At this point, it’s quite evident that Yoga is a great augment to any kind of workout regimen, whether it’s cardio-centric or strength training exercises. But now, the question people ask is: should I do yoga before or after my regular workout?
To answer that question: it depends. In general, if your style of yoga is slow, calm, and more focused on stretching out your muscles rather than building up their strength, then it’s best to do it after your workout. This will help your muscles stretch out and not get tangled, minimizing muscle spasms and aiding it in recovery.
However, if you’re doing a style of yoga that has intense flows and focuses on engaging your core, then it’s best to do yoga before your workout. This type of yoga allows your body to warm up and stretch out without fatiguing your muscle fibers. It also improves your mood and stamina, allowing you to be more mindful when you lift your weights.
Again, it depends on the type of yoga you’ll be doing: slow, calm poses help you relax and unwind after heavy lifting, while fast and flowing yoga allows you to prep for an intensive cardio or strength training workout.
Always tailor-fit the kind of yoga you’ll be doing to the kind of workout regimen you’ll be following. You can also consider doing yoga in your gym off-days: in doing so, you’re allowing your muscles to recover and rest but still engaging them and passively, but continuously, building up their strength and preventing muscle fibers from atrophy.
There are many more benefits to doing yoga before or after workouts. Here are some:
Benefits of Pre-Workout Yoga
People who do yoga before working out at the gym say that they’re more mindful about their exercise, which minimizes the risk of injuries. They also talk about how yoga builds up their confidence, boosts their mood, and increases their stamina. On a more practical side, doing yoga before a workout session also warms up your body, preparing you for an intense training regimen.
Great Pre-workout Warm-Up
Pre-exercise warm-ups are just as important as your workout routine: it helps your body tissues and muscles to open up and stretch out just enough so it’s not adhering to itself, making you more limber and flexible. Keeping your muscle fibers, tissues, and tendons loose also prevents your muscles from cramping, which, in turn, minimizes injuries.
That’s exactly what certain types of yoga does to a body: it loosens up the muscle fibers and helps stretch out tissues and tendons, making them more supple and strong, a necessity when you’re about to do an intense cardio session.
Along with some physical benefits, the mental benefits of doing yoga before working out are worth mentioning too. Yoga is all about creating harmony between mind, body, and spirit: by teaching you calm mindfulness, you’re more attuned to your body’s limits and capabilities, allowing you to elevate yourself beyond perceived limitations without injuring or harming yourself.
It also helps boost your confidence and mood: an integral part of Yoga is meditation, which has been proven to lower cortisol (stress hormones) levels in your body and increasing oxytocin (the ‘feel good’ hormone) levels.
Benefits of Post-Workout yoga
People who do yoga after working out report that their bodies recover faster, their muscles remain limber without straining, and it provides them a general feeling of comfort and calm. Particularly for slow, pose-centric yoga forms, this is one of the best ways to cool down, normalize your breathing, and even get rid of toxins you might have built up during your workout.
Great Post-Workout Cool down
Strenuous and particularly taxing workout routines, like strength training or intense cardio, can make your muscles sore, cramped, and swollen. Doing yoga after your workout helps your body ‘cool down’, i.e. lowers your overall body temperature and allowing your muscle fibers to untangle, relax, and relieve them of soreness. The yoga poses you’ll be doing helps regulate your body temperature so it doesn’t plummet right after an intense workout, which can also be bad for your muscles.
Yoga also helps your mind calm down; more specifically, yoga lowers your adrenaline levels, which helps your body relax completely. During workouts, your body releases a large amount of adrenaline to help your muscles lift the weights it needs to. However, once your workout is done, adrenaline tends to linger, which can increase the recovery time for your muscles. Yoga regulates this by expelling the adrenaline and replacing it with oxytocin.
Gives You Room to Breathe
Oxygen is one of the main catalysts of recovery for your muscles. Maximize this by doing different yoga poses that are centered on slow, rhythmic breathing. Yoga helps expand your lungs, giving you more oxygen with every inhale and expels more carbon dioxide with every exhale. More oxygen also means less chances of cramps.
Having more oxygen in your body also helps your sympathetic nervous system kick in. This system helps repair the micro-tears in your muscles. With every exertion, your muscle fibers develop small ruptures on its surface called micro-tears. These micro-tears are repaired and develop scar tissue, which is the ‘bulging muscles’ we see. Oxygen stimulates the growth of scar tissue on micro-tears, which, in turn, help you recover faster and have less soreness.
Cleanses Your Body of Toxins
Any strenuous physical activity will encourage your body to purge itself of toxins; this is usually expelled through your sweat or by natural body processes. Yoga enhances this process with certain poses that encourage blood flow to different organs and speeds up toxin purging. These yoga poses will also help clear out muscles of any lactic acid buildup, which can alleviate soreness and pain.
Yoga Poses for Before and After Workouts
The beauty of yoga is in its simplicity and effectiveness: you don’t have to do complex flows or hour-long routines. In fact, doing just a few poses before or after workouts can already give someone all the benefits they need to maximize their workouts. More than the physical, yoga is about creating harmony and mindfulness, and helps people be in touch with their bodies, allowing them to know their limits and elevate themselves from it. Of course, the physical part of yoga is extremely helpful too! Here are some yoga poses for you to try:
Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
One of the most basic yoga poses, the Tadasana or Mountain Pose is deceptively simple, yet difficult to maintain. The Tadasana is all about alignment: it asks you to simply stand straight and firm, creating a straight line from the crown of your head to the soles of your feet.
A simple premise, but it can get difficult, especially if you have to maintain it for a minute or so. By being mindful of how your heels are rooted to the ground, how your bones realign and stack themselves on top of each other, your muscles also start adjusting and engaging, helping you stand straighter. Couple this with shallow, but regulated, breathing, the Tadasana is a great pre-workout yoga pose that helps you align your body and mind with what needs to be done.
Urdhva Hastansana (Raised Arms Pose)
If you’ve ever woken up in bed and raised your arms out to stretch, then you’ve already accomplished the Urdhva Hastansana, or the raised arms pose. To do this more effectively, inhale deeply as you raise your arms high above your head. Once they’re at the top, raise your chin slightly so your eyes can see the tips of your fingers.
This is a full body stretch that is, again, simple to do yet difficult to maintain. Pay attention to how every muscle in your back and legs are stretching; don’t over-exert them, just stretch to the point of comfortability, hold for a few seconds, and then gently lower your arms and head. This is one of the best post-workout yoga poses you can do as it helps you cool your body down and allows your muscles to stretch and spring back gently.