How Yoga Can Relieve Muscle Tension
Tight muscles can be a problem whether you've been overdoing it at the gym or spending too much time crunching numbers at work. Have you been looking for a simple solution for your muscle pain? Yoga relieves muscle tension naturally, in addition to improving flexibility and range of motion.
Are You Ready to Loosen Your Muscles?
Muscle tension is a common problem, often affecting muscles in the neck, back, hips, and shoulders. More than 1.7 million people worldwide experience musculoskeletal pain, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO notes that pain in the muscles, joints, and tissues occurs more often in high-income countries, like the US.
That's not surprising, given the long hours many Americans spend at work or commuting to their jobs. Any activity that involves repetitive motions or remaining in the same position for hours can strain your muscles, causing muscle pain and tension.
Sitting, an activity that seems low-risk, is actually hard on your muscles. Remaining inactive for hours stresses muscles in your core, back, neck, shoulders, hips, and legs, increasing muscle tension.
While some muscles tighten as a result of stress and strain, others become too loose. These imbalances can affect your posture, causing more pain, balance issues, and worsening muscle tension. Imbalances and tight muscles can also increase your risk for injuries if you happen to fall.
Loosening Your Muscles with Yoga
Yoga poses gently stretch muscles and help muscle fibers loosen, decreasing pain. When you first begin practicing yoga, you may have trouble performing some poses if tight muscles limit your flexibility. Luckily, your yoga instructor can show you how to use blocks, cushions, and bolsters that will help you carry out these poses. As your muscles loosen, you may eventually perform poses without these aids.
In addition to loosening and stretching muscles, yoga also:
- Strengthens Muscles. Strong muscles are essential for everything you do, from sitting to walking to bending. When your muscles are strong, you're much less likely to lose your balance or strain your muscles when you're active.
- Eases Pain. Tight muscles make every movement painful, cause headaches, and may make sleeping difficult. Although over-the-counter medications reduce pain, the effect is only temporary. Luckily, yoga offers long-term pain control benefits. Home office workers who participated in a research study published in The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society noticed an improvement in pain after completing a one-month yoga program. Participants reported less head neck, hip, buttock, and upper and lower back pain, in addition to an improvement in mood, after practicing yoga for 10 minutes a day.
- Enhances Relaxation. Yoga is just as much about the mind as it is the body. Deep yogic breathing and meditation improve your state of mind and reduce tension and anxiety. As you practice yoga, your body releases hormones essential for relaxation. When you're feeling relaxed, you'll notice that your muscles don't feel quite as tight or painful. If you're feeling stressed during the day, a quick meditation session will calm your mind and relax your muscles.
- Improves Body Awareness. You'll focus on the sensations of your body during yoga class and learn to recognize the precise positions of your limbs as you perform poses. When you're fully aware of your body, it's easier to tell if you're holding your body in a posture that could lead to muscle tension. Once you recognize the problem, you can change your position or perform a few stretches to stay limber.
A Simple Yoga Pose to Decrease Muscle Tension and Stiffness
Cat-cow is an excellent pose to try if you need to relieve muscle tension quickly. Cat-cow strengthens your spine and arms and loosens tight muscles in the neck, upper and lower back, hips, chest, and abdomen.
Begin the pose on all fours. Inhale and move into the cow portion of the sequence by dropping your abdomen while extending your head toward the ceiling. Transition to cat by exhaling, rounding your back, and dropping your head toward the mat. Repeat the pose five to 10 times.
Keep your muscles loose with yoga classes! Not sure which class is right for you? Give us a call, and we'll help you get started.
World Health Organization: Musculoskeletal Health, 7/14/2022
Sage Journals: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society: Impact of 10-Min Daily Yoga Exercises on Physical and Mental Discomfort of Home-Office Workers During COVID-19, 10/1/2021
Yoga Journal: A 6-Pose Yoga Sequence to Relieve Back Pain After Prolonged Sitting, 7/29/2019
Medical News Today: What Can Cause Tight and Rigid Muscles, 1/8/2018