standing poses, but having my abs hurt was surprising, and totally normal according to my instructor. The more your body gets used to working those muscles, the less it will hurt the next day.

The headachey feeling could be from dehydration, so make sure you're drinking plenty of water, and get as much sleep as you can.
posted by palomar at 3:22 PM on July 31, 2013

I took classes at Integral Yoga for a long time, and I want to speak to something you wrote:

I liked pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

I'm not sure if you meant physically, but because your question is about soreness, I'm assuming so. One thing I loved about taking classes at Integral is that it didn't feel like a competition. I felt like the instructors urged us to do only what we were comfortable with, and not feel compelled to push too hard or force anything that didn't feel right. There was never a "just one more!" or a "push a little harder!" like you'd hear in a more aerobics-oriented exercise class.

I also remember instructors always beginning class by asking if there were people who were new to yoga, people who had injuries or limited mobility that the instructor should be aware of, etc. The Integral Yoga center where I took classes also had a "gentle yoga" class in addition to the regular beginner's classes, which are fairly gentle to begin with as 21st century western yoga goes.

If you're used to exercise within a gym/competitive/sporty context, it can be really difficult to wrap your head around the idea that it's not a race or a contest, and you don't win any awards for being able to do a certain variation or hold a pose for a certain amount of time. You are where you are. Your body is capable of what it's capable of.

You should definitely avail yourself of the more gentle classes they offer -- which also includes bumping down to beginner if you'd been going to intermediate out of a sense of "having done yoga before" -- and speak up if you have questions or need advice about modifying a pose for your level of ability. It's not junior high PE class. Nobody's going to judge you for what you can or can't do.

If you mostly like the meditation and chanting stuff, the Integral center I went to had meditation-only classes as well as yoga classes, some of which I believe were free to attend. So you can definitely keep doing that stuff if you find that you're just not physically up to yoga.
posted by Sara C. at 3:27 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's a level 1/level 2 combined class, and everyone else there (4 other students) seemed to really know what they were doing and seemed to all know each other

Just saw that I missed this.

You should be going to beginner/level 1 classes, not the combined class. In my experience the level 1/2 combined classes at Integral are structured for students who are closer to being ready for level 2/intermediate, not an open thing for students at whatever level.

I remember there being a pretty big jump between the level 1 class and the combined 1/2 class -- after a few months in level 1, where I felt like I was one of the more "advanced"* students, I started going to the combined class and definitely got a workout. Even after months of yoga, there were poses I couldn't do. And my sense was that most of the people in that class had been doing yoga and specifically going to Integral for quite a while. And, again, that was after months in the level 1 class. Going straight to combined 1/2 would have kicked my fit, flexible, 20-something ass.

I think because Integral is so non-sporty and not really workout focused, there's less energy focused on moving on to the "next" level. When you look at it in that framework as opposed to more of a gym framework, suddenly there's no real rush to get out of level 1.

*Advanced in quotes because, again, Integral really concentrates on the notion that yoga isn't a sport, and you're not supposed to be comparing yourself to others in the class or even to your ideas about what you should be able to do.
posted by Sara C. at 3:38 PM on July 31, 2013

It's very normal. My very first yoga class year ago was a 90 minute bikram class. I have never been so sore in my entire life for the days following and I remember thinking about the incredible soreness between each of my ribs, "I actually have muscles there? Really?"
Years later, I still get sore if I do not go at least once a week.
Try to go back as soon as possible. Stretching everything all out again will leave you feeling better, not worse, oddly.
posted by tenaciousmoon at 4:24 PM on July 31, 2013

I exercise regularly, but just recently re-started yoga after a long hiatus. And I've been getting weird next-day aches too! It's super common. I welcome them; I figure it means the class worked me out pretty good.

If you liked the teacher other than her lack of adjustments, approach her before class next time and tell her you like adjustments. Some people love them, some hate them, so it'll be helpful for her to know your preference. Also, some teachers won't adjust first-timers too much, because it can sometimes be interpreted as "you're doing it wrong" and make the student self-conscious.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:36 PM on July 31, 2013

Best answer: Yoga is tricky, because it seems all gentle and peaceful, but it somehow still kicks your ass. So even though you didn't feel like you were exerting yourself all that much, you actually were.

And yes, it's fairly normal to feel a little headachey and yucky with muscle soreness. Your body is working hard at repairing all those stretched and broken fibers, and that loads up your circulatory system with extra helpings of waste products.

(In fact, some people can feel this way after nothing more than a massage.)

As you progress, it should go away. And keep stretching through the soreness, or your muscles will end up tighter.
posted by gjc at 4:50 PM on July 31, 2013

yeah, a lot of people have the misconception that yoga is just gentle stretching, but it's really so much more than that. It really develops your muscles and can even have a cardiovascular aspect, and even people who are very fit from other kinds of exercise can be sore after yoga if they are not used to it. I once read about a yoga teacher who taught professional skiers, and they were all so sore the next day they couldn't ski at all! I am a certified yoga teacher, and I don't normally get sore after my own practice but I did have really sore abs from a yoga class I did recently.

It does depend on the class, too- they can really vary in intensity.

And some teachers adjust less than others. The idea behind not adjusting too much is that some people's bodies are not in a place where they can get into the position fully, and adjusting them may be pushing them too far; by continuing to work as they are they will eventually get there. (but when way out of alignment, people ideally should be told)
posted by bearette at 5:22 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have done lots of yoga and I often will get this when I come back to it after a break. As others have alluded to, you use different muscles and you use them in a different way in yoga than in other classes. You talk a lot about stretching, but there is quite a bit weight-bearing that happens in yoga as well (downward dog, hello!). And it does sound like you are dehydrated, so you should make sure you're drinking water during and after a class.

And yeah, if you are brand-new to yoga, you probably want to try a beginner's class instead of a 1/2 class, because you want to make sure you're learning to do the poses in the way they're intended - otherwise you can injure yourself, or it can just be frustrating trying to keep up.

I did most of the yoga moves badly, and couldn't do some of them at all (for example, the inversion and warrior pose -- I did alternate poses during that part of the class). I had to use a strap for many of the poses.

This is all fine. You really, seriously, truly cannot do yoga badly. Really, I swear. I know that's hard to believe (it sounds like woo) but it's true. Because the point is not how well you do the poses, but how yoga affects you, physically, emotionally, mentally.

In every class I've ever taken, there have been people who used props, and there's almost always at least one person who sits out one or more poses for whatever reason (inversions are notoriously tough and warrior pose is called that for a reason). And there's nothing wrong with doing a modified/alternate pose - that's what the teacher is suggesting them for!

My favorite teacher used to talk about going to an advanced class and how impressed she was that one attendee spent half the class in savasana (corpse pose, the lying-on-your-back meditation pose you do at the end). Some people would look at her and think she was lazy or weak, but my teacher's point was that this woman was strong enough to know what she needed from her yoga practice that day and make it happen.

So yes, what you're experiencing is normal, and I would suggest 1. trying a more beginner-friendly class and 2. reminding yourself that it's totally normal and fine to be "bad" at yoga, you will actually probably get more out of it than if you were naturally "good" at it.
posted by lunasol at 11:37 PM on July 31, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I just started yoga three weeks ago. I'm in my early 30s, overweight. I was sore for five days after the first class. After the second, it was two days. Today is Thursday and my class was on Tuesday -- I'm very mildly sore, but otherwise OK.

Almost everyone in my class (youngest person is 20s, oldest is a male possibly late 50s) is not so good at something in the class.

I think it is definitely normal to feel sore and achey. Even my slim, healthier co-workers and classmates felt sore.

I also feel like I need yoga. Best of luck!
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 11:39 AM on August 1, 2013

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