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You’ve just finished a sweaty yoga practice and are ready to hit the weights. But you may be wondering– is it better to weight lift after or before your yoga practice? Your body may be warmer after your yoga practice, but do you might feel as if you don’t have the energy for a round of strength training. Or maybe a restorative yoga practice after weight lifting sounds more enticing than practicing before lifting.
So should you practice yoga before or after weight lifting? The answer depends on what type of yoga you may be practicing before or after your weight lifting workout– it is better to practice a more dynamic style of yoga before weight lifting and a more restorative yoga practice after weight lifting. However, generally speaking, it is better to schedule your yoga practice after weight lifting or practice yoga the day before or after lifting weights.
Most muscle strain and stiffness come from doing a movement while the muscles are cold, which is why a good warm-up before weight training is essential. During your warm-up, you heat your body up, get your blood flow going, and loosen your joints. Skipping this may put you at risk for injury.
Some of the benefits of warming up include:
- Increased circulation
- Body and mind conditioning
- Heats up the muscles
- Increases your oxygen intake
- Conditions your lungs for your workout
- Increases your cardiac capacity
- Reduces the risk of injury, strain, or stiffness
- Loosens up your entire body
The Type of Yoga to Avoid Before Weight Training
It’s not ideal to lengthen your muscles before you weight train and lift. Try to avoid a restorative, yin, or classical Hatha practice that focuses on long holds and lengthening your muscles. Stick to a yoga practice that focuses on warming up your body – like a dynamic sequence that moves with your breath.
The Best Type of Yoga to Practice Before Weight Training
While it may generally be better to schedule your yoga practice after you lift, some yogis like to use their practice as a way to warm up for weight lifting. If you choose to do this, stick to dynamic, or vinyasa-based practice and try to avoid a practice with long holds that lengthen and relax your muscles.
A vinyasa practice typically consists of moving one breath per movement and it builds heat in your body. This constant movement builds up the heat and efficiently warms up your body so that it is ready for lifting weights.
The Best Yoga Warm-up Before Weight Lifting
If you decide to practice yoga before lifting weights, keep your body moving with a dynamic vinyasa practice. This will build heat in your body and warm up your muscles without over-stretching or over-relaxing them. Try this quick vinyasa sequence prior to your weight lifting session.
Here’s a quick and efficient yoga warm-up that you can practice before lifting your weights:
Sun Salutation A x 3
Sun Salutations are a great way to warm up your body and get it ready to practice deeper poses. Remember, you can always modify the poses based on your needs!
How to do a Sun Salutation:
- Start at the top of your mat in Mountain pose. Inhale and lift your arms up and gaze up.
- Exhale for a forward fold. Inhale for a halfway lift.
- Exhale to step back to plank pose and lower down to a modified or full Chaturanga.
- Inhale to Upward Facing Dog and exhale to Downward Facing Dog. Stay for 3 deep breaths.
- At the end of your exhale, look forward and step or jump to the top of your mat.
- Inhale for a halfway lift, exhale to forward fold. I
- Inhale to rise up to standing and exhale take your hands into a prayer position.
Quick Vinyasa Flow
After you’ve completed your rounds of sun salutation, we’ll lead into this quick vinyasa sequence to get you all warmed up for your weight lifting session!
1. Down Dog to Three Legged Dog
From Downward Facing Dog, lift your right leg up and step your right foot forward in between your hands. Keep your back leg strong and your heel off the ground.
2. High Lunge
Rise up on your inhale to High Lunge. Make sure your knee is bent at 90 degrees and your core is gently engaged to help you get a deeper stretch in your hip flexor.
3. Warrior 2 to Peaceful Warrior
On your exhale, root your back heel down and open into Warrior 2. Then, on your next inhale, reach your right arm forward, back, and up for a Peaceful Warrior. As you exhale, take your hands to the floor and flow through a vinyasa. Repeat on the opposite side. You can repeat this sequence 3 times.
4. Chair + Twisted Chair
For the last pose of the sequence we’ll be coming into Twisted Chair. To prepare:
- Start at the center of your mat with your feet together.
- On your inhale, sit down low and reach your hands up to the sky with your biceps by your ears.
- Relax your shoulders, draw your belly in, and keep your chest lifted and spine long. Stay for 3 breaths.
- On your 4th inhale, take your hands to your heart in a prayer position. On your exhale, twist to your right and hook your left elbow to your right knee.
- Keep your spine long and open your heart to the right as you twist.
- Stay for 3 breaths, come back to center, and repeat on the left side.
Yoga Poses to Practice While Weight Training
What about practicing yoga while you weight train? This is something that you can definitely do! There are some yoga poses and sequences that are similar to core or HIIT exercises, and you can incorporate those types of poses in your workout. Alternate with one set of weight training and one set of some of these exercises:
Downdog to Plank
Moving from Downward Facing Dog to Plank Pose works your core and upper body. Practice a few repetitions to get your blood flowing!
To practice Down Dog to Plank:
- Start in Downward Facing Dog.
- Moving with your breath, as you inhale, shift forward to Plank Pose.
- On your exhale, move back into Downdog.
- Repeat 5 times.
Pushups are challenging and this version with Chaturanga arms will fire up your muscles. You can practice this with your knees on the floor as you build up your upper body and core strength.
To practice Chaturanga Push-ups:
- Start in plank pose.
- Lower down to Chaturanga and push yourself back up to Plank pose.
- Repeat 5 times.
You will find this posture in every Vinyasa or Power yoga class. Build your mental and physical strength by breathing deeply in this pose for 30 seconds.
To practice Plank:
- Keep your core nice and engaged and ensure you’re creating one long line of energy from your head to your toes.
- Hold your plank pose for 30 seconds and build up to 1 minute.
The Best Type of Yoga to Practice After Weight Training
There’s nothing like a nice, long, and relaxing stretch after a sweaty gym session. A restorative or yin practice where you stay in each posture for a longer period of time is the perfect type of yoga to practice after weight lifting. You can choose to do this right after your gym session, or even the next day as recovery.
Practicing yoga after weight training may be beneficial and feel better in your body because:
- Your body is warmed for your yoga practice
- Your circulation is improved after pumping up your blood with weights
- You can balance your body out after a more yang weight lifting session with a yin yoga session
- Stretching the body to cool down reduces the risk for injury
- You have increased body awareness after lifting weights
The Best Yoga Cool-Down After Weight Lifting
Releasing the muscles that you spent so much time contracting during your weight lifting session can feel so good. You are able to free up space on your lower back, open your hamstrings, and cool down your entire body. Try this yoga cool-down before leaving the gym:
Child’s Pose is a great pose to practice to release tension in the back, neck, and promote overall relaxation.
To practice Child’s Pose:
- Start with your knees apart as wide as your mat and your big toes touching.
- Sit your hips on your heels and walk your hands forward until your forehead touches the mat. Relax your arms on the mat and soften your shoulders.
- Stay for 5-10 deep breaths.
Cat-Cow is great for releasing tension in the neck, shoulders, and spine. Feel free to explore and move your body in different ways to feel for any tightness to help you release it.
To practice Cat-Cow:
- Start with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Make sure you have a steady foundation, straight arms, and a neutral spine.
- On your inhale, arch your back, look up, and lift your chin away from your chest.
- On your exhale, draw your belly in, push the mat away from you, and tuck your chin to your chest.
- Repeat 5 times.
Pigeon Pose works on stretching the hips and glutes and can feel amazing after an intense workout session. If it feels too intense to fold forward all the way, feel free to use blocks or stack your fists to modify to your body’s needs!
To practice Pigeon:
- From Downward Facing Dog, lift your right leg up and take your right knee behind your right wrist.
- Lower your lower body down and keep your left leg straight behind you with the top of your foot on the mat.
- Before taking your upper body down, square your hips and make sure that you aren’t sitting on your right foot.
- Lower your elbows or forehead down on the mat.
- Stay for 5-10 breaths and repeat on the opposite side.
Seated Forward Fold is a great pose to practice to release tight hamstrings. Remember to keep your chest open and hinge forward from your hips to really target the hamstrings in this pose.
To practice Seated Forward Fold:
- Sit on your mat with your legs extended out in front of you. Relax your legs, ankles, knees, and toes.
- Inhale to lift your chest and lengthen your spine. As you exhale, walk your hands forward and allow your upper body to fall forward.
- Think of resting your belly on your thighs and your chest to your knees.
- Relax your entire body in this passive stretch.
- Stay for 5-10 breaths.
You can practice yoga either before or after weight lifting – just remember to choose the right style! Save the restorative poses for after your lifting session and a more dynamic practice before lifting weights. Every day usually feels a little different, so listen to your body and give it the practice that it needs.