Why Do My Muscles Shake In Some Yoga Poses?

May 9, 2023

Hey everyone! Welcome to this month’s question of the month. If you’ve got a question that you want me to answer, just like this on video format, go to yoganatomy.com/myquestion. Alright, this month’s question comes from Pink. It’s a little bit long, so bear with me. It’s about why muscles sometimes shake in yoga poses.

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The Question

Dear David,
I have been having these insane uncontrollable muscle shakes in my arms, particularly my left arm (I am right-handed) for a few years now but it has become much more prominent lately. And while this happens throughout my practice, it’s more obvious during certain poses that require strength with straight arms. I have read that it is partly either due to a) weak muscles or b) tiring muscles. But this happens to me outside my practice. So I wonder if you have seen anything like this with your students or know what could cause it? Happy to send over a clip that shows how it looks. [DK: I reached out to Pink, but I never got a reply. So, Pink if you’re watching, I am curious to see what happened here.]

A bit of background on my practice: I have been practicing Ashtanga for 14 years, seven of which I have practiced at home regularly at least four to five days a week for a consecutive seven years. No workshops, no teacher whatsoever. Recently, I have just gone back to class for about four to five months now and have certainly improved various bits on the fundamentals, like how to use muscles more properly, and learned how to do protraction and retraction in relevant poses. I have also been practicing up to second series for just about that long and a bit of third series here and there.

I have started noticing this shake, which causes certain poses to be quite unstable, when I start integrating the first four poses of third series a bit more routinely (under teacher guidance, of course). So obviously, Vasishthasana is severely affected by the shake. Hope you could help shed some light and look forward to hearing from you.

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The Answer

Pink, there are a few things going on here. I think I’m going to take this a little bit broad because this is definitely something I would need to see video of and probably have a student relationship with you before I give you really specific advice. It is true, your A and B. When you see muscles shaking, certainly the muscles are weak relative to the activity that you’re doing or what you’re asking them to accomplish. That can cause muscles to shake in yoga.

Why muscles can shake in yoga

That happens due to seeing the gap between the relay race, so to speak, of muscle cells contracting and relaxing, while other muscle cells are contracting and relaxing. You don’t have a muscle cell that contracts and just stays contracted while you’re doing what you’re doing. It contracts. It uses up all of its energy, ATP (adenosine triphosphate), and then it relaxes again until it gets more ATP, and then it can contract again. While it’s relaxing, other muscle cells are contracting to maintain. So, it goes on. The longer you work that muscle and it tires out, you start to see the gap between the passing of that imaginary baton between muscle cells. So that’s why you see your muscles shake in yoga when they’re fatigued.

When to get a doctor’s assessment

There’s a lot in this question that may have nothing to do with the problem. And I think because you’re having these symptoms outside of practice while you are not practicing, you should definitely go see a doctor. Just confirm and make sure that everything’s okay. Make sure there’s no nerve impingement or that type of thing that’s causing your muscle to shake in yoga. It doesn’t mean that it is coming from that. I don’t know.

What about the third series postures?

I know you make a correlation between the first four poses of third series and there could be. And this is generally true and good information that is true is that our minds want to make associations between things that may or may not actually be there. So just be mindful of that. It may have something to do with it. It may not have something to do with it. I hope the reason that you’re experiencing your muscle shake in yoga is as simple as muscle strength.

Anyway, I’m not sure how much that helped. Maybe just the clarification of why muscles would shake or you would get shaking from tiring muscles was sufficient. Alright, everyone, if you’ve got a question, you know what to do. Go to yoganatomy.com/myquestion.