Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: May 18, 2021

Aside from proper execution, timing your workouts right is key to achieving your fitness goals.

And if you’re someone who loves working out and doing yoga, chances are you’ve questioned if you’re doing them in the correct order.

To help you schedule your hybrid workouts the right way, I consulted a few yogis and looked up various resources to determine whether you should do yoga before or after workout.

Should You Do Yoga Before Or After a Workout?

woman in yoga clothes thinking while holding a yoga mat

The answer to this question will depend on multiple factors, including the type of workout you plan to do.

For instance, if your workout session relies more on strength than body flexibility, it would be better to do yoga after it.

You may even enjoy its benefit more if you schedule it on a different day from your workouts.

Let me explain why.

Your muscles, fascia, other tissues are generally weaker following a yoga session, particularly after one with lots of sustained poses and deep stretches.

And because of these weakened body tissues, you may not be able to perform your workouts at maximum capacity.

So if your training program requires tons of strength, you should take this into consideration.

What makes your muscles strong is their ability to contract, and yoga stretches your muscles to new lengths, therefore reducing their ability to contract.

It will take several hours for your muscles to regain their ability to contract, which means you can’t jump into a workout immediately after a yoga practice.

To help you decide whether to do yoga before or after workout, I’ve laid down the benefits and drawbacks of doing it in both sequences.

Doing Yoga Before A Workout

man in a child's pose position during yoga

Pros

It’s okay to do yoga before a workout, but only when you use it as a warm-up routine.

However, this will still depend on the type of yoga you plan to do. For example, the sessions shouldn’t have static stretches but only dynamic stretching.

Pre-workout yoga may be helpful for exercises that rely more on flexibility and strength, like sports that require a high degree of motion, such as figure skating, gymnastics, and ballet.

Some forms of martial arts may also benefit from improved flexibility despite a power reduction. For instance, performing an effective kick may require a wide range of motion rather than power.

Doing the warrior pose also makes for a good pre-workout activity, as it can improve your endurance and relieve tension in your neck and shoulders.

If you must do yoga before your workout, try to wait at least a few hours after your yoga practice before going to the gym. Then, start working out in a slow and controlled manner and don’t go all out immediately.

Cons

This might be a shocker for some of you, but several studies have shown that pre-workout stretching isn’t necessarily helpful.

Despite what we’re taught to believe, pre-workout stretching won’t help you alleviate muscle soreness post-workout, prevent injury, or improve your performance.

And since yoga involves a whole lot of stretching, doing it before exercising may hamper your workout performance.

So if your yoga practice involves static stretching, it may cause a temporary loss of muscle strength. And if you hold that static stretch for over 45 seconds, it will impact your muscles even more.

However, it may help your workout if your yoga practice involves purely dynamic stretches. This is when you don’t hold the stretch; instead, you keep moving the body part.

This is especially helpful if the dynamic stretches are similar to your workout movements but at a lower intensity.

Doing Yoga After A Workout

woman doing a yoga workout

Doing yoga post-exercise offers far more benefits. Here are some of them.

Pros

Helps with post-workout muscle recovery

Doing yoga after working out helps your muscles heal by increasing blood flow into them, which ushers in essential nutrients and oxygen that your active tissues require [1].

This, in turn, results in a quicker repair of muscles damaged during your workout.

The same applies if you’re doing cardio. But if your favorite spin class comes after your yoga class, that’s fine too.

You can treat your yoga practice as an activity to warm up your muscles and get you in the right headspace to kill your cycling class.

But if the class type is a heavy vinyasa flow or high-level strength class, you might want to skip that as it may tire you out.

Lowers cortisol levels

Cortisol is a natural stress hormone that increases during moderate to high-intensity workout sessions.

High levels of this hormone can cause:

  • High blood pressure
  • Suppressed immune system
  • Muscle weakness
  • Increased risk for diabetes

Luckily, practicing yoga can help reduce the amount of cortisol in your body.

Regulates your heartbeat

Working out makes your heart beat faster, and you need to stabilize it once you’re done.

Doing yoga after a high-energy exercise routine helps you transition better into a normal resting phase through deep and slow breathing.

Deep breathing helps with that by stimulating the vagus nerve in your body. This plays an important role in the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps preserve energy by slowing your heart rate.

This counteracts your sympathetic nervous system that is triggered during exercise to produce stress responses [2].

And the result? A slower heartbeat and a drop in blood pressure.

Benefits Of Adding Yoga To Your Fitness Routine

woman in a seated yoga position

Whether you practice yoga before or after workout, you will still benefit from the practice.

Studies have proven that regular yoga practice offers physical health benefits such as improved joint flexion and trunk extension and increased oxygen uptake.

In addition, yoga can also help you achieve your weight loss goals.

“Regular yoga practice” means doing 5-10 minutes of meditative breath work (pranayama), followed by 30-60 minutes of dynamic movement (asana), and ending with 5-10 minutes of supine relaxation (savasana).

Some yoga positions will also have you performing complete body rotations. This increases your body’s versatility and reduces instances of a muscle cramp or spasm during your weight training and heavy lifting sessions.

Practicing yoga can also:

  • Decrease back pain
  • Alleviate joint/arthritis pain
  • Lower frequency of migraines
  • Reduce depression symptoms
  • Reduce anxiety symptoms
  • Relieve fibromyalgia pain
  • Improve your posture
  • Help with balance
  • Increase the body’s oxygen supply

What Is The Best Type Of Yoga Practice For Me?

two ladies doing a yoga pose

The word “yoga,” which translates to “union,” is most commonly associated with the union of the body and the mind.

But when it started in India, it meant the union of the human consciousness to divine consciousness.

“Yoga does not just change the way we see things, it transforms the person who sees.”

 

- B.K.S. Iyengar, Father of Yoga

There are hundreds of styles of yoga, so you won’t run out of options in case you don’t enjoy the first class you try.

Here are the different yoga types that will suit you based on your objectives, physical condition, and skill level.

1. For beginners

If you’re a beginner, look for an Introductory or Level 1 yoga class on YouTube or at a studio near you.

2. For those with injuries

Go for Iyengar yoga. This type of yoga focuses on the alignment of the bones and muscles in your body. It also uses props to help you achieve correct posture while preventing injury.

3. If you like it slow and relaxed

Opt for Yin or Restorative yoga. Both of these practices hold relaxing postures lasting from 30 seconds to 3 minutes, helping you achieve maximum peace and relaxation.

4. If you want something that fits all levels

Hatha yoga might be perfect for you. Most gyms and studios offer this “one-size-fits-all” type of yoga. It’s the umbrella term for all yoga postures.

Expect this one to be a bit more active than an introductory class but not as active as a Vinyasa class.

5. For those who prefer an athletic approach

If you’re looking for an opportunity to challenge yourself, a Vinyasa class would be perfect for you.

This flow class will usually have Sun Salutation A and Sun Salutation B as the main flows.

A yoga “flow” is a series of postures practiced two or more times in a row and repeated on each side.

6. If you’re going for the sweat

Visit a Bikram studio. Bikram is a series of 26 postures performed in a room usually heated to 105 degrees. It is simultaneously your cardio, strength, and flexibility training, so it’s pretty intense. But your body will surely thank you for it.

7. If you like the sweat, but without Bikram yoga’s bootcamp style

Enroll in a “hot yoga” class. Hot yoga is usually a Vinyasa class in a heated room. It’s also pretty athletic, but the flows are flexible, allowing you to play with your difficulty level.

8. If you want to focus on meditation and mantra

Go for Kundalini, a form of yoga that involves chanting, singing, verbal mantras, and meditation.

FAQs

Should I do yoga or exercise?

You should do both yoga and exercise. Adding these activities to your fitness regime will help you get lean, build muscle, and boost your physical and mental health.

Are 20 minutes of yoga a day enough?

Doing 20 minutes of yoga a day is enough to enjoy its benefits.

A study of 700 people found that practicing 12 minutes of yoga poses daily or every other day improved their bone health.

Another small-scale study showed that 20 minutes of yoga improved focus and working memory [3].

Can yoga change your body shape?

Yoga can change your body shape and give you a more lean-looking physique by increasing fat loss, developing muscle tone, and building your body flexibility.

So, Yoga or a Workout First?

At the end of the day, what really matters is that you do what feels best to you.

After all, the purpose of doing yoga and exercising is to keep your mind and body in tip-top condition. And that entails listening first and foremost to what your body is telling you—no matter what the science says.

Do you do yoga before or after a workout? Let us know in the comments below.


References:

  1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/8153712_The_Effects_of_Yoga_Training_and_a_Single_Bout_of_Yoga_on_Delayed_Onset_Muscle_Soreness_in_the_Lower_Extremity
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22365651/
  3. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130605190552.html

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