With countless studies on the benefits of yoga, there is considerably less research on why you may feel sick after yoga. Although it can be any number of things, there are probable reasons as to why you’re not feeling well post-yoga session.
Here’s why you feel sick after yoga – The reasons may include:
- Achy from increasing lactic acid in muscles
- Ate a heavy meal
- Didn’t eat enough
- Liver/gallbladder full of toxins
- The detoxification process is removing toxins
- Body is releasing emotional trauma
- Hormones are fluctuating due to menstrual cycle
We will break down each of these possible diagnoses and offer solutions to prevent future feelings of unwellness. Likely, this ‘sick’ feeling is temporary and a signal that your body is doing the right thing – releasing toxins. However, you always want to be aware of all the possibilities to accurately identify and treat your symptoms.
» MORE: Yoga On a Full Stomach: Is It Safe?
Common Side Effects Post-Yoga:
Many of the side effects of yoga are normal and you should not be worried. Particularly if you are new to the practice of yoga, feeling a bit body-achy and sore is entirely normal.
To break down each side effect of yoga and what it means, here are the factors to watch out for:
You Feel Muscle Pain
Also incredibly common, most people feel a bit of pain after any form of exercise. Your symptoms may feel worse than usual if:
- You’re new to yoga
- You’re returning to it but have taken a long break
- You’re at a point in your menstrual cycle that hormones are causing increased sensitivity. (You will have an excess of cortisol in your body and feel body pains after ovulation, likely at your most lethargic in the week prior to your period beginning).
- You pushed yourself too hard and released too much lactic acid for one session. This causes achy muscles and tenderness.
All of these are temporary pains that should dissipate entirely within a day or two.
You Feel Nauseous and Dizzy
Perhaps the most common feeling of sickness, there are a multitude of possibilities that could cause this sensation post-yoga session. They include:
- You Took Hot Yoga – You could be overheating or may have pushed your body close to heatstroke. Many hot yoga rooms will incorporate humidity along with temperatures ranging from 80-degrees Fahrenheit to 105+.
- How to fix: If you feel limits are being pushed beyond a level of safety, excuse yourself quietly from the class and get some cooler air. Do not risk pushing your body to the brink of heat exhaustion or even heat stroke.
- The Class Was Too Intense – Overheating can happen in traditional yoga settings that are not heated as well. Forms such as Bikram Yoga push many yogis to their limits (even experts that have been practicing for years). The class doesn’t have to be heated to push you past the brink.
- How to fix: Again, politely excuse yourself for some water and take a break. If you feel like fainting or throwing up – your body is trying to communicate to you. Listen to it.
- Another way: If you feel well enough to remain in the classroom, take a breather with a calmer pose, such as child’s pose or hero’s pose. Slow your breathing and continue with the class when you are ready.
Yoga teachers see this all the time and want you to go at your own pace, so do not be embarrassed. It’s self-awareness, which is something you should feel very comfortable in regarding your wellbeing.
- You Ate Too Much – If you ate before class, your body could be rejecting the food due to too much pressure on your digestive system. If you ate a large meal and feel like vomiting, it’s likely due to coiling your organs too much in your abdomen while that food digests.
- How to fix: Eat a smaller meal before your class, something like an apple, nuts, or a protein bar. Or eat your larger meal a few hours before class, but not right before.
- You Didn’t Eat Enough – Conversely, if you haven’t eaten in days, your body may feel the increased impact of these intense movements. Your blood sugar is possibly too low, which can cause you to:
- Feel Shaky
- Experience increased heart rate or blood pressure
- Feeling nervous
- Fainting or dizziness
- How to Fix: Eat a healthy protein snack about an hour or so before your class. Avoid meats and dairy, which digest slower and cause stomach pain as you stretch. If you plan to eat a full meal, give yourself 2-3 hours before the yoga session.
- You’re Dehydrated –
- How to Fix: Always drink water before, during, and after your yoga session. Especially in hot yoga where you are losing more body-moisture to sweat. Add some hydration mix to your water to help prevent dehydration.
You Feel Internal Discomfort
This section of symptoms can still include feeling dizzy and nauseous, but if you don’t feel like it’s any of the above indicators, it could be one of these:
- Your Liver or Gallbladder are Full of Toxins – If you drink alcohol often and then try yoga for the first time, a body-pain-reaction can signify that your liver has more toxins to release.
One of the most important things about yoga that we want you to understand is – Yoga pushes your organs in new angles that can aid with:
- The release of hormones for pent up emotions
- The release of toxins from organs
- Decreased cortisol for lowered stress and depression
- And countless benefits for those with pre-existing conditions such as Heart disease and respiratory conditions (as found in studies such as Yoga Statistics, The U.S. National Library of Medicine’s Study on Cortisol Levels and Stress with Yoga, and The Harvard Medical School.
Due to this – If you have more toxins/cortisol/unhealthy hormones – You may experience more symptoms as these toxins move through your body.
- How to fix: Allow these toxins to pass. If you feel exceptionally unwell, please seek medical treatment and do not accept this over medical advice. However, a bit of unwellness likely means that you needed that yoga session very badly, and your body is passing chemicals it never has before. If symptoms surpass a day or two, you should seek medical counsel.
Your Body is Releasing Emotional Trauma – Similarly to the liver or gallbladder pain, many hormones exist throughout the body. They can store past traumas from our childhood in places that may surprise you. As Mike Doyle writes in his piece, ‘The Science of Using Yoga to Heal from Trauma:’
“If yoga resembles exercise, it could excite the sympathetic nervous system [part of the autonomic nervous system responsible for the fight-or-flight response] because exercise, in general, does excite the sympathetic nervous system.”
You are primarily accessing pinpoints in your nervous system where certain hormones have grown attached. As you shift, stretch, and twist your body – you shake these feelings lose.
- How to Fix: This could mean your instructor is too rough with you or creating tension to be ‘perfect,’ igniting childhood insecurities of inadequacy (this was the case for Doyle’s experience that led him to create the Trauma study in the first place). Therefore, you may need:
- A gentler approach
- A calmer yoga instructor that works with those that have experienced trauma or may have PTSD.
- To face it head-on. Experience those traumas that have been buried skin-deep. Allow the hormones to bring things to the surface that you didn’t realize were still present.
It will hurt temporarily, but the psychological growth that could have taken years to work through in therapy may only take a few days with the help of yoga. Allow your body to feel these emotions, and then release them once and for all.
» MORE: 8 Things to Avoid Doing Before Yoga Practice
Most body pain with yoga is nothing to worry about. It is normal to feel a bit unwell, but most of these conditions can be treated with:
- Proper hydration
- Not overeating right before a session
- Staying regular with yoga to allow toxins/hormones to pass
If symptoms exceed a day or two – Consider reaching out for professional medical advice.