What's the best time to do yoga? Morning, Evening or Afternoon?
A question that comes up a lot in yoga is “when’s the best time to practice?” Should it be first thing in the morning? Should it be before bed?
The short answer is: There's no specific time that every person should be practicing yoga. Everyone has different schedules, rhythms and preferences so it’s important to try different things and figure out what works best for you and your body, mind and spirit. A yoga practice is a personal and unique experience, which is what makes it so magical!
Yoga as a practice encompasses so many things but for today’s purpose we will be discussing yoga in terms of the physical asana (postures), meditation and pranayama (breathwork). These practices can all be united into your one yoga session or you can spread them out throughout the day and practice each at different times. My personal preference is meditation and pranayama in the morning and then a physical practice later in the day in the afternoon/early evening. But, as I mentioned before there’s no right or wrong time to practice and with so much going on in our lives, it’s important to find our own rhythm and balance. Find a practice time that works for you and that you feel benefits you the most. To help you suss out what works for you and your body, below are a few tips and ideas to help you figure out your own best time to practice.
What are the benefits of doing yoga in the morning?
A morning yoga practice can be really energising and help set us up for the day. It can boost our metabolism, our mood and our connection to ourselves. Ashtanga yogis often like to practice in the morning before the sun comes up and a sunrise meditation can be a beautiful way to greet the day.
However, it is not necessarily recommended to do strenuous exercise during the first 30 minutes of waking as our spinal discs are still in their state of rest and non-weight bearing to absorb nutrients. The spinal discs are at their fattest which is why you might find (as I do) that in a morning halasana you can’t quite reach the floor, but come the afternoon once your spine has awoken you’re able to touch the floor with your toes. So start slowly with simple stretches like a cat cow to wake up the spine and avoid injury.
But there’s a reason we call it a Sun Salutation. The sun salutation was originally designed as a morning/afternoon practice to help us energise and tap into that solar energy. Morning practices are often dynamic vinyasa classes to wake us up and prepare ourselves for the day ahead. If you’re an early bird and love physical movement in the morning, then a yoga practice could be the perfect thing to help you kickstart your day!
What are the benefits of doing yoga in the afternoon?
One of the benefits of an afternoon practice is that we’re more awake and as a result our muscles and our joints are more warmed up. I often find some yoga poses come much easier in the afternoon than first thing in the morning.
It is always best to leave time after meals before doing any exercise to allow our body to begin digesting. It is recommended to leave at least one hour after meals before doing yoga. So factoring this in might impact when you choose to practice yoga. Find what's is best for you and your daily routines. Maybe it’s easiest for you to do fit in a yoga class before breakfast or maybe you prefer before dinner or even before bed.
A quick note as well on breath of fire (Kapalabhati). It is not recommended to perform breath of fire after eating as it can interrupt the digestive system. So be mindful of when you practice your pranayama and think about allowing your body the time it needs to rest and digest.
What are the benefits of doing yoga in the evening?
The evenings can be a really wonderful time to practice. Yoga in the evening can help us switch off after a full day and allow us to rest and relax, preparing our body for sleep and digestion. It also doubles up a great way to release and strech your body after being seated all day in the office. If you really want to wind down after your day you could try a more restorative practice in the evening or some yin yoga to really stretch your fascia and connective tissues that you’ve been using throughout the day.
When practicing yoga right before bed, it is recommended a more calming style of yoga. Some styles of yoga can be very energising and uplifting which can result in us feeling awake and alert and therefore make it harder to fall asleep. A candlelit relaxing yoga class or meditation is just the ticket after a long day. The evening is also the perfect time to create a cozy atmosphere and get those candles aglow!
How do the seasonal changes influence the best time to practice yoga?
It is also important to consider seasonal changes and how they affect our mood, rhythm and practice time. Depending on where you live, sunrise and sunset can be at very different times of day throughout the year so you might want to think about adjusting your practice time to suit these changes.
Our bodies are also affected by the seasonal changes. We can often feel more energised in summer and more restful come wintertime so bear that in mind and tune into your body’s energy levels and how they shift throughout the year or even just throughout the day. Practicing outside can be an absolutely inspiring experience that I would recommend to anyone who gets the chance. This might obviously also depend on the season and time of day, so check the weather, grab your mat and then get out into that sunshine! Sun salutations in the sunshine are surely a winner!
How do the moon cycles influence the best time to practice yoga?
Being aware of the current moon cycle enables you to adjust and inspire your yoga practice. Ashtanga yogis who practice yoga daily often take full moon and new moons days off. Practicing moon salutations beneath the full moon is a wonderful way to appreciate nature and soak in its glorious energy.
How do energetic changes influence the best time to practice yoga?
The beauty of yoga is that it’s an ever-changing, ever-evolving practice and no two practices are ever the same because we are constantly changing and evolving ourselves. Some days I jump onto my mat, full of energy, ready for a power class and some days my body and mind are crying out for yin and meditation. Remember that part of the yoga journey is learning to listen to ourselves and our bodies. We can’t expect a practice to be the same each time so enjoy and embrace your cycles and shifts in energy. Especially for women, certain times of the month we might feel particularly high or low energy and it’s important to respect and lean into that.
So what is the best time to do yoga?
In conclusion, the best time to practice yoga is the best time for YOU! Play around with your practice, explore what works for your body and soul and when you can most comfortably fit yoga into your schedule. Embrace the changes and shifts and most importantly enjoy your practice. Take that time for yourself and have some fun on your mat!
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This blog post was brought to you by Rachel Dean.
Rachel is a yoga teacher and writer currently based in Northern Mexico.
"An adventurer, wildflower, cat lover and sunset chaser.
Yoga is a creative expression of our soul <3"