If you enjoy working out, you also probably enjoy more than one type of exercise. After all, combining short sessions of more than one type of workout can be a great way to avoid getting bored—and yoga is one of the most popular choices to pair with other forms of moving your body. But is yoga before or after a workout more beneficial for your body?
Mixing up your workout—instead of doing the same routine over and over again—can also benefit your body more than you might think. Different exercises work different muscles, so adding variation to your routine is pretty much essential.
Yoga is a great example of an exercise that you can add to almost any fitness regimen. It tends to pair well with several other exercises, it isn't too intensive, and it can be a way to gently stretch and repair your muscles after more stressful cardiovascular movements, such as running.
But what's the best time to do yoga, before or after a workout? Once you have chosen one of the best yoga mats and yoga accessories available, it's time to learn about the most strategic way to fit yoga into your daily or weekly fitness routine.
Should you do yoga before or after a workout?
Yoga can be used as a warm-up before going for a run or hitting the gym, though it's not always the best form of pre-workout. Stretching before most types of exercise is a must in order to avoid injuries, and yoga's emphasis on stretching and flexibility can make it an appropriate choice for waking your muscles up and getting them ready for more vigorous activity.
However, most experts advise that doing yoga after your workout is actually the most effective way to utilize the practice. Why? Jess Parkinson, yoga expert and Tutor at Goldster (opens in new tab) explained: "Practicing most styles of yoga after a workout is not just beneficial physically, but also mentally.
"The mobility and stretching elements of yoga are great as a cooldown and can help to prevent injury, aid flexibility and, combined with the typical slower, nasal breathing, encourage the relaxation response of our body," Parkinson says. "A workout activates the stress response of the body, and we need ‘healthy stress’ in the body to grow and maintain muscle mass and keep us alert. However, we also need an equal dose of the relaxation response—and yoga can help restore that balance."
So, should we not do yoga before working out then?
"Depending on the type of yoga, it could be beneficial; however, I always advise my clients and students to warm up appropriately for their chosen workout," Parkinson told us. "For example, if they’re going to run, then warming up more dynamically would be best. Static, relaxed stretches (like yoga) may not be the best choice if you plan to be very dynamic in your movement."
Benefits of doing yoga after a workout
So although yoga can be used as a warm-up before a workout (if you're careful, and do other stretches alongside), the benefits really skyrocket once you use it to end your fitness session.
Here are some of the most significant benefits of adding yoga to the end of your workout routine:
1. It will relax your body
Using yoga to finish off a long workout can help to seriously calm you down—especially your nervous system, which is likely to be heightened after a strenuous HIIT session, or an intense, sweaty run.
Many of the most basic poses and stretches in yoga are naturally calming, which means they will help your body slow down and gently bring you down from that classic endorphin high in a healthy way so you don't crash after an intense workout. Gentle yoga flows effectively bridges the gap between a hard workout that gets your heart rate up and slowing down to your base level.
2. It will help with muscle recovery
Being particularly mindful about stretching the muscles you focused on during your main workout can also help them recover faster than if you just stopped abruptly. In fact, you can often find yoga workouts that will specifically help with muscle recovery, say after a run or a heavy lifting session.
Doing this can also boost the amount of strength, toning, and flexibility that your muscles can retain over time, as well as reduce the level of soreness or stiffness you may feel the following day.
3. It'll give you a more well-rounded workout regimen
Pairing yoga with different types of exercise can help different muscle groups benefit. For example, doing some yoga after walking, jogging, biking, and weight training can help you create a well-rounded workout that contributes more to your overall fitness level than spending the entire session on one type of routine.
Practicing yoga after a workout can also result in an overall more effective yoga session. Other types of exercise, especially cardio, can warm up your body, which puts you in a better position for stretching further and deeper. Whether you're an advanced yogi or a beginner just getting started, you'll likely feel the benefits.
Overall, performing yoga after another workout can provide a larger boost to your mental and physical health, as well as your overall fitness level. Give it a try next time you work up a sweat, and feel the magic of this ancient practice.
Christina Izzo is the Deputy Editor of My Imperfect Life.
More generally, she is a writer-editor covering food and drink, travel, lifestyle and culture in New York City. She was previously the Features Editor at Rachael Ray In Season and Reveal, as well as the Food & Drink Editor and chief restaurant critic at Time Out New York.
When she’s not doing all that, she can probably be found eating cheese somewhere.
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