Let’s talk about Post-Workout Recovery Yoga! After any kind of training, the way you wind down matters – it can facilitate your recovery, prevent muscle and tendon issues and prepare you for stepping back into your normal life.
Why does post-workout recovery Yoga matter?
You work hard during your workout or training, and your muscles suffer minor damage that has to be repaired. A well designed post-workout Yoga brings more blood into those muscles, and that means an increased oxygen and nutrient supply, so your muscles can start healing faster. It can also relieve some stiffness and soreness, particularly in the usually achy areas like the lower back, hips, thighs, and calves. Research shows that people who supplement their athletic training with Yoga suffer less muscle soreness than people who don’t. This allows your body to not just bounce back from a training session but also to be better prepared for the next one, and improve your performance.
Post-workout Yoga practice mobilizes your whole body, makes you move in a balanced way, and by doing that it decreases your risk of repetitive strain and other injuries. It can also resolve some nagging pains you may be suffering because of your training. A good post training Yoga session moves, stretches, and resets your muscles, tendons and fascia. As a result, you’ll also have a greater range of motion and that, in turn, improves your athletic performance because it makes you move better.
Practicing Yoga after your training doesn’t just make you feel better physically, it also contributes to your mental recovery. High-intensity exercise can increase your stress hormone levels, while Yoga decreases them. This effect helps physical recovery, too, because a less stressed body works better at muscle repair.
An important part of Yoga is slow and deep breathing, and breathwork called Pranayama. It contributes to the stress-relieving effects of Yoga but it also increases your lung capacity, and improves your body’s ability to rest. A lot of mental and physical repair happens while you sleep, and it just so happens that Yoga improves the quality of sleep, its duration, and makes you fall asleep faster.
A post-workout Yoga practice can also bring your attention to some troublesome body areas that may need extra stretching, fascia release or massage. Or it can simply help you get rid of any residual tension that you may be holding onto, for example in your shoulders.
When it comes to fascia – that’s the thin sheet of connective tissue covering your muscles – Yoga can provide a welcome release. Your fascia may be less elastic than it should be and limiting your range of motion if your training has a repetitive motion nature – e.g. weight-lifting, cycling or running. By including multidirectional moves and long holds in post-workout Yoga, you can train your fascia, release it and make it more elastic.
Three must haves of a good recovery Yoga practice
We’ve done all the hard work so you don’t have to, and designed a series of post-workout recovery practices tailored to your needs whether you’re a bodybuilder or endurance athlete – check them out!
- Dynamic movement
A good recovery Yoga practice should include dynamic movements, moving between positions with the breath or repeated transitions. This is important because it mobilizes your joints and increases circulation in your muscles. No matter if your training is focused on building strength or you’re a runner, mobilizing your whole body after your workout helps to re-establish some muscle balance, moves your joints in ways they don’t otherwise move, and helps you realize which parts of your body may need more work. A few simple Sun salutations can do the trick.
- Longer holds
The dynamic portion of the practice should be followed by some static, deep stretching in Yoga poses held for long enough so the muscles can release tension, fascia can loosen up, and your mind can start winding down. The key elements of this are to hold correct alignment, find your edge where you’re pushing your body’s limits but not too much, and breathe. This part of your practice can greatly improve your flexibility.
In general, it should include poses that target all the big muscle groups but if your training was focused more on the upper or lower body, then spend more time on those parts.
Sometimes, we find it more difficult to hold a position than to do several repetitions. That’s perfectly normal, our monkey mind wants to keep busy so when we suddenly stop and pause in one place, it gets restless. If this sounds familiar, the advice is simple – breathe into it and ask yourself why you’re finding it difficult to stay still. One one hand, you may find an answer, on the other, it will give your mind something to do. Just don’t forget slow and deep breaths while you’re ruminating.
- Breathwork and meditation
Yogic breathing practices, Pranayama, help you achieve the most efficient recovery. They tap into your parasympathetic nervous system – that’s the rest-and-digest division. It helps you relax, drives down your stress hormones, heart rate and blood pressure, and can even improve your digestion.
This is best followed by a short relaxation and meditation in Savasana, which integrates everything you’ve just done and helps you tap deeper into the parasympathetic system, release muscle tension, and relieve some stress.
Lowering stress hormones and oxidative stress in the body is great for anyone but for athletes, it has an added benefit – as science shows, it improves muscle recovery!
Does it have to be right after my workouts?
Ideally, yes. Just after you’ve finished your training, your muscles are still warm and supple and it’s best to use that to transition into the post-workout practice. As the muscles start cooling down, they may get tenser and shorter as a reaction to the workout. However, if the situation doesn’t allow, it can be almost just as good to do your post-workout recovery Yoga when you get home and can spare 20 minutes, or before going to bed. In any case, doing it the same day is much better than going to sleep and waking up all tense and achy!
Try our brand new Post-Workout Recovery program and see how much better you can feel in your own body!