A lot of people are interested in how to integrate their yoga practice with their workouts. They want to know if yoga before or after a workout is the best option for them.
In truth, you can do yoga before or after a workout, but it all depends on what kind of yoga you’re doing, your level of fitness and your workout.
You can do yoga on your own or practice along with a video or even hire a personal yoga instructor to help you with your pre and post yoga workouts. Also, a lot of gyms and yoga studios offer classes that are specifically for pre or post workouts, or are designed for runners, bikers or weightlifters, so check out what’s on offer in your area to join in on a class to maximize the benefits to you.
The Skinny on Yoga Practices
There are so many different styles of yoga out there, so let’s get specific about what each one is like. I broke the different styles down into three categories of difficulty:
Challenging – Great workouts for the muscles but can be a bit much to practice before or after a workout for most people. I would say only if you’re a serious athlete and/or in very good shape would these practices be appropriate to pair with a workout.
- Vinyasa – Vinyasa yoga classes are generally quite aerobic and involve a lot of chaturangas.
- Ashtanga – Vigorous cardio and intense stretching.
- Hot yoga – Vigorous cardio and intense sweating, great for warming up the muscles before a workout.
Intermediate – These practices can be a bit less vigorous and are better to practice before or after yoga for someone with an intermediate fitness level.
- Hatha – A gentler practice where the postures are practiced at a slower pace and integrated with the breath.
- Iyengar – A practice that focuses on alignment where you hold the poses for longer periods of time.
Relaxing – These are great practices to wind down with after a workout and even hard-core athletes can benefit from the restful and rejuvenating benefits of these practices.
- Yin yoga – A gentle practice where postures are held for long periods to fully experience their benefits.
- Restorative yoga – The most relaxing of all yoga practices where props are used to support students in experiencing deep rest and relaxation. A highly therapeutic practice.
Benefits of yoga before a workout
Yoga can be very beneficial to practice before a workout for both the body and the mind:
Helps you connect with your breath – Most people don’t breathe properly and as yoga focuses a lot on the breath, it can get you breathing and help improve your oxygen intake during your workout.
Connects you with your body – As you do yoga before your workout, you can start to see where you’re feeling sore or stiff and what areas of your body need more attention or care. It helps you be mindful of your energy level and limitations, so you don’t push yourself too far, reducing the risk of injury.
Loosens you up – Sometimes when we jump right onto the treadmill without doing any stretching beforehand, we can experience stiffness and achy joints for the first few minutes. When you do yoga before your workout, you loosen up the joints and can jump into your cardio workout without that initial discomfort.
Gets the blood pumping – A yoga practice can be a great warm-up, oxygenating the blood and warming up the muscles so that they’re saturated with fresh blood and ready for a workout, whether it’s cardio or weights. You may feel more invigorated after practicing yoga before a workout.
Improves your focus – Practicing yoga sharpens your focus and concentration and can bring your mind to the present moment. Some athletes visualize their workouts before they perform them. As you practice yoga, you can bring your mind to your workout and envision how you will perform.
As you can see, there are lots of benefits to practicing yoga before hitting your workout.
Benefits of yoga after a workout
As most serious athletes will tell you, what you do after a workout is very important to getting the most out of it. Getting in a yoga practice after a workout can help extend the benefits of your workout and improve your recovery:
Helps prevent stiff muscles – During a workout, the body produces stress hormones and lactic acid which make the muscles stiff. By practicing yoga after a workout, you stimulate circulation and help the body remove toxins and acid through the lymph system.
Gives you time to regroup – A tough workout can take a lot out of you, and it can be good to take a breather afterwards to stretch and regroup. Whether you take a more challenging class or a gentler class after your workout, all yoga styles encourage you to integrate movement with breath so you can connect more deeply with your inner self.
Helps you sleep better – A good night’s sleep is an athlete’s best friend. During restful sleep, the body’s recovery is more complete as growth and recovery hormones are released, preparing it for another intense workout tomorrow.
If your sleep is disturbed, your body not only fails to produce the hormones essential for health and growth, but it produces stress hormones instead which can diminish your health and affect your performance.
Even vigorous yoga practices end with restful poses and Savasana at the end, so whatever type of yoga practice you choose to do after your workout can serve as a bridge into dreamland.
Top tips for combining yoga practice with workouts
While everyone has their preferences in terms of styles of yoga, these three are winners in certain areas:
Hot yoga is great to practice before a weightlifting session as it gets the muscles good and warmed up and helps prevent injury.
Hatha yoga is a perfect pre-workout warm-up and post-workout cooldown.
Restorative yoga can help put you back together again after a really challenging workout.
Consider practicing yoga as a workout in itself
While you can definitely practice yoga on the same days that you work out, yoga can also be a workout in itself.
The more challenging practices like Vinyasa and Ashtanga can be quite vigorous and are considered their own complete workout as they raise the heartbeat, strengthen muscles and have the added bonus of providing a deep stretch.
You can practice yoga on the days you don’t work out to train strength and flexibility.
So, to answer the question: “Is yoga before or after a workout the best option for you?” the answer is: both.
Pairing yoga with your workouts offers a lot of benefits from increasing focus and concentration to warming up to prevent injury pre-workout and helping rid the body of lactic acid and toxins and giving you a better night’s rest post-workout.
You can enjoy the benefits of yoga with your workout, but make sure you’re not overdoing it. Too much of a good thing can lead to overtaxed muscles which isn’t what you’re going for.
Choose the appropriate yoga style for your fitness level and reap the rewards of pre- and post-workout yoga practices. Namaste.
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