Take a deep breath in through your nose and release it out through your mouth. Feel the earth beneath your feet and the sky overhead. Feeling better already? Yoga has been practiced in many forms for over 5,000 years and offers plenty of health benefits, from stress relief to improved flexibility, increased strength, and more. If you’ve wanted to try yoga but can’t seem to find the time, a great option is to hitch it to an existing habit, like your gym workouts. If you’re opting to go this route, you may wonder if you should perform yoga before or after a workout. The answer depends a lot on your goals and what option will work best in your life.
What Are the Benefits of Yoga?
If you’ve already established a consistent fitness routine, should you really bother adding yoga before or after your workout? The answer is an enthusiastic yes. The health benefits of yoga are huge, making it an excellent addition to your workout routine.
According to John Hopkins Medicine, yoga can:
- Improve your strength
- Help relieve back pain
- Improve your balance
- Reduce stress
- Improve flexibility
- Ease arthritis
- Reduce inflammation
- Improve your heart health
- Improve your sleep
- Help you relax
- Increase your energy
- Improve your mood
- Connect you to a community
- Promote better self-care
Yep, the benefits of yoga for men and women are impressive, which is why you should consider integrating a bit of yoga into your routine. Let’s look at the benefits of integrating it pre-or post-workout.
The Benefits of Yoga After a Workout
After a tough workout, the last thing you might feel like doing is dropping into half moon pose. However, all things being equal, adding your yoga practice to the end of your workout is often a better option than starting with yoga before you get your sweat on. Why? Because yoga is the perfect way to help your body transition from a high-energy workout to a relaxed and resting phase.
A Great Cooldown After a Workout
After a tough workout (good job, you!) your body is charging ahead on all cylinders. Your heart is racing, you’re gulping oxygen, and your body is pumping out cortisol to deal with the (good) stress of exercise. Going right to the showers and then jumping in your car to head home isn’t healthy for your body. It could cause blood to pool in your lower extremities, which means less oxygenated blood moving to your brain. Have you ever felt a wave of dizziness hit you after stopping in the middle of an intense workout? This is why.
Instead of forcing your body to screech to a halt after a workout, add a few minutes of yoga to your workout as part of your cool-down practice. Your body will transition more naturally to a resting state. (Take a look at some other great cool-down stretches for the end of your workout.)
The Best Time to Work on Flexibility
Yoga is renowned for its ability to improve flexibility over time, which can help you stay injury-free during future workouts and keep you strong and mobile in your later years. The best time to perform static stretching (holding a stretch for a period of time) is when your muscles are already warm… like, say, right after a workout. You’ll see a bigger improvement in your flexibility by performing yoga after your workout compared to before.
Improves Exercise Recovery
It was long thought that performing static stretches before your workout could help eliminate soreness and tightness after the workout, but this turned out to be a fitness myth. (Yep, your high school gym teacher was wrong.) Instead, stretching and performing other recovery measures (like foam rolling) after a workout is a better way to help eliminate soreness after a workout.
Yoga, in particular, has been found to help alleviate delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). A study of female volunteers who performed a workout specifically designed to create DOMS (ouch!) found that women who were trained in yoga and those who performed a single session of yoga reported less soreness after their workout.
Why? Stretching increases blood flow to your muscles, which also brings nutrients and oxygen that can begin repairing your muscles. This, in turn, can lead to less soreness over the next few days.
A Perfect End to Your Workout Experience
Many yoga practices focus on the connection between mind, body, and soul. They also often incorporate meditation and relaxation training. (Seriously, getting into child’s pose is the absolute best way to let your worries go.) This is why yoga is known to reduce stress and lower blood pressure. It’s also why yoga is such a great way to reward yourself after a tough workout. Through yoga, you can create a feeling of peacefulness and completion that will allow you to move onto the next part of your day in a great mood.
Are There Benefits to Yoga Before a Workout?
Is there any reason to dabble in a little downward dog before you begin your workout? The answer is yes, especially if performing yoga before your workout suits your schedule or simply fits your personal preference. Here are a few additional reasons to hit a warrior pose before jumping on the treadmill. (Here are a few other great pre-workout dynamic stretches.)
Eases You into Your Workout
Let’s get real for a second. It isn’t always easy to make it to the gym, especially if you know you have a challenging workout ahead of you. If you’re on the fence about going to the gym, consider starting with 10 or 15 minutes of yoga before your workout. If, after the yoga session, you still aren’t feeling the workout, you can call it a day. However, in many cases, the hardest step is just getting started. Once you get moving with yoga, you may feel more prepared to jump into a workout. This little trick can help you stick with your fitness goals and see better overall fitness progress.
Warms Up Your Body for Your Workout
As mentioned earlier in this article, most current research does not recommend static stretching before a workout, especially if you are planning to perform any type of strength training. Performing static stretches will naturally stretch your muscles, which can lower their ability to contract. In plain English, this means you might not be able to lift as heavy after a yoga session.
However, if you focus your pre-workout yoga practice on performing dynamic stretches, you could be in business. Dynamic stretches, which are active, moving stretches, are an excellent way of prepping for a workout. As it relates to yoga, this would mean moving slowly and gently through poses and not holding them for more than a few seconds. Performing dynamic stretches will gradually lift your heart rate and start moving blood through your system.
Connects You to Your Body
One of the most powerful aspects of yoga is its ability to strengthen your mind-body connection. By moving through the poses, you’ll really feel your muscles, tendons, and bones. Yoga promotes better body awareness and enhanced mobility. It can also help put you in a positive and empowered mindset before your workout. With a better mind-body connection, you may get more out of your workout.
Yoga Before or After a Workout – Which Is Right for You?
At the end of the day, whether to perform yoga before or after cardio really depends on your personal preference and what fits best for your schedule. If you have trouble getting started on your workout, yoga can be an excellent bridge. If you love the idea of a gentle cool-down that could help ease soreness, yoga after your workout is a better option.
If you plan on strength training, yoga after your workout is the better option, but if you absolutely must have your yoga first, focus on performing a moving, dynamic form of yoga instead of static stretching. All in all, the health benefits of yoga are so valuable that it’s worth doing whenever is most convenient to you.
One last thing to keep in mind is that yoga doesn’t have to be a practice only connected to your workout schedule. The benefits of daily yoga are numerous. Consider adding a little yoga to any part of your day. Yoga makes a great active recovery option as well as a morning or night practice to either power you up for the day or ease you into a restful sleep.
Not sure how to start a yoga practice and enjoy the benefits of yoga for women and men? Join a class at your local gym. EōS Fitness offers a variety of different yoga classes and yoga-inspired classes for all different levels. Take a class before or after your workout or just come for the yoga.