10 Benefits of an Afternoon Yoga Practice

As a yoga beginner, it is often hard to know when is the best time to practice yoga. Should I practice in the early morning, mid-afternoon, or at the end of the day? Which one will give me the best benefits of yoga? Perhaps you’re aware of the plethora of good things that a morning yoga practice can provide, and even those associated with evening practices too. but, now you’re wondering if there are any afternoon yoga benefits?

The short answer is a resounding YES! Large corporations have been taking advantage of them for years, offering lunchtime yoga services to their employees to break up the monotony of a long day.

The traditional view is that morning practice is the perfect time, as this is when the world around you is at its quietest. As a result, you will be able to meditate more easily.

Indeed, many people advocate for a yoga practice first thing. It can help with solidifying a healthy morning routine. Your local yoga studio may offer some early bird classes, too. However, for many of us, it’s just not feasible to include regular practice in our morning routines. So, let’s explore some of these afternoon yoga benefits so you can make the right choice for yourself.

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A man and woman are asleep at a desk, with their heads rested on their hands near a computer keyboard.

Combat the afternoon slump with yoga: 10 benefits 

The best approach to deciding on the right time of day for you to practice yoga requires taking a look at both the benefits and contraindications of yoga. Different types of yoga asanas are better suited to different times of the day. Therefore, it is important to choose the right practice so you can optimize all these afternoon yoga benefits. This post goes into a little more detail about that.

For now, let’s focus on the health benefits of afternoon practice time, as it comes with its own advantages and can actually be a good time for many to include a short yoga practice

1. Increased energy

Practicing yoga midday can help boost energy levels and combat fatigue during the day. There is a high chance we spend a fair few hours sitting by midday. Sitting on the train or bus to work, followed by more sitting at a desk either hunched over a computer or stuck in long meetings that we all agree could have been an email, for example.

If you’re one of the lucky ones with an outdoor job, then chances are you’re at the other end of the spectrum Construction workers and landscapers, for example, or real estate agents, can endure work that can be quite taxing on the body. For these people, a short yoga practice may seem counterintuitive, until we understand that these jobs also require us to keep the body repeatedly performing the same actions.

For both groups, a short asana practice (the physical movement of yoga) is a wonderful way to release tight shoulders or stiff backs. something that includes stretching the torso, some spinal twists, some side-bends, and some forward folds would be a great way to release tired muscles. and yes, muscles get tired just by sitting, too.

2. Improved focus

Yoga can help improve focus and concentration, making it beneficial for those who need to be alert and productive during the workday. If you’re finding yourself getting easily distracted or stuck in a feeling of brain fog, then a well-rounded short class can help with that.

Personally, I have found that a ten-minute practice that focuses on slow movement and deep breaths works well to improve my mental clarity. This doesn’t have to be all that active. A couple of overhead stretches, twists, and forward folds sometimes feel like enough to get the juices flowing.

3. Reduced stress

Yoga can help reduce the stress and tension that a busy day promises, making it a great way to take a break from work and relax during lunch, setting you up for a more peaceful, focused rest of your day.

Your lunchtime yoga doesn’t have to be all that active. In fact, if you share an office space that doesn’t provide much privacy, an active practice may feel a little awkward for all involved. Stick with a few stretches you can do at your desk to open up the body, then focus on a few minutes of deep breathing. I recommend three-part breath or Belly breath as these are both perfectly suitable for beginners and will positively reduce the stress of the day.

4. Improved posture

Yoga can help improve posture and alignment, reducing the risk of pain and discomfort. Some common afflictions of the desk worker include stiff shoulders, stiff neck, and lower back pain. These are all either instigated or exacerbated by sitting for long periods of time.

The muscles that connect the pelvis to the upper thigh (along the front leg), a compound muscle called the Psoas, shorten over time with a lack of use. This creates the sensation of tight hip flexors as we stand, and puts pressure on our lower back, pulling it out of alignment and leading to lower back pain.

Performing a few asanas such as Anjaneyasana or Virabhadrasana II is fantastic for stretching out the Psoas and releasing lower back pain. Accompanied by other asanas such as Utthitha Tadasana and you may notice significant improvements over time with both pain and posture.

5. Warmed-up muscles

In the early hours of the day, our muscles are still cold. Jumping into a morning yoga session may feel a little too much, especially at the beginning of your yoga journey. A yin yoga practice, that works best on cold muscles, may be appropriate in that instance. By midday, however, our muscles have had a chance to limber up through the regular activities of our day.

The physical activity that an asana practice provides may feel a little more comfortable on the body with slightly warmer muscles. In my experience, a midday forward fold feels a lot more comfortable than an early morning forward fold, though both will be beneficial if practiced safely.

A man is sitting at a desk by a window meditating in the sunshine.

6. Developed self-awareness

To be completely honest, this is a benefit that exists regardless of the time of day that you practice. Whether you practice morning, noon, or night, WHAT you practice will be different. One of the beautiful parts of yoga is the autonomy and agency it fosters over time. It offers you a chance to tune into your needs and into how you are really feeling, to what is going on internally both physically (this is called interoception) and emotionally.

So, depending on the type of morning you have had, if you are feeling a tad frazzled then a restorative practice may be what you need to help set you up for the afternoon. If you’re feeling lethargic and a bit glum, then an energizing practice may be what you need to revitalize the mind and body. If you’re not feeling like any movement right now, then a ten-minute full-yogic breathing practice may help to reset the nervous system.

7. Faster metabolism

When we practice on an empty stomach, we are working to speed up the metabolism as the body looks to draw energy from other reserves (fat stores). A midday yoga practice should be practiced before lunch, not after (and likewise, before breakfast or dinner, too). I am not suggesting this as a weight loss technique, but more because our work life does not allow for much free time at lunch.

Practicing asana on a full stomach is arguably the wrong time to practice as it could leave you with uncomfortable digestive issues. Let the body digest the food first, giving yourself at least 2-4 hours before practicing yoga. One side-effect of practicing on an empty stomach is a faster metabolism, which may have slowed over time with a sedentary lifestyle such as working at a computer 9-5.

8. Greater resilience

The breathing practices that make up a part of a well-rounded yoga class, no matter how long or short, help to balance the nervous system, bringing you into something called the “window of tolerance” (a term coined by Dan Siegel, 1999).

This is where the two components of our autonomic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system (responsible for rest-and-digest, and fight-or-flight responses respectively) are working in harmony.

This means that we are moving through the day responding reasonably to external stimuli (a pressing deadline, for example), without swinging towards states of anxiety (the sympathetic nervous response), or fatigue and lethargy (the parasympathetic response in overdrive).

The more we focus on our breath in a yoga class, ensuring it is smooth and controlled, the greater our potential for staying in our window of tolerance, our resilient and amicable state. This makes midday yoga a great way to prepare yourself for a busy afternoon.

9. Reduced pressure

One beautiful happy side-effect of a midday yoga practice is that we, over time, realize that a yoga practice doesn’t have to be a hard, grueling 90 minutes of physical exertion in order to be productive and beneficial. Likely many of us don’t have long lunchtimes. I have 45 minutes, for example. This gives me a maximum of 15 minutes (more likely 10 minutes) to get in a quick practice.

If my goal is to prepare myself for a stressful afternoon, then I will likely spend that time focussing more on breathing techniques (like this class with Adrienne Mishler) to calm the nervous system. If my goal is to relieve some pesky lower back pain, I’ll instead focus on some stretches, as this class provides by Kassandra Reinhardt.

Understanding that yoga practices can be short and still beneficial reduces that “I need at least 30 minutes of yoga to be a good person” pressure. A few easy poses like a modified forward bend and the knowledge that we don’t even need a yoga mat can really take the pressure off.

10. More time

This is perhaps my favorite. I love my evenings to be long and slow as I wind down. For me, winding down would ideally start at 6 in the evening and I’d be in bed by 10 ready for some glorious restful sleep. I very much am guided by the sun in an ideal world! A midday practice, or even an early morning session, allows for a slower, freer evening.

That is not to say that an evening yoga routine can’t be beneficial, too. More on that in next week’s post. It really does depend on your daily schedule. I think the overall message here is yoga is happening on and off the mat, so don’t stress too much about when you do it, just make sure it’s serving you, not stressing you out.

A woman is standing at a desk in an office performing a side bend stretch.

Things to keep in mind…

1. Digestive issues

Keep your physical health at the forefront of your mind.

Some individuals may experience digestive issues during the day, so it is best to avoid practicing yoga immediately after eating. If you’re concerned, consult with a trusted medical professional to decide if a lunchtime practice is for you.

2. Sun sensitivity

If you are sensitive to the sun, it may be best to avoid practicing yoga during the hottest part of the day, especially if the only space you have to practice is by a window, or outside. Instead, opt for the coolest part of the day. This might mean including a yoga practice as part of your bedtime routine.

3. Time constraints

If you have limited time during the day, it may be difficult to fit in a yoga practice slap bang in the middle of it. Repeat after me. “I am still a good person and I’m doing just fine”. Yoga will wait for you. It might mean five minutes of breathwork before bed to help sleep, or ten minutes in the morning to help get you energized. It might mean practicing once a week for now on a quiet Sunday morning as the birds start to wake. Whatever you decide, be realistic, take the pressure off, and commit to consistently showing up for what you can do.

4. Work schedule

If you have a demanding work schedule, it may be difficult to find the time and energy to practice yoga during the day. I get it, I’ve been there, I’ve been known to hide in the loo for five minutes just to get some breathwork in. If adding a yoga practice to your busy workday is adding stress, leave it for later.

5. Injuries

If you have any injuries or chronic conditions, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional and a qualified yoga teacher before starting a midday yoga practice. Or any yoga practice. Health first, always. Your quality of life should not be disturbed by adding in a yoga practice, it should be enhanced, so make sure it is right for you before delving in.

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Key Takeaways

It is important to listen to your body and practice yoga when it is most convenient and beneficial for you. If you know you’re a morning person, then a morning yoga practice may be best for you. Perhaps adding a yoga practice to your lunchtime hinders more than it helps, so consider an evening practice instead.

If midday is the right option for you, then look forward to improved energy and focus, and reduced stress (and potentially back pain) to sustain you through the rest of the day.

It’s important to develop the skill of tuning into what you need, and this takes practice. Choosing the right class for you will help to sustain a midday yoga practice.

If you’re interested in learning more about yoga, feel free to hop over to my Facebook group to become part of a small but welcoming beginners’ yoga community, follow me on Instagram for some regular yoga tidbits, and sign up for my weekly newsletter to stay updated with all new offers and info.

Until next week,

Much love,

Ellie xxx