Possible Adverse Reactions to Yoga or Yoga-based Bodywork?

Understandably, the Question or Issue occasionally comes up:
Can this kind of therapy cause other problems or make things worse?
Are there side-effects to Feeling, Relaxing, Lengthening & Balancing Your Muscles?
Is Pain Management sometimes a Rocky Road from pain to no pain?

The short answer is YES, so Let’s examine some of the possibilities:

Adverse Reactions

Whenever the bodymind undergoes change, it is subject to a “readjustment” period in which muscles may be sore, achy, stiff, or otherwise uncomfortable. And yes, sometimes, there is a LOT of pain. This is especially true if neuromuscular, myofascial, and musculoskeletal structures were significantly out-of-balance or otherwise impaired from various factors, over a long period of time. … The muscles are in the habit of being over-contracted, and will tend to stay that way until underlying nerve impulses are normalized.

For Example, within a muscle, some particular muscle fibers will be more over-contracted than other fibers within the same muscle. It is in some cases this dis-coordination between neighboring muscle fibers that’s causing the pain and dysfunction in the first place.

Usually, this has gone on for some length of time, and the neuro-musculo-fascial units have, as best as possible, adapted to their situation, compensating for their internal issues. When intervention starts, be it from stretching one’s self, or being stretched by another person, or with hands-on, manual pressure into the muscles, it is unlikely that ALL the fibers will be able to readjust and re-coordinate with each other in perfect harmony, all at the same time.

There will very possibly be a period of time when the muscle fibers will be even MORE dis-coordinated with each other, at least in the short term. Or more likely, because of their historical habit patterns and memory, they will PERCEIVE that they are more out of balance, even though they are actually returning to balance.

It is, in some cases, difficult if not impossible to avoid this problem.

This is one reason it usually pays to go right back into the tissues and stay with the process, resetting muscle fibers back to “normal” as rapidly as possible.  Waiting a few days or a week in between sessions only promotes the habit patterns trying to go back to their old, pathological ways.

Over The Edge: Working Too Deep for Too Long

However, if your muscles are sore or painful, or especially if they are bruised, it is often a sign that You and your Practitioner were working Over The Edge of pain, fear, or resistance.

It is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that the Client communicates at ALL TIMES if the manual pressure or stretch are too deep, too intrusive, too uncomfortable. If YOU are irritated, then your nerves will NOT calm down, and your muscles will NOT relax. Or sometimes the muscles WILL relax, but the nerves merely transfer their activity over to another pathway.

So whatever relaxation of muscles you do get will be somewhat illusory.

The BOTTOM LINE is that if what the practitioner is doing is irritating you, have them back off at least some. then re-evaluate. Remember, NO Pain means MORE Gain.


Bruising may also be the result of “capillary fragility” which is often helped by Vitamin C and bioflavinoids.

Muscular Imbalances Magnified

Another possible adverse reactions is when opposing muscles are not released in precise enough ratio.

If an over-shortened muscle is pulling hard enough against an over-lengthened muscle (on opposite sides of a bone segment), when the over-shortened muscle starts letting go, the over-lengthened muscle might start contracting really hard to take up the new-found slack in the muscle. This is an overcompensation. The muscle was used to being chronically, tight, and by jove, it’s going to STAY tight! So it takes up any slack made available to it, even though this serves no useful function. But the muscle and nerve do not know that yet. They need time to adapt.


It might take a while for the balancing activities of the nervous system discover this compensation is no longer necessary. Once this occurs, then the over-lengthened muscle can relax, instead of fighting to maintain what it’s used to.

Thixotropy or “Gluing”

(This concept is somewhat theoretical, but there is some scientific reality behind it, so we’ll discuss it here.)

Over time, for various reasons, fluids normally functioning as lubricants will begin turning more solid, slowly changing to a more sticky substance. Eventually, they can get like glue. … Although this process most likely happens FAR less likely than a lot of therapists like to think, it is within the realm of scientific possibility.

(This process has chemical similarities to “scarring” of tissue, but not completely. When therapists say they are “clearing scar tissue” or some similar statement, this is often an unintended — and uniformed — mischaracterization of what’s actually going on.)

Anyway, that tissue can, as it returns to a more energized, healthy state, become less “sticky.” This can happen by adding kinetic energy to the tissues, such as heat, vibration, pressure or motion. When the energy levels move back towards normal, these formerly stuck tissues start to “un-stick.” They can literally start pulling apart from each other. As they pull loose, that can be mildly to VERY uncomfortable. The sensations could last anywhere from minutes to days.

From DE-Sensitization to RE-Sensitization

Over time, the psycho-neuro-musculo-fascial system can develop minor or major degrees of de-sensitization. That’s a state where the nervous systems — the descending sensory pathways, to be specific — actively block incoming, low-level or redundant sensations to higher levels of the brain. That’s because if you were feeling ALL that stuff ALL the time, the conscious part of your brain would be so overwhelmed it would probably be unable to function.

As your body starts to return to normal, the nerve pathways will return to a more normal or neutral state, and sensations that were indeed happening, but you could not consciously feel, become more available to the conscious mind. Sometimes, that will produce aches or pains that are not really new, but feel like it.

Thanks of Reading,
David Scott Lynn

David Scott Lynn (DSL)
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