Even the buffest bodybuilders and the most toned trainers need to spend some time relaxing. And yoga is a great way to bring some zen into an otherwise high-intensity lifestyle surrounded by pop jacks and sumo squats.
But yoga can be a meditative experience for anyone, and it can easily be incorporated before or after your existing workout routine to help you find some inner peace.
It’s a heated debate as far as whether or not you should do yoga before you work up a sweat or after you’ve depleted your tank. So let’s talk about it:
What’s better: yoga before or after a workout?
Purpose of Yoga
Yoga is an amazing exercise not only because it helps build strength but it helps you raise awareness and harmony in your mind and body. It’s typically used as a meditative experience to help you find inner peace and balance.
Keeping that in mind, it may help you decide if doing yoga before or after a workout makes more sense for your personality. There is no right or wrong way to do it, but considering the fact that it’s meant to help you unwind, it may make more sense to do it after you’ve exerted all of your energy as part of a cooldown.
Doing yoga after a workout may make the most sense, as yoga poses make for a perfect cool down after your crazy HIIT routine or resistance band strength training. There are a few reasons for this.
For one, yoga is a great way to stretch your muscles that you just worked during the exercise. Stretching helps to keep tight muscles flexible, which is essential post-workout as it can help prevent injury and soreness when you pick up the weights the next day.
Additionally, it works as a cooldown because it can help return your heart rate to a normal resting rate. This aids in a faster recovery, which can help to avoid lightheadedness or headaches after a workout. This also helps to regulate blood flow, which is essential if you’re gearing up for a marathon or a tri-state row.
While we recommend doing some yoga after an intense workout, it’s not your only option. Doing yoga before a workout definitely has its perks.
Yoga can also act as a warm-up if you adjust your routine accordingly. A warm-up is essential before any workout to help dilate your blood vessels, ensuring that your muscles are fully supplied with oxygen from start to finish.
When doing pre-workout yoga, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing dynamic poses that keep your body moving, as opposed to static moves that will make you feel more tired than anything else.
A good example is something called vinyasa flow, in which you ease from one pose to another. For example, you can start in a downward dog and gently flow into a cobra position. This maintains the stretch and meditative qualities of yoga while also helping to increase your blood flow so that your muscles are ready to take on what lies ahead.
Yoga as a Workout
But who says yoga has to come before or after a workout? Why not make it your entire routine?
Before you roll your eyes and pick up the barbell, hear us out. Yoga is a tough strength-building exercise that requires practice, balance, patience, strength, and mindfulness. Even the biggest bodybuilders will have trouble completing a challenging yoga routine.
Don’t know where to start?
Here’s a full-body yoga workout that you can use as a stand-alone workout or incorporate as part of your warm-up and cooldown.
The cat-cow pose is a dynamic movement that is perfect for incorporating yoga into your warm-up, but it’s also great in a cooldown or standalone. This move works your entire core, from the rectus abdominis in the front to the serratus posterior in the back.
To do a cat-cow pose:
1) Start in a tabletop position with your shoulders stacked above your wrists. Keep your hips over your knees. Inhale.
2) On the exhale, round your spine and drop your head toward the floor, pushing your back towards the ceiling. This is the cat pose.
3) Inhale. Lift your head toward the ceiling while pushing your belly button toward the floor. Your spine should be bending in the opposite direction than it was before. This is the cow pose.
4) Repeat for about 10 breaths.
Downward Facing Dog
If your shoulders and glutes didn’t get enough during your crazy HIIT routine, then the downward-facing dog can help give them the attention they deserve. This is a static pose that is easy to do yet difficult to fully master.
To do a downward-facing dog:
1) Start in the tabletop position. Spread your hands and press them firmly into the mat.
2) Lift your bottom and press it up and back, raising your hips towards the ceiling. Try to keep your legs as straight as possible without bending the knees. Press into your fingers to take pressure off of your wrists.
3) Press your heels toward the floor, resting your head between your arms. Your back should be flat, and you should be making an equilateral triangle with the floor.
4) Hold for 10 breaths, then release.
Lunging Hip Flexor
While it doesn’t have as cool of a name as the other poses on this list, the lunging hip flexor should still be just as respected. This is a great stretch for quads and glutes, so definitely add it to your routine if you’re a big biker or runner.
To do a lunging hip flexor:
1) Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Take a large step forward with your left foot.
2) Lower both of your knees toward the ground, bringing your left leg to 90 degrees and resting your back knee on the mat. For a challenge, hold this back knee over the mat, like a traditional lunge.
3) Hold this pose for 10 breaths and then repeat on the other side.
Side Plank Pose (Vashistasana)
If you’re looking for a pose that will challenge you a bit more than it will relax you, the side plank pose is the way to go. This is an intermediate-level move that challenges your arm strength as well as your core, particularly the obliques. This is great to add to a killer arm day workout, but it can also work well as a warm-up or cooldown.
To do a side plank pose:
1) Start in a high plank position with hands under your shoulders and legs extended.
2) Slowly rotate your body, pointing one hand towards the ceiling and opening your chest to the side. Your shoulders, hips, and ankles should be in one straight line.
3) Hold for 10 breaths, then gently return to starting position and repeat on the other side.
Crane Pose (Bakasana)
If you’re a real yoga expert, or if you feel like you need to be humbled, the Bakasana pose is one of the most advanced and challenging moves you can do. This move works pretty much your entire body, but it requires some serious upper body strength and extreme balance. This is a pose that isn’t for the faint of heart.
To do the Bakasana pose:
1) Squat down with your feet a few inches apart. Separate your knees wider than your hips and lean your torso forward. Stretch your arms forward to the floor, bending your elbows.
2) Lift your body onto the balls of your feet and lean forward, taking weight off of your torso and back.
3) Exhale, holding your body up as you lift your feet off the floor. Now, your torso and legs should be balanced on the back of your upper arms.
4) Hold for 10 breaths.
Yoga is a popular workout because it incorporates everything you love about strength training with the added element of some serious stability and mindfulness training. But should it come before or after a workout?
While you’re free to do whatever you’d like, we feel that it’s best to do yoga after a workout as part of a cooldown because it helps regulate your heart rate. However, if you incorporate dynamic moves, you can easily do a yoga warm-up.
You can also ditch them completely and just do an entire workout revolving around yoga poses. Regardless, if you’re looking to expand your arsenal of fitness forms and muscle-gaining moves, the Gorilla Bow All-Access Membership is your one-stop-shop for live and on-demand classes that will have you reaching your goals in no time.