Yoga Before Or After Workout? (How to mix them together)


Combining yoga with weight training is one of the best things you can do for your body to enhance body awareness and get fit. But once you decided to give it a try, and now you’re ready to plan your workouts, should you do yoga before or after a workout?

You should do yoga after workout because it helps to relax muscle tension and reduce post-exercise soreness DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). On the other hand, doing yoga before the workout leads to lower strength and poor performance.

But it all depends on several factors like your fitness level, current workout type, the timing of the workouts, and much more.

How To Do Yoga And Exercise Together

The way you combine yoga and exercise together will depend on your current practice and your personal goals. People who want to add weight training to their yoga practice have different goals, comparing to people who want to do more yoga in addition to their strength training.

Can I do yoga and weight training? You can do yoga and weight training because they both enhance your fitness level. Yoga is a great stretching routine that keeps your muscles and joints mobile. Weight training keeps your body strong, bones healthy and elevates your metabolism.

Adding weight training to yoga

You can incorporate weight training into your yoga practice simply by designating a couple of days in the week where you focus on the gym, or you have the same-day approach where you start from lifting weights and follow up with a yoga session.

Why you should add weights to your yoga practice? You should add weights to your yoga practice because it will help to build more strength, increase lean body mass, increase your energy expenditure, and resting metabolic rate. Weight training can exercise specific muscle groups that yoga cannot do.

Does strength training restrict yoga? In general, strength training can restrict yoga if it’s done with high volume. High volume strength training with progressive overload and a high-protein diet lead to higher lean body mass, which can cause some limitations in some of the yoga poses.

What is volume? Volume is the total number of exercises, sets, reps, and amount of weight that you lift. High volume means doing several sets on one particular muscle group (e.g. legs) where you do 5-6 exercises in one day, with 4-5 sets each and a lot of reps.

This type of training triggers hypertrophy and can restrict flexibility. On the other hand, doing a full-body workout in one single day spreads the volume across the whole body. This triggers the strength gains without adding size (source).

Here is the plan on how to add weight training to your existing yoga routine without creating any restrictions.

FITTWeight training
Frequency2-3 times per week
Intensity3 sets
5-8 reps
60-80% of 1RM
Time45-60 minutes
TypeFull body workout
Compound movements
Yoga and workout plan

In the table above you can see a simple example of how to add a low-medium volume of resistance training into the yoga routine. The focus is on doing full-body, compound exercises to maximize muscle strength without triggering hypertrophy and bulking up on muscle size.

Gym workout executed this way won’t cause any restrictions in your current yoga practice, but only build up on strength and power.

What exercise compliments yoga? In general, the exercise that compliments yoga will be any pull exercises like deadlifts, pull-ups, rows, or kettlebell swings. Those exercises target posterior chain muscle groups and upper back in a way that typical yoga session does not.

However, from the functional standpoint, all of the big compound movements have a lot of benefits. Here is the full list that can compliments yoga.

Front squatsPull-ups
Back squatsDumbbell press
Military pressHip thrust
DeadliftPower clean
Dumbbell snatchBarbell row
Kettlebell swingsChin-up
Exercises that compliment yoga

Adding yoga to workout routine

You can incorporate yoga into your workout routine simply by designating separate days just for yoga, alternating yoga days with strength training days or simply doing both on the same day. The method you choose will only depend on your available time and fitness level.

Why you should add yoga to your strength training? You should add yoga to your existing strength training routine because it will help to improve your range of motion, reduce muscle and joint restrictions, reduce muscle soreness and help to down-regulate after a high-volume workout.

Does yoga interfere with strength training? In general, yoga does not interfere with strength training, as long as it’s done after the session, or on the rest days. Studies have found that doing yoga before strength training leads to acute decreases in strength, depending on the duration of the stretch.

How often should I do yoga if I lift weights? If you lift weights, you should do yoga at least 1-2 per week. People who are more experienced can do yoga after every single workout. However, people who are just getting started can feel sore and may need more time to recover.

Here are the steps on how to add yoga to your strength training routine, without interfering with strength and performance.

FITTYoga
Frequency1-2 times per week
IntensityBeginner to intermediate
Time45-60 minutes
TypeAshtanga, Hatha, Vinyasa
Yoga and weight training plan

In the table above you see the example of how to implement yoga sessions if you’re already doing strength training. The frequency can be as low as 1 session per week. This is good for beginners to get used to the new length-tension relationship in the muscle (source).

The intensity can be dictated only by individual flexibility levels. People who have never done yoga before won’t be able to perform full yoga sessions, keeping the perfect form in all of the poses. So in the beginning, 1 session per week is absolutely fine.

Can we do yoga and exercise together for weight loss?

Doing yoga and exercise together will help you with weight loss because they both burn a substantial amount of calories. Strength training increases your metabolism by adding more lean muscle, where yoga and mindfulness help to destress and reduce appetite.

Over 70% of the calories burned are used for basic functions like breathing, blood flow, protein synthesis, and cognitive processes. The most metabolically expensive is lean muscle mass. So with more lean body weight, you will burn more calories at rest.

Yoga also plays a role in weight loss because it helps to relax the body. The majority of the excess weight is from excessive eating. People use food not only to satisfy physical hunger but also to relax and destress. Adding yoga helps to reduce stress, and can act as an appetite suppressant (source).

What will happen if we do regular yoga and exercise? In general, if you do regular yoga and exercise together, not only you will become more physically stronger, but also more relaxed and resilient. The combination of yoga and strength training allows reaching higher body awareness and somatic knowledge.

Yoga And Workout Same Day

It is ok to combine yoga with workout together because they both supplement each other. Gym training targets the muscle groups and builds the strength that yoga doesn’t allow. On the other hand, yoga improves your flexibility and helps to correct posture.

Correcting posture is nothing else than restoring your full range of motion. Doing 1-hour workout a day is good to build strength, but it’s not enough to undo all the insufficient movement positions that we are exposed to during the rest of the 23 hours.

Unfortunately.

Whatever position you’re maintaining for most of your day (e.g. sitting at work, carrying a heavy load on one side, driving a car, walking with the valgus knee) this will become your main posture, thanks to so-called pattern adaptation. For example:

  • Sitting leads to inefficient stability in the hips because we cannot activate our glutes.
  • Lack of stability in the pelvis region creates compensation where our shoulders and upper back tend to round forward.
  • Leaning forward adds tension to the neck by dropping the head down.

If we spend hours every day in those biomechanically insufficient positions, the body creates a pattern. It also leads to:

  • Decreased breathing capacity
  • compromised diaphragm function
  • limited shoulder range of motion
  • the compromised pelvic floor function

That doesn’t mean you cannot train. Our body has an enormous ability to compensate and buffer all movement errors. So you can still lift heavy weights, be the fastest runner, or jump higher than LeBron James. But with enough inefficiency, that leads to a new set of problems.

Can you do yoga and workout on the same day?

You can do yoga and workout on the same day because a gym workout at high volume induces post-exercise muscle soreness DOMS. Doing yoga on the same day helps to release muscle tension and reduces that soreness.

Doing an resistance training with higher volume leads to microscopic muscle damage. In the effect, the levels of inflammatory proteins like myoglobin and creatine kinase increase and creates muscle soreness.

Thankfully, several methods help to relieve the pain after a tough workout. I’ve already written an article about it “Stop Soreness After Yoga“, which I recommend you read.

Combining weight training with yoga also helps to restore the full range of motion. A gym workout with repeated contraction and heavy load leads to changes in the length-tension relationship in the muscle. Without any interventions like stretching, massage, or foam rolling, these muscles remain stiff.

Yoga Before Or After Weights

In general, the answer to should you do weights or yoga first is to start from weights. Doing strength training activates sympathetic response, which helps to perfuse muscles and generates higher intensity. Doing yoga after helps to switch off and down-regulate.

What is a sympathetic response? A sympathetic response is part of your central nervous system. It’s a response of your body to stress, where heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure increase, signaling to alert different areas of the body to get ready for action.

What is a parasympathetic response? A parasympathetic response is also part of your central nervous system that is distinct from the sympathetic response. It helps to down-regulate, reduces heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and reduces the allostatic load from stress.

What should I do before weight lifting?

Before weight lifting, you should activate a sympathetic response before it helps to prepare the muscle for the workout. It activates neurotransmitters, increases enzymatic activity within the muscles, and releases glucose from the liver for energy.

In other words, you should focus on active warm-up, not passive and static stretching.

Is it OK to do yoga before lifting weights? You should avoid doing yoga before lifting weights because intensive stretching leads to a significant decrease in strength and stability. Long duration yoga session activates parasympathetic response which lowers the heart rate, activates digestion and relaxes the muscles.

Instead, you should focus on dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching done before weight training not only helps to facilitate a better range of motion but at the same time, increases your sympathetic response and gets you ready for the workout.

Benefits of dynamic stretching before exercise

There are several benefits from doing dynamic stretching instead of yoga before strength training. Most of it has to do with the signaling to the body that energy has to be conserved for the muscles and improves the access to nutrients.

Benefit #1: Activates sympathetic response

During dynamic stretching, the sympathetic nervous system secretes norepinephrine in the blood and signals the heart to increase heart rate, stroke volume, and cardiac output. It also sends signals to conserve energy for the movement.

Benefit #2: Increases blood circulation

Elevated heart rate results in dilation of arteries and a greater amount of blood being pumped out of the heart to the muscles. This ensures the muscles have enough oxygen and nutrients required to do the workout. It also allows for better clearance of carbon dioxide and other waste products away from the muscles.

Benefit #3: Increases cellular metabolism

Dynamic stretching stimulates the cells to increase their metabolism by up-regulating enzyme activity. Enhanced enzymatic activity leads to better absorption of the nutrients by the cells and more efficient conversion for energy.

Benefit #4: Mobilizes nutrients in the liver

During the active warm-up, the sympathetic response also signals to the liver to prepare glycogen for transport to the muscles. This glycogen then can be used for energy.

The Time Gap Between Yoga and Exercise

If you want to do yoga first and then workout you should have at least a 6-8 hours time gap in between. This will allow for the parasympathetic nervous systems to normalize, replace glycogen stores and prepare the body for another workout.

Can I do yoga in morning and exercise in the evening?

You can do yoga in the morning and exercise in the evening or night, as long as you have enough energy for both. Doing yoga in the morning can help to relieve stress and anxiety. There is strong evidence that doing strength training in the evening leads to greater strength and performance.

What I like about doing yoga first thing in the morning it helps me to balance my emotions and stretch out the anxiety. On the days when I feel sluggish and unmotivated, typically I roll my yoga mat and start some simple practice.

Instead of “promising” myself to do a full session, I just commit to 5-10 minutes. That’s all I plan for. However, after 5-10 minutes is done, normally I already feel awake, and most often than not I will do the full session.

Can I workout in the morning and do yoga in the evening?

You can workout in the morning and do a yoga session later on in the evening. Doing strength training in the morning increases your metabolic rate and makes you burn more calories during the day, where leaving yoga for late at night or the evening can promote better sleep.

As you can see, there is no binary decision here. I also love to train with weight in the morning. In fact, if my days are fully booked and I know I must rely heavily on my energy to deliver good service to my clients, I always train with weights in the morning.

I’ve noticed that several years ago that workout at 5 am makes me so much more productive, alert, and laser-focused. So either way, whenever it yoga or strength training, you will always find me training in the morning doing something.

The most important foundation of any workout is adherence. This means it doesn’t matter which one you want to do, as long as you do something.

Benefits Of Yoga After Workout

The most profound benefits of doing yoga after workout include enhanced post-exercise recovery, better range of motion and joint mobility, and up-regulation of the parasympathetic response that triggers increase in the oxytocin, serotonin and melatonin.

In other words, your body feels good and is ready to rest, recover and heal.

What I like about yoga after doing the workout is that it helps me to unplug. Also, after a good workout, my body is already warmed up, so it gets much easier to perform yoga poses. A properly warmed-up body allows for a deeper and longer stretch.

This makes the significant difference in the end result.

Is yoga a good post-workout stretch? Yoga is a good post-workout stretch because the full yoga session allows you to stretch several muscles in all directions. This relieves the tension not only from the muscle but also from the joints, which improves mobility and range of motion.

Yoga And Gym On Alternate Days

Sometimes a good alternative is to combine yoga and strength workouts on alternate days. This helps to conserve energy. You have a full tank of power for both exercises and you don’t have to compromise one over another.

Can I do yoga and weight training on alternate days? You can do yoga and weight training on alternate days, especially when you’re getting started to combine them. Splitting the training program for yoga days and weight days can help to adjust, slowly build up the strength, and prevent overtraining.

On yoga days, you have more time and energy to complete the whole session and spend more time in the poses that you feel most restricted. You can use that also as your rest days from the gym.

Can you do yoga on a rest day? You can do yoga on the rest days because it will help you to speed up the post-exercise recovery. Stretching exercises are regularly recommended as they lead to decreased muscle soreness, improved performance, and can prevent injury.

On the other hand, having a gym day, where you purely focus on the reps and sets can save you lots of energy and allow for better performance.

Conclusion

Adding yoga to your workout routine is an excellent way to step up your fitness level. The best way to balance them together is first to start by identifying your personal goals, and figure out what is most important for you.

From then, you simply choose to either do both on separate days or when you have time and energy, combine them in one day. Doing yoga after a workout will help to keep the performance integrity, and help you relax after a tough workout session.

Michal Sieroslawski

Michal is an exercise physiologist (MSc), nutrition coach, Ashtanga teacher, and fitness blogger. He shares his successes and failures to help busy men and women squash down 20, 50, or even 100 pounds of fat without leaving their home.

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