Why is my body shaking in yoga class?

Do your muscles ever tremble or shake during a physically intense yoga pose? Meet your animal body!

Esther Ekhart in Warrior 2

This is a question that regularly pops up from students that take my classes. Many people experience the vibrating, trembling or even shaking of their muscles while doing a yoga pose that requires effort, or a movement that is experienced as physically intense. The trembling may even happen when you hold a pose that is not physically intense (such as a resting posture) for longer than you’re used to. The sensation of muscles trembling, seemingly out of nowhere and completely outside of your control, may feel strange. It’s like your body has a mind of its own!

There is more truth to that than you may have thought…

Objectives of the ‘animal body’

Your ‘whole being’ comprises several interconnected parts. Two of these parts are a conscious mind and an animal body. For a moment, we will separate these two parts and focus on the body. Your animal body only has a few ‘objectives’, of which basic survival, eating and sleeping are the most important. Impulses that trigger your body’s survival mode are situations, events or even people that your body perceives as dangerous, even when or if your mind does not.

As your body is an animal body, it will react to whatever it perceives just like a wild animal would. Your body is very well equipped to deal with these ‘threat’ situations: your metabolism alters instantly, stress hormones are activated, your muscle energy increases (you basically become stronger and faster) and your state of mind is geared towards survival too. You’ll probably have heard of this as your Fight or Flight mode. Everyone has these amazing capabilities, they are encoded in your body and nervous system.

The importance of returning to balance

However, it is not very healthy for your body to be in this survival state for very long because it demands a lot of energy. So, it’s vital for your body’s health to go back into a resting state after being activated, simply for the sake of restoring energy levels and countering the many negative health effects of prolonged stress.

When your body is in the state of relaxation it can repair damage done to your muscles and tissues, bring the stress hormone levels back down, so your body can go back to producing enzymes and hormones for the digestion of foods (for energy), and get nourishing sleep to restore good health to your body and brain. In the state of relaxation, your emotional and mental states will also return to their normal balance. And, quite logically, this is where your animal body wants to be most of the time. Who could argue with that?

Energy release triggers

So taking this back to your yoga class; you are standing in Warrior II and your front leg starts to tremble like crazy. What is going on exactly?

Whenever your body feels safe, either after or during a state of high activation, your animal body will look for opportunities to go back to the ‘baseline’ of relaxation. In your yoga class, when you focus on your breath, it signals to your body that the situation you are in is safe. When your body feels safe while you are activating your muscles, this combination can ‘trigger’ an energy release. Your body will perceive this safe state as a chance in which to either let go of energy that you are generating in that moment or release energy that was generated in a previous situation that is still stored in your body!

Your animal body is doing exactly what it is made for. If you try to control or stop this, you are in essence preventing your body from reverting to its naturally preferred state of relaxation.

Is this shaking ‘normal’?

At the same time, you may think this feels funny or is abnormal. Know that this is only your conscious mind making a judgment about it. And the mind has a tendency to think it is right about everything! Your animal body doesn’t care, it only wants to go back to its baseline.

So the question is; will you allow your body to do this? In a yoga class surrounded by people, you may not feel so cool to shake about freely. If that is the case, you can try to do this at home, by yourself. There are also many practices that help with encouraging the body’s stress releasing ability, for example, psoas work in yoga and the TRE® method (Tension Release Exercises).

If you are okay with your body doing its beautiful and natural shaking, just find a comfortable spot to lie down and let it happen for a few minutes. Make sure that you lie in Savasana for a few minutes and really focus on the sensations you experience in your body during and after Savasana. And be sure to appreciate and thank your body. It knows what is best for you!

Happy shaking!

Sandra x

Practise with Sandra

Tension is a normal and natural thing that everyone experiences – however, it’s important that we are able to let go of the tension afterward. This yoga class will guide you through some simple poses and movements that will help you learn to really listen to your body and set up the space to allow your body to release tension.

More classes from Sandra on the psoas:

The Magical Psoas Muscle – Playlist

This is a playlist of different classes that touch on the different topics that centre around the psoas muscle and the core abdominal and back muscles. A healthy psoas means a healthy spine and lower body. And a juicy and awake psoas also means a healthy emotional, energetic and spiritual body. In these classes, you will find the tools to feel your psoas, align your pelvis and spine, strengthen your core and find freedom in your body!

Related reads:

  • Stretching out your stress – Learn why the psoas such a major player in our physical, mental and emotional well being.
  • Tension, e-motionand breath – We all experience tension but how does movement and the breath help to release it? And what on earth do ducks’ tails have to do with anything?!
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Sandra CarsonWith almost two decades of experience studying the body, mind and heart, Sandra has developed a style of teaching that aims to make yoga a holistic, self-reflective, and spiritual practice.