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Ideally, you can hold a yoga position at least until you count to five, and some classes and teachers will instruct you to hold a pose for longer than that. But yoga is a personal activity, and if you are in great pain during a pose, back off and go to a restorative position, such as child's pose, and wait for the class to move on to the next yoga position. Overstretching to the point of pain will only result in an injury, so challenge yourself, but know your limits. It's normal to feel some burning in your muscles, but be mindful of the difference between the discomfort of a challenging activity and the pain of trying to push it too far.
If you find yourself clenching any body part that's not involved in the pose, ease off a bit to avoiding reaching the point of pain. During challenging poses, relax your jaw, relax your face, and remember to breathe deeply and evenly. Similarly, try not to clench your buttock muscles while doing backbends. If you find yourself clenching any body parts, release the pose and try entering it again.