A regular yoga routine is the ideal way to improve your mental and physical health. There’s no better place for mindfulness than on the mat, and combining breath with body movement strengthens and stretches your muscles, gently works your cardiovascular system, and creates the right physiological soup to facilitate clear thinking and inner peace. However, fitting it into your busy life isn’t always easy — should you practice in the morning or night?
Fortunately, there are benefits to both. You can even split your routine into shorter segments. Here’s why it’s so helpful to practice yoga in the morning, evening or anytime.
The Benefits of Practicing Yoga in the Morning
A morning yoga routine lets you greet the day gently. It’s a peaceful way to wake yourself up, body and mind, and it provides the following impressive benefits.
1. Eases Overnight Stiffness and Creakiness
If you have a chronic health condition like arthritis, the morning may be your most painful time of day. The rheumatoid form of the disease can cause throbbing and aching more than 30 minutes after rising. However, research indicates that yoga is an effective intervention for people with this condition, and scheduling your practice upon awakening may ease the stiffness that accumulates overnight.
Another benefit of yoga for arthritis is that it tones the surrounding muscles, giving your joints additional support. You tend to lose muscle strength as you age, but regular exercise prevents this decline. A little morning yoga eases you into your day while improving your overall fitness and letting your connective tissues bear less of the load.
2. Adjusts Your Mood and Mindset for Your Day
You know the first few minutes of your day color the rest of it — think of how sleeping through the alarm leaves you panicky and on edge for hours afterward. A little morning yoga gets everything moving in a positive direction. It adjusts your mood, giving you space for mindfulness and gratitude as you flow through a few asanas.
Many factors affect how you feel, including how you move. Gentle movement stimulates endorphin release, easing mild pain and improving your outlook. The deep breathing associated with yoga also activates your parasympathetic nervous system and induces a sense of calm.
3. Gently Stimulates Blood Flow and Digestion
Moving in the morning gets everything in your body going. It’s like revving your engine for the day. It might ease constipation by helping with the go, especially if you throw in a gentle twist or two.
Perks of Practicing Yoga at Night
While practicing yoga in the morning has impressive perks, so does a pre-bedtime practice. Here’s what you can reap from spending a little time on your mat or even your mattress stretching and moving your body.
1. Soothes Your CNS Before Bedtime
Your central nervous system consists of two parts — sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic side governs your fight-or-flight response, moving blood to your muscles and increasing your respiration and heart rate to prepare you to defend yourself. Your parasympathetic side protects you in another way by calming you, turning on your rest and digest functions, and spurring healing.
Your goal before bedtime is to activate your parasympathetic nervous system to ease you into sleep. For best results, choose your yoga style with care. While an energetic ashtanga or power yoga class can wake you up, the high energy these forms generate can keep you awake. However, low-key, relaxing practices like yin and restorative yoga ease you into dreamland.
2. Eases Muscle Tension Acquired During the Day
You use your muscles throughout the day, causing them to contract and tighten. Pain can result when they get too tight. For example, inflexible hamstrings often result in increased lower back problems. Stretching counteracts this effect, elongating muscle fibers, improving overall flexibility and easing any tension acquired. You might notice your neck or upper back ache by day’s end — stretch and soothe them.
3. Facilitates Better Sleep
Deep breathing is one method of facilitating better sleep. Yoga isn’t only moving your body into the pose but breathing into it, mindfully exploring how each posture makes you feel. Combining breathwork with the muscle tension-relieving properties of gentle stretching makes it easier to fall under.
3 Tips for Making Yoga Part of Your Lifestyle
Yoga benefits you regardless of when you practice. Therefore, the best answer to “should you practice in the morning or night?” is “whenever suits you best.”
1. Get Mindful About Your Needs
Your first step in deciding when to practice yoga is to look at your preferences and lifestyle. Obviously, you can’t attend a 7 p.m. class if you have work obligations during that time. What fits into your schedule the best? If you already rush to leave the house in the morning, adding one more thing might seem like too much.
However, you should examine other factors besides your schedule. For example, do you struggle with insomnia? An evening practice may suit you best. Conversely, those who hit the snooze button 20 times before rising might appreciate a morning flow that gets them on their feet and out of bed.
2. Use Your Available Resources
Once upon a time, practicing yoga meant finding a studio and taking classes on your guide’s schedule. Fortunately, things have changed. Technology makes it possible to practice anytime, anywhere.
You can pay for an app or check out the extensive array of free yoga offerings on YouTube. You can explore various styles and feel comfortable in anything you like to wear — even nothing at all — without worrying about what others in the class might think. Some prefer this method because they can get deeper into their practice than they can amid distractions.
3. Be Playful, Not Serious
If you accidentally stumbled into an ashtanga class and heard you needed an hour and a half to devote to the primary series, no wonder you have the mistaken belief that you lack the time for yoga. However, even that modality includes shorter sessions, and just a few minutes brings results.
Researchers investigated the effectiveness of gentle stretching on performance. They found that even 10 minutes counteracts strength loss from inactivity and improves flexibility and jumping performance. Doing this upon rising or going to bed might not seem like much, but it makes a big difference.
Yoga Anytime and Anywhere
Dedicated yogis know they can practice anytime and anywhere. Wouldn’t it be glorious if one day, stressed-out office workers felt comfortable doing a few sun salutations beside their desks when they needed a moment of clarity?
You might not feel quite so comfortable striking a pose in the workplace. However, you can take advantage of the freedom yoga provides to heal your body through gentle movement anytime and anywhere. For example:
- Split up your practice: Do 10 minutes in the morning and another at night. The WHO recommends 75-300 minutes of exercise weekly, and right there, you’ve gotten 20 without changing your routine much.
- Use an app: Many apps remind you to stand up, stretch and practice mindfulness. Set periodic timers as reminders to use your breaks for gentle movement, reconnecting with yourself and being the best you can be, body and mind.
- Share the love: A funny thing happens when you practice yoga in a public place like a park: People begin emulating your example. You don’t have to become a guide, but know that you shine for others, making them feel more comfortable about their practice. No one should feel embarrassed to do mindful activities that make them better people — the world needs more of it!
Night? Morning? Do What’s Best for You
When’s the best time to practice yoga? You now know it doesn’t matter if you do so in the morning or the evening. What’s right is what works for you.
Getting started is the biggest hurdle, but fitting your practice into your lifestyle facilitates the process. Once you reap yoga’s benefits, you’ll look for opportunities to do it anytime and anywhere.