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The Benefits of Yoga After a Workout

Reading Time: 5 minutes 41 seconds


DATE: 2020-12-25

It is well-known that consistent yoga practice can provide the body with a plethora of mental and physical benefits. However, many people may not think of yoga as a post-workout routine. But, some of those well-known yoga benefits are important components that can be valuable after a strength training or cardio workout. We'll discuss three reasons why you may want to consider having your clients add yoga to their post-workout routine and a few yoga poses to try.

3 Benefits of Yoga After a Workout

The great thing about yoga is that it meets people where they are. It's not about being better than anyone else or even getting into the perfect posture. It's concentration, breath, alignment, and doing what you can with what you have. Every individual's body is different but there are also a variety of different types of yoga.

That being said, the benefits that each individual will experience from yoga can vary. The following are a few of the most common yoga benefits and some insight into why you may want to consider adding yoga to your clients' post-workout routines.

1. Reduce Stress

Stress reduction tends to be one of the main reasons for practicing yoga. Stress has a significant impact on the body. There is good stress (eustress) and bad stress (distress).

A strength training workout is a good example of good stress. The stress placed on the body forces the body to change and grow. However, when the body stays in a stressed state for too long, whether it be from inability to recover from a workout or daily stress, it can become bad stress. Prolonged stress can negatively alter many different body functions (1).

However, regular yoga practice has shown to reduce stress, have a positive effect on serotonin levels, and support a feeling of calmness (2). Yoga is a mind-body practice in which the body and mind can be changed with consistent practice. Some extra endorphins from exercise along with a calm mind and increased serotonin is a great place to be after a workout and can be an effective long-term stress management tool.

2. Cool Down the Body

Post-workout yoga is typically an active cool-down. Although there isn't enough consistent research, there are experts that believe active cool-downs are more effective than passive cool-downs. That being said, many experts still aren't sure if an active cool-down contributes to much physiological recovery at all. This means that there is still more research needed to identify whether or not a cool-down plays a role in reducing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), helping prevent injuries, improving recovery, etc. However, because an active cool-down is often believed to be beneficial, the client's perception of active cool-downs may provide psychological benefits (3). So, it is important to cater the cool-down to the individual client.

Regardless of the type of cool-down, exercise elevates the heart rate, gets the lungs working, and challenges the muscles. The body will start to cool down on its own once the activity is discontinued. However, yoga can support the body in the cool-down process. Yoga has shown that it can help transition the body from the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) to the parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation). As the body shifts back into the parasympathetic nervous system, the heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate lower and return to balance (2).

3. Improved Sleep

Rest is extremely important after physical activity. Sleep is believed to be an important part of the body's recovery process. Research has shown that yoga can have a positive impact on sleep and sleep quality. However, sleep benefits are typically a result of regular yoga practice (4). So, although one yoga session may or may not help your client sleep better. Consistent yoga practice may help improve their sleep. If your client isn't someone who regularly attends yoga classes, the repeated addition of yoga postures to the end of each workout might be just what they need to help support better sleep.

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Post-Workout Postures

There are many different yoga postures that offer benefits beyond just static stretching. The following are a few yoga poses to help get your client started.

1. Child's Pose

This pose is helpful for stretching the back, spine, and shoulders along with the quadriceps, ankles, and hips. This posture is also known to have a calming effect on the mind (5).

How to do it: The client will begin on their knees and sit back until their glutes touch the bottoms of their feet. Knees should be slightly wider than hip-width apart. Keeping the hips and butt down, the client will walk their hands forward and stretch forward until their hands and forehead touch the ground. The client will stay in this position with a focus on the breath and opening the back and shoulders. Clients can walk their hands back to return to the starting position.

2. Downward Facing Dog

The downward facing dog posture might be one of the most well-known yoga postures. It is known to be helpful with headaches, insomnia, and relieving stress (5).

How to do it: The client will begin on their hands and knees with the hands under the shoulders and the knees under the hips. The fingers should be spread out and the toes should be tucked and pressing into the yoga mat. The clients will lift their hips towards the ceiling, roll back on to the bottoms of the toes, and keep their head in alignment with the spine. The client will press their hands into the floor, press their heels toward the floor (they don't need to touch the floor), and breathe. They may feel stretching in their hamstrings, calves, back, hips, and shoulders. Clients can drop their hips and reverse the movement to get back into the starting position.

3. Pigeon

For clients with tight hips, this yoga pose can be a challenging posture, but that is why it's needed. The body is more warmed up post-workout so this can allow for deeper stretching. The pigeon pose is a great hip-opener but, as with all yoga postures, alignment is most important. Although stretching in this posture can be intense, there is very little movement in this posture which allows the client to breathe and cool down the body.

How to do it: To begin this stretch, the client should begin in the downward facing dog position or a plank position. Keeping the hips square, they will lift one leg off the floor and bring it forward towards their chest. Once the knee is close to the torso, they will allow the hip to open which will drop the knee to the side and the foot and lower leg will become perpendicular to the torso. The opposite leg should be stretched back with the tops of the toes pressing into the mat. The hips should be level and the torso should be upright, pressing down into the open hip. The client can reverse the movement to return to the starting posture. The pigeon posture should be repeated on the opposite side of the body as well.

Although yoga can be a great post-exercise stretching routine, it can also be effective for strength training. Regardless of how and when you use it with your clients, there are many benefits. It is definitely something to consider adding to your skillset.

Are you interested in learning more about stretching, yoga poses, and how you can help your clients do it? Or, are you interested in becoming a yoga instructor? Check out ISSA's Yoga Instructor Certification and get started today!

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  1. Yaribeygi, Habib et al. "The impact of stress on body function: A review." EXCLI journal vol. 16 1057-1072. 21 Jul. 2017

  2. Woodyard, Catherine. "Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life." International journal of yoga vol. 4,2 (2011): 49-54.

  3. Van Hooren, Bas, and Jonathan M Peake. "Do We Need a Cool-Down After Exercise? A Narrative Review of the Psychophysiological Effects and the Effects on Performance, Injuries and the Long-Term Adaptive Response." Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.) vol. 48,7 (2018): 1575-1595.

  4. Halpern, Jonathan. "Yoga for Improving Sleep Quality and Quality of Life for Older Adults." Alternative Therapies. May/June 2014. Vol. 20,3.

  5. Yoga Journal Editors. "Child's Pose." Yoga Journal [online]. Jan. 2019. Accessed June 2020. https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/child-s-pose

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Learn the benefits of yoga, techniques and tools for teaching, and fundamental information for jump-starting your career.

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