You want to get the most out of your yoga practice. So you're wondering if practicing yoga in the morning or evening is better. Like most things, it depends. The short answer is: Practice whenever you can fit it into your busy schedule.
Although most schools of yoga recommend practicing as the sun rises, that may not work for your schedule or late-night habits. If you're a night owl, don't let the philosophy that "yoga in the morning is best" stop you from practicing. Yoga is a holistic practice that will benefit you physically, mentally and even spiritually at any time of day. What it comes down to is what best suits you and your lifestyle.
There is not a right or wrong answer, especially when you consider how each individual and style of yoga is different. Ask yourself this: What times of day do I feel the most energized, balanced, motivated, flexible, alert or aware?
With that in mind, here's a list of the pros and cons of morning and evening yoga to help you figure out the best time of day for your practice.
The Pros of Morning Yoga
Here's the lowdown on practicing yoga with the sunrise and tips to maximize your morning practice. First, the good news:
1. Optimize Your Mobility for the Day
Do you have aches, pains and stiffness when your alarm goes off? There's not a cure for joint aging, but there is a way to minimize the pain.
"You can reduce the severity and frequency of morning joint stiffness by being more active and engaging in exercise to increase muscle strength and flexibility," says Harvard Medical School's William Kormos, M.D., Practicing a variety of yoga poses will open your hips, lengthen your spine and stretch your shoulders so your body reaches its optimal mobile state for the day.
2. Kick-Start Your Metabolism
Yoga is known to boost your metabolism and maintain steady blood sugar levels. And according to a recent study published by the International Medical Sciences Academy, yoga may be even more effective than vigorous physical exercise in stimulating the metabolism, promoting better digestion and reducing blood sugar levels. So feel free to enjoy that cookie — you've earned it.
3. Best for Energy and Digestion
Traditional yogis preach that it's best to practice on an empty stomach. That's great for early-morning practitioners because you've already digested your food during sleep. Otherwise, your body would expend more energy digesting your food than it does holding a pose. Practice before breakfast or have a small serving of fruit an hour before.
4. Stay Grounded All Day
Smile! Yoga boosts your mood and mental sharpness. Morning yoga may be a natural remedy for lessening the severity of anxiety and stress triggers during the day. In a study conducted by the Yoga Biomedical Trust in London, practicing morning yoga helped 94 percent of the participants learn how to manage their anxiety issues. How? Yoga modulates the body's stress-response systems by reducing your heart rate variability, calming the body and mind.
5. Check Yoga Off Your To-Do List
Conquer the day with confidence: You've already done one really good thing for yourself. People are more susceptible to distractions as the day progresses — a spontaneous dinner with friends, last-minute errands or other emergencies. But if you practice in the morning, you've already accomplished your physical activity for the day.
6. Time for You to Connect With You
Doing yoga in the morning provides time to mindfully connect to your higher self before the chaos of the day unfolds. Take note as the day goes on: You may recognize that you no longer get worked up over situations that would usually have a negative influence on you. Why? Because your morning practice established a peaceful state of mind.
Practicing yoga teaches you to control your mind to focus on your breath and movement. Training your mind allows you to have more control over your thoughts and feelings. And the physical strength you apply on the mat naturally reflects in your inner strength off the mat.
The Cons of Morning Yoga
1. Your Body Is Stiff
Flexibility may be limited due to cold muscles and stiff joints. Jumping in too quickly can cause severe pain in the muscles, joints and ligaments. An evening practice usually means your muscles are fairly warm, but you need a longer warm-up for a morning routine. Ease in before pushing your body, and be mindful of your limits throughout the practice.
2. Not Best for Night Owls
Not a morning person? If you're groggy riser or find it challenging to stay awake on your mat, then don't let the early time of day stand in your way. It's best to practice when you feel your energy, motivation and awareness are at their most optimal state to get the most benefits. Don't let wanting to sleep in be an excuse for you to not practice. Schedule time in the evening instead.
3 Ways to Improve Your Morning Practice
1. Make it your first mandatory appointment of the day. An appointment with yourself takes priority above anything else. And make sure it really is your first appointment — before other distractions appear.
2. Make sure to warm up your body beforehand. This prepares both your physical body and your mind. Poses like Cat-Cow, pelvic tilts, twisting postures, Child's pose and any Surya Namaskar variation are great warm-ups.
3. Practice in your pajamas or go to bed in yoga clothes. That way the thought of getting changed twice doesn't hold you back from practicing.
The Pros of Evening Yoga
Here's why a practicing yoga later in the day can be a great option if you just can't do it in the morning:
1. Your Muscles Are Warm and Ready
You've been moving your body all day long (hopefully), which allows your warmed muscles to approach poses safely. And an evening practice helps you alleviate any tension, aches or pains that may have come to the surface during the day.
2. Better Energy Means Better Results
Most people's endurance levels are higher later in the day versus right when wake up. Having high energy before you hit your mat may motivate you to increase your physical effort, which will increase your physical results.
3. Digest Your Food for the Day
Still feeling a little overstuffed from dinner? Most yin yoga and restorative yoga poses aid in digestion to help your system assimilate the food you ate during the day. Just make sure to have your last meal two to three hours prior to your practice.
Or if you wait to eat dinner after practice, your system will have an easier time digesting your meal. This is beneficial for people with digestive disorders. A good yoga session decreases your chances of bloating, gas, diarrhea and stomach cramps.
4. Improve Relaxation and Sleep
Yoga triggers your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps your mind relax and let go of the chaos for the day. A survey by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health found that yoga reduced stress levels in more than 85 percent of the study's participants.
Yoga also may be the natural cure for insomnia and other sleeping disorders. In the same study, NCCIH reported that more than 55 percent of the participants' sleep improved after practicing yoga.
5. Let Go
Evening yoga may be the therapeutic elixir that helps you let go of any toxicity that influenced your mood during the day. End your day in a peaceful state of mind so you wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
The Cons of Evening Yoga
1. Sleep Disruption
Though yoga may help you catch some shut-eye, there's also a chance it may disrupt it. If you prefer a high-intensity, vigorous flow in the evening, make it a point to have a longer cooldown and more time in Savasana to help your body relax. Think of saving 10 to 15 minutes to include Yin poses like Supine Spinal Twist, Seated Forward Fold Butterfly and Happy Baby.
2. Hyperactive Thoughts
Your monkey mind may be working overtime toward the end of the day. It's easier to get distracted by thoughts of what happened during your morning meeting or that lunchtime conversation and more difficult to focus on your how you're breathing. When those distracting thoughts arise, recognize that they're normal, and then bring your awareness to your breath and body.
3 Ways to Get More From Your Evening Yoga Session
1. Get to your mat early and sit in a comfortable position, lie on your back or get in to Child's pose and draw your attention to your breath. Be present by accepting that this is the time for you to let go of the chaos of the day.
2. Make it a mandatory evening appointment with yourself. Remind yourself that this is a time for you.
3. Have a longer cooldown and Savasana to prepare you for sleep.
What Do YOU Think?
What time of day do you prefer to practice? Can you think of any other advantages or disadvantages of morning and evening yoga? Let us know in the comments below!