When you’re trying to lose weight, the path from where you are now to where you want to be can seem long and hard.
That’s why we always have so many people asking us how they can speed that process up!
Obviously, a healthy diet is the first place to start, but yoga and cardio are two of the best activities to help you send your weight loss into hyper-drive.
I have people ask me all the time if they should be doing their yoga routine before or after their cardio session—and I get why it’s confusing!
Between the vast selection of YouTube tutorials, Google’s endless supply of workout how-to’s, and the giant list of classes at the gym, it’s no wonder so many people can’t figure out what to do when and which to do first.
Should I zumba before my vinyasa?
Or maybe I should stretch out with a yoga flow before my run?
Can I barre while I hatha? (Just kidding on that one—we don’t want anyone turning into a dancing pretzel!)
We know it can be hard to figure out which exercises to do when, and how to maximize your weight loss efforts.
To answer your biggest question: Yes, there is a right way and a wrong way to combine your yoga and cardio practices—and doing it the wrong way can lead to serious injury!
So to put an end to the confusion, we’ll go over both options below—and tell you what you should and shouldn’t do to get the maximum fat burn from your yoga and cardio workouts.
Yoga Before Cardio
At first glance, yoga seems like a great warm-up exercise—and it really can be.
You squeeze in a quick little yoga flow to loosen up your limbs and shake out the cobwebs, and then hit the treadmill, right?
But try a few variations like Iyengar or Bikram yoga, and you’ll realize pretty quick that yoga can be a whole workout in itself!
So if you’re planning to start with yoga before your cardio session, you need to pick your routine carefully.
What You Should Do
If you want to do yoga before cardio, the best thing to do is treat it like a warm-up.
Aim for a shorter session—around ten or fifteen minutes—that gets you engaging your muscles and working up a little sweat without totally wearing you out.
A yoga warm-up before your cardio session (or any exercise, for that matter) can help you increase the effectiveness of your workout because it relieves tightness and stiffness, and also helps flush out lactic acid from your muscles.
You’ll also increase your flexibility, especially in areas like your hip flexors that most regular stretches miss.
This means you’ll have a wider range of motion, which will increase performance in most cardio exercises.
Better performance = better weight loss results!
Plus, if you incorporate mindful meditation at the end of your yoga warm-up, you can greatly reduce the risk of injury. (Just do a couple minutes, though—you don’t want your muscles to cool down too much!)
What You Shouldn’t Do
Don’t take the idea of a “warm-up” to the extreme, and sign up for a Bikram or hot yoga class right before your cardio session!
If you try to do a full cardio exercise after an intense, sweaty routine like that, you run a serious risk of injury, overheating, and dehydration—especially if you’re not in pro-athlete shape.
And any kind of strenuous flow like Ashtanga, Bikram, or long power-yoga sequences can leave your muscles a bit strained and wobbly—and being tired and weak in the knees is a perfect recipe for falling or otherwise injuring yourself.
Also, while a short meditation is great pre-cardio to help you focus and be aware of your body, you still want to keep your heart rate up—so don’t plan on a long rest session right before your next exercise.
Your goal here is to make sure you keep your muscles warm and your body moving so you can jump right into the fat burning cardio zone!
So don’t be afraid of a little sweat, but don’t go so crazy that you can’t make it through your cardio routine.
Yoga After Cardio
If you’d rather knock your cardio out first, you can either treat your cardio as a warm-up to your yoga practice, or use your yoga practice as a cool-down after your cardio session. (And yes, those are two different things!)
There are some things to consider here as well to make sure you get the most burn for your effort.
What You Should Do
High intensity cardio workouts burn tons of fat, especially if you do a HIIT (high intensity interval training) program.
While yoga could be a good warm-up here, many cardio programs (think: classes, DVDs, and cardio machine programs) have warm-ups already built in.
If that’s the case for your workout, doing a low-impact yoga flow to cool down and stretch after a high intensity cardio session will help you catch your breath, relax, and keep your muscles from getting sore and stiff post-workout. (1)
Aim for a shorter yoga session (around fifteen minutes is a good goal), followed by a meditation. Even a low-intensity yoga flow will help you burn extra calories after a good cardio workout.
Plus, if you’re aiming for inner peace, meditation is often easier once you’ve had a really good sweat session (and it can even increase your weight loss!).
If high-intensity cardio exercises aren’t your thing, you can treat cardio as a warm-up to your yoga practice.
Do a low-impact cardio session like walking, biking, or using an elliptical; and aim for around twenty-five minutes—enough to get your heart rate up and get a little sweaty.
Then you can launch right into a more vigorous yoga practice like Ashtanga, Bikram, or any fast-paced or power-yoga flows.
Having your heart rate elevated from the start of your yoga practice will definitely help with your cardiovascular conditioning, and will also burn extra calories!
What You Shouldn’t Do
If you’re doing cardio first, you could be pretty spent by the time you reach your yoga mat.
Don’t push yourself if you feel too shaky to hold a pose; and if you can’t catch your breath, sit down until you feel comfortable again.
Even though you might be tired, you still need to hold yoga poses properly and not rush through sequences—or else you could end up pulling a muscle or injuring yourself.
And if you’re doing cardio before your yoga practice, you will be sweaty—which means your yoga mat could get very slippery!
So don’t forget your yoga towel, or a yoga mat like this one that absorbs sweat and keeps you from sliding around.
Most importantly, remember to drink water before, during and after your yoga and cardio workouts.
Not only will staying hydrated help you lose more weight, you don’t want to pass out during downward dog!
Bottom line: You can do yoga before or after cardio—just make sure to balance the intensity of the exercises, and pay attention to your body.
The Best Way to Lose Weight with Yoga
Like any exercise program, you’ll only see results from your yoga and cardio practice if you stick with it—which can be especially difficult if you’re new to yoga or to working out in general.
If you’re cringing at the idea of high intensity programs, fear not—you don’t need to bounce around, do handstands, or sweat buckets to lose tons of weight!
Our Yoga Fat Loss Bible has everything you need to get started with a gentle, low-impact yoga program that will help you shed pounds without the pain of athlete-level exercises or crazy pretzel poses!
It’s a great solution for those looking to lose weight, get more flexible, and relieve aches and pains with a calm yoga practice.
It provides detailed instructions and beginner modifications for your practice + a 6-Week Workout Plan any beginner can start with!
Always remember that the most difficult part of doing any workout is SHOWING UP. Make sure to show up today and give your best to your yoga and cardio routine. You deserve it!
If you enjoyed this article on doing yoga before or after cardio, or if you have any questions for us, please leave them in the comment section below!