Yoga Before or After Cardio?
We’ve all seen the stereotypical yogi practicing yoga outside on the side of a mountain somewhere at sunset, looking all serene and calm. It’s so picturesque and would make anyone want to jump right in. But, in reality, yoga isn’t like that for everyone and more and more people are jumping on the yoga bandwagon these days.
Yoga is an ancient practice that offers all kinds of benefits, which is why it is increasing in popularity for all groups of people. Not only does it improve flexibility and balance, it promotes heart and circulation health. Many runners and cyclists incorporate yoga before or after cardio as a part of their cross-training regimen. Runners who also practice yoga regularly not only have overall better fitness but also see a dramatic decrease in injuries.
I think it’s safe to say that there really isn’t a reason to not include yoga in your everyday life whether it’s for your actual workout or in addition to another form of workout. However, have you ever wondered if these runners and cyclists know something that we don’t? Is it possible that there are even more benefits to incorporating the practice of yoga before or after cardio?
Which Is Better?
For cardio such as running, cycling, or even swimming, is there a right time to do yoga? Are there any significant benefits to practicing yoga before or after cardio? Or does it even matter at all?
Ideally, there are more benefits to practicing yoga after a cardio workout as you’ll see below, but there are also some significant benefits to practicing before. While we associate more positives with a yoga practice as part of your post-workout, there will always be people who like it as a warm up beforehand, and that is okay. No matter if you practice yoga before or after cardio, I guarantee you will reap some benefits. So, let’s dive a little deeper…
Yoga After Cardio Exercise
Typically, when you complete a cardio session, your body is tired and needs to wind down. You’re sweaty, your heart is racing, and you can barely catch your breath. Taking advantage of this time and using yoga as a post workout has some significant benefits including…
Body is Already Warm
We know Yoga for its ability to improve flexibility. You warmed up during your cardio session, and that’s the best part about practicing after cardio (already being warmed up)! Because of this, your body will stretch deeper in the yoga poses and really reap the most benefits from your yoga practice.
Breaks Down Lactic Acid
If you do yoga after a cardio workout, this may allow your body to break down lactic acid that built up throughout your session. Lactic acid buildup in your muscles causes stiffness and soreness and by doing yoga after a workout, you may help to prevent and limit that post workout soreness! Your body will thank you for this one in the days after your big sweat session!
Serves as a Cool Down
Instead of simple static stretching after an intense workout, yoga allows you to take a more dynamic approach with coordinated movements and stretches. This will allow your body to slow and cool down as opposed to coming to a screeching halt.
Like I said above, your body is already warm from doing a cardio workout before, and you’ll be able to have deeper stretches and get the most out of your yoga practice, but the change in pace will also allow your body to cool down. Yoga is not a workout associated with pumping up your heart rate. It’s actually the opposite. Which brings us to our next benefit…
Slows the Heart Rate
As part of any good cool down, your heart rate needs to slow down. After doing a high intensity cardio workout that gets your heart rate soaring, it is always beneficial to take time afterwards to bring your heart rate down, and yoga does just this!
Calms the Mind
We traditionally know Yoga for its calming and relaxing effects while also allowing the body to stretch and recover. This is why many people picture that mental image I mentioned before of the man posing on the side of the mountain. It’s true, though, and that’s why this has been a popular practice for thousands of years!
After an intense workout, it is important to take time to slow down and bring some calm. Whether you’re working out to escape the chaos of your life from work to kids and family, it’s always nice to take some time afterwards to refocus and find some calm before getting back to reality.
While these are not all the benefits for practicing yoga after cardio exercise, these are definitely the most significant and biggest benefits!
Yoga Before Cardio Exercise
As you can see, there are several reasons you should definitely do yoga after running, walking, or any other form of cardio workout. From calming to preventing next day soreness, there are so many benefits to ending your workout this way.
While it may look like you should prioritize adding a yoga practice after your cardio session, there may be times where this isn’t workable. Or, you may prefer to start your workout with yoga, and that’s perfectly fine. It’s not ideal, but you’ll still benefit from the practice and smash your workout!
Along with others, here are the top reasons and benefits to practicing yoga as a pre-workout…
Serves as a Warm Up
As opposed to ending your workout with yoga, you may not be as warm going into a yoga session pre-cardio. However, you are switching the purpose of your practice. By starting with yoga, it will serve as your warm up.
Start with yoga before cardio if you prefer a slower paced, stretching focused, dynamic warm up. Using yoga as a short warm up will get your muscles stretched without getting your heart rate too high. So, if this sounds ideal to you, try it!
As I mentioned above, yoga has significant benefits on the mind. If you are mentally preparing for an especially challenging cardio session, you could use your time to set the intentions for your workout. You could take the time in your yoga practice to prepare your mind to get a good workout in so that when the time comes, you can really kick it into gear and dominate your workout!
Prepare the Muscles
Just as you may want to use yoga to prepare your mind for a hard workout, you can always use it to prepare your muscles. Stretching the muscles you intend on working during cardio will help your workout. So, it could serve as more than just a simple, slower paced warm up. It could target your muscle groups and get them prepared for what’s coming.
For example, if you’re preparing to go on a long bike ride, you could work in a quick yoga practice that focuses on your lower body, stretching your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. That way, your muscles will be loose and ready for whatever is coming their way!
Calms the Mind
Let’s say you’ve had a stressful day. There’s a lot going on at home, and work has been especially stressful this week. It may be beneficial for you to do yoga before your workout. It will allow you to calm your mind, allowing you to focus more on the present, thus resulting in a better workout all around because you’ll be in the right headspace heading into your cardio session.
Ultimately, It’s Up to You…
As you can see, there are definitely more reasons and benefits to work in a yoga session after a workout. It’s a great cool down, you’ll still be warm enough to stretch more deeply and get a more effective yoga practice in, and you’ll be preventing soreness in the days to come. While these things point towards doing yoga afterwards, you may prefer, enjoy, and get more out of a yoga session before, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
There really is no right or wrong in practicing yoga before or after cardio. If you look at all the research and benefits that yoga has to offer, you will receive benefits from having it as a part of your workout routine, no matter where it lies in the sequence of events or if it stands alone as your only workout of the day.
If you practice yoga before your cardio workout, however, it is important to remember that you still need to have a good cool down. Stretching and cooling down after an intense workout are essential for injury prevention, and it’s important to always take time to do this.
So, take some time, try out both yoga before or after cardio, and find what works best for you! That’s really the most important part of any workout.