Can You Do Too Much Yoga?

Yoga is meant to bring about relaxation and peace of mind, but everything is best in moderation. According to MedicalNewsToday, yoga is a practice of strengthening both the body and the mind. With a history spanning centuries and multiple continents, today there are numerous styles of yoga to choose from. Some methods of yoga — like Hatha yoga (which focuses on physical poses), Iyengar yoga (which uses props to achieve proper alignment), and Bikram yoga (which uses heat and is often referred to as hot yoga) — are known for their emphasis on physical movements. Like any form of physical activity, attention to your body is imperative.

The benefits of having a yoga practice are numerous, from helping you become physically stronger and more flexible, to reducing stress, easing arthritis and chronic pain, and aiding in weight loss, reports Johns Hopkins Medicine. Yoga can also help you sleep better, give you more energy, and brighten your mood. With benefits like these, who wouldn't want to do as much yoga as possible? But as the saying goes, sometimes too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Here's how you can do too much yoga and what might happen if you overdo your practice.

Signs of an unhealthy practice

Like other things in your life, you should set healthy boundaries around your yoga practice. If you have an unhealthy practice, then there can be adverse side effects, says Everyday Health. One sign of an unhealthy yoga practice is if you notice that yoga has gotten in the way of your sleep, relationships, work, or other commitments and hobbies. Even meditative yoga practices can be overdone, especially if they are intruding on other responsibilities. When one activity begins disrupting other areas of your life, it's likely time to reassess your boundaries.

Another way that yoga practice can become unhealthy is if you push yourself too hard (per Everyday Health). This can come in the form of taking classes that are too advanced for your current skill level, forcing poses that are beyond your body's ability, or taking too many classes back-to-back. Even though yoga can be a relaxing activity, it's still rooted in physical movement, and skipping rest days can also be a sign of an unhealthy relationship with yoga. Because yoga is focused on steady breathing, if you notice that your breath is heavy and labored, and you're shaking during poses, then it may be a sign that you're pushing yourself beyond your limits.

Injuries can happen

Too much yoga can take its toll on your body if you're not careful. Pushing yourself into advanced poses and not giving your body sufficient time to rest are both factors that may lead to injury (per Everyday Health). If you ever feel pain while practicing yoga, stop. Similarly, being too sore or in significant pain following a yoga class is a sign that you're pushing your body past its limits. With yoga's emphasis on flexibility, you could experience a torn or pulled muscle if you push too hard while stretching. You may feel eager to master a new pose, but remember that it's important to go at your own pace and listen to your body.

If you have pre-existing injuries, yoga can put you at risk of worsening your injury, says Healthline. Particularly for people who have experienced musculoskeletal or joint injuries, prioritize learning modifications that will help you avoid further injury. It's recommended that anyone new to yoga begin with private lessons to learn proper form, especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition that may require modifications to poses. Always check with your healthcare provider before trying a new form of yoga.

Tips for healthy boundaries

So what are some ways to establish a positive relationship with yoga practice? A good time to begin discussing healthy boundaries is during childhood. Many schools and youth programs now offer yoga and mindfulness courses, which can be useful opportunities for establishing a healthy, beneficial practice (per Action for Healthy Kids). In kids, yoga has been found to improve focus, concentration, and comprehension, and group classes can create environments of confidence and non-competitiveness. Discussing these positive components of yoga with your child can emphasize the foundation of why yoga is practiced.

Never feel guilty for taking a rest day. In fact, your body needs rest to thrive during future yoga classes and achieve that new pose you've been working towards. On a rest day, try reading books or articles to learn about the philosophies of yoga, including the principles of non-violence and compassion, suggests Everyday Health. Knowing more about yoga's philosophies can help you better understand the meaning behind your practice, as well as your boundaries. Think of the skill of setting boundaries as a muscle. The more you practice setting healthy boundaries and enforcing them, the more likely you'll be able to enjoy a healthy yoga practice.