Dear Willow: Why Do My Muscles Shake In Yoga?
Muscle twitches are involuntary muscle contractions which occur due to fatigue or stress. They may be caused by physical activity such as running, walking, lifting weights, etc., mental activities like thinking and worrying, emotional states like fear and anxiety, or both. The term “muscle” refers to any group of fibers that make up the skeletal system (the connective tissue that makes up your body). These include the heart, lungs, kidneys, blood vessels, nerves and muscles. When these groups of fibers become fatigued they contract involuntarily. Some examples of involuntary contractions are breathing, swallowing and heartbeat. Other types of involuntary contraction are those caused by the brain’s release of hormones or neurotransmitters. For example, when you experience fear, your heart rate increases and blood pressure rises. Your nervous system releases chemicals called endorphins into the bloodstream causing feelings of pleasure. Endorphins cause the same type of relaxation that occurs with exercise. Another example is when you feel anger or frustration, your stomach begins to churn and your breath becomes shallow. Your sympathetic nervous system releases substances called noradrenaline and adrenaline into the bloodstream resulting in increased heart rate and blood pressure. In extreme cases, your heart can beat so fast that it causes a heart attack.
The exact reason why you get twitches in the first place is not known, but there are some theories. These include neurotransmitters leaving behind waste products that cause twitching, and nerves or muscles that have been stretched and need to be restored to their original length. This causes the muscle (or group of muscles) to shorten or lengthen rapidly, causing a brief twitch. Other theories suggest that all the energy used during nerve signals or muscular contractions causes waste and byproducts to build up.
When your body gets rid of these products, twitching occurs. Sometimes it is referred to as “tetany” which is a term used to describe severe muscle spasms.
What causes twitches?
There are many different reasons why you may be experiencing twitches (or your muscles may be shaking when you exercise). These include:
Caffeine – Caffeine is a stimulant that increases your heart rate and the force of your heart’s contraction. Other effects of caffeine are increased alertness and restlessness, which explains why you may be experiencing twitches as well as other symptoms like feeling anxious or jittery. If you’re having a reaction to the caffeine in your drink, medication or other product you consume, then you will most likely notice that these twitches occur shortly after consuming it.
Stress – There are various types of stress you may experience. Common types include physical (your body is undergoing exertion), emotional (you’re experiencing a strong or irregular emotion) and mental (a thought is taking up a great deal of your attention, such as an exam or speech). These stresses can cause twitches because they contribute to your fatigue and can throw off your central nervous system.
Dehydration – If you’re even slightly dehydrated, you can experience twitches because this condition causes your muscles to fatigue faster. To avoid this side effect of dehydration, try to consume at least eight to ten glasses of water each day.
Hormonal Imbalance – Hormones are essential for maintaining homeostasis (a stable internal environment) in your body. Hormones maintain a balance between your internal organs as well as control the activity of cells throughout your body. However, if your hormones are out of balance, you can experience a variety of symptoms. These include twitches as well as excessive sweating, mood swings, weight gain and hair growth on your face (in men).
Hormonal imbalances can be caused by a number of factors, including stress, medications, lack of sleep and excess exercise.
As you can see, there are several factors that contribute to the cause of your twitches. If you are experiencing twitches after consuming a certain product, you may want to eliminate that from your diet to see if the twitching continues. If it does, then you may need to seek out medical attention since this may be a symptom of a more serious condition.
Products that cause twitching
There are hundreds of different types of products that can potentially cause twitches.
Sources & references used in this article:
Creative RelaxationSM : A Yoga-Based Program for Regular and Exceptional Student Education by L Goldberg – International journal of yoga therapy, 2004 – iaytjournals.org
Chair yoga: seated exercises for health and wellbeing by E Rohnfeld – 2011 – books.google.com
Yoga Through the Year: A Seasonal Approach to Your Practice by J Shipway – 2019 – books.google.com