One yoga class can make you feel energized, calmer, and more robust.
“After practicing yoga, many of us notice that our minds feel clearer and calmer, and there seems to be a little bit more energy available to us,” says Baxter Bell, MD, a yoga instructor based in the San Francisco Bay Area, who has an individual yoga therapist certification from the International Association of Yoga Therapists (C-IAYT) and is an experienced registered yoga teacher with a 500-hours-of-teacher-training credential from the Yoga Alliance (YT 500).
He says that it can be an excellent tool for managing stress.
Experts say that you may overdo it depending on how much and what type of Yoga you do.
There are a variety of styles of Yoga. These range from physically challenging “power” classes to yoga nidra – which is as close to a nap as you can get while doing Yoga (it is sometimes called “yogic sleeping”). Dr. Bell says that if you are in good health, you can do moderate amounts of Yoga each day.
He says that because many styles of Yoga have a physical component, it is possible to overdo the amount of strain on your body if you are doing a practice too tricky for you or too intense. Bell says that it’s all about balance. If we overdo it, we could end up with injuries; if too little is done, we might not see the desired results.
How can you go overboard with Yoga? How can you tell if you’re pushing yourself too hard in your yoga practice?
You may need to do more with Yoga
Here are some signs that your yoga practice is too extreme.
Yoga is getting in the way of your sleep, social life, or other things that keep you well
You don’t hear people say, “Oh no, I have been meditating way too much recently,” says Judi Bar (CIAYT, ERYT 500), yoga program manager for Cleveland Clinic Wellness and Preventive Medicine. The truth is that we need to practice this part of our Yoga more.
Bell says it is rare to go too far with the meditative aspects of Yoga, but you can do so if your practice interferes with your sleep, social life, work, or other responsibilities.
You are pushing yourself too hard and skipping rest days
Bell is aware of the tendency to push himself. When I first encountered Yoga in the 1990s, I was a triathlete, physician, and road cyclist. I had little free time, so I squeezed as much into my limited time. This often left me tired.
Bell says that pushing yourself physically too hard can be done by practicing for a few days straight without rest. You may be doing a lot of physical activity, but your yoga practice is too intense. He says that overdoing physical activity can cause the body tired and in pain and increase the risk of injuries like overuse.
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You are taking classes that are too advanced or intense
Bell warns that classes that are either too difficult or above your skill level can lead to injury.
Bell suggests that if you are a beginner, you should find a class at an entry-level in the style of Yoga you want. He says that many types described as ‘core vinyasa yoga’ or ‘power yoga’ are of an intermediate or advanced level. “Vinyasa,” which means breath-synchronized movement, is often taught faster.
He says that if you are younger and healthier, you will probably be able to adapt and enjoy some of the more physically demanding styles of Yoga. But even then, starting out with a beginner’s level class is a good idea.
Consider your fitness level. Bell says that if you are at a lower fitness level or have a physical issue or age, you should look for a class with a pace you feel comfortable in and one that isn’t overly strenuous.
The signs that you’re pushing too hard in your yoga practice
According to Carol Krucoff (C-IAYT eRYT500), author of 108 Easy Yoga Practices for Stress Reduction in a Minute or Less, the best way to tell if you are pushing yourself beyond your limits is to focus on your breathing. She says you shouldn’t be so huffing or puffing that you cannot focus on breathing. She says you should not be breathless when doing Yoga or working your muscles.
She says that Yoga is, by definition, all about the breath. Krucoff says that it’s not Yoga if you are shaking or your breathing is labored.
She says that if you find yourself out of breath during Yoga, this could mean that you are doing poses you must prepare for or that the class you’re taking needs to be corrected.
Another sign that you are overdoing Yoga is pain and soreness. Bell says even the best-intentioned yogis can feel overstimulated a few days after class, particularly if they’re beginners. Bell says he tells his new students to pay attention to their thoughts the day after class, before bed, and a few hours later.
Bell says that if you feel some soreness (not debilitating), but it fades over a few days, this is a healthy and normal response from your body to being challenged. If you feel more pain that does not go away after a few days, you might have overdone things, says Bell. You should consult a doctor.