When is the best time of day for me to practice yoga?

​One struggle that yoga beginners frequently contend with is maintaining a consistent yoga practice.

This can happen for a number of reasons, including:

  • Buying into common misconceptions about yoga that can act as a barrier to getting started
  • Being misinformed about certain aspects of yoga (such as when to modify asana to suit your needs) that can hinder your practice
  • Not knowing when in the day to practice to get the most out of it.

Today, we will be focusing on that last point: When is the best time of day to practice yoga for you?

For a closer look at the benefits associated with each time of day to practice, be sure to check out these posts in turn: the benefits of morning yogaafternoon yogaevening yoga, and bedtime yoga.

Jump ahead to…

A woman in white yoga clothes is meditating on a rock. She is facing away from the camera towards the evening sun setting over a grassy field.

A bird’s-eye-view of the benefits of yoga

This section will take a holistic look at some of the overall benefits of yoga. This will help yoga beginners get started with yoga at home with more ease and confidence. Why? Because knowing the benefits can help you make an informed decision about the type of class to choose based on the time of day you intend to practice. It can also help you to determine the time of day to practice based on how you’re feeling.

Different “types” of yoga provide different benefits

Something that can overwhelm yoga beginners right off the bat is the amount of different “types” of yoga. Scratch at the surface and you’ll find Yin yoga, Ashtanga yoga, Iyengar yoga, Restorative yoga, Hatha yoga, Power yoga, Yoga Nidra… the list goes on!

For yoga beginners, it’s essential to know that all these “types” are really the same thing. They are the same asana (yoga poses) modified and organized into different systems that provide different benefits.

Let’s look at a couple of contrasting examples:

  • Ashtanga yoga is a dynamic practice. Traditionally, it is practiced first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Practitioners will follow the same sequence of poses every day. The sequence is intelligently designed to strengthen and stretch certain body parts in a way that allows the body to open up over time. It is a powerful practice, covering a lot of asana in a relatively short space of time. It works to energize and vitalize the body, making it suitable for a morning practice as we aim to rev up our engines ready for the day ahead.
  • Restorative yoga is, well, a restorative practice. It uses props in abundance to support the body’s weight as you relax into the pose and focus on the breath. Don’t get me wrong, you focus on the breath in Ashtanga, too. Focusing on the breath is the anchor to any yoga practice. In Restorative yoga, however, you have more space to do so. Restorative yoga works to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. This is our rest and digest response. Therefore, it is best suited for an evening practice or before bed.

This post has a breakdown of several different types of yoga and a handy little table to clearly see the difference in benefits of each type.

Commonly known yoga benefits

Modern science is quickly catching up with ancient yogic wisdom, providing supporting evidence for claims made in 1000s-of-years-old yoga texts. What we know now is that the physical practice of yoga has numerous benefits on the physical and mental body. So, what are they?

  • ​increased strength and flexibility, meaning increased mobility, meaning reduced risk of injury as we age.

    • Asanas help to bui;d muscular strength and elasticity. This can also help to ease chronic pain.
  • improved mood and outlook, and reduced levels of anxiety and depression.

    • The focus on the breath impacts our autonomic nervous system, helping us to regulate our emotions in accordance with our environment.
  • ​better sleep

    • The breathing practices in yoga, in conjunction with asana and meditation, help to switch on our rest-and-digest state, meaning we feel more relaxed before bed. Breathwork also helps to strengthen the nasal tissue inside the nose, reducing the potential for snoring and sleep apnea.

​Lesser-known yoga benefits

All the above-listed benefits work together to provide some things many of us are looking for, and perhaps the reason why we start yoga in the first place. These are:

  • resilience

    • the impact of yoga on regulating our nervous system results in us responding appropriately to external situations. We are less likely to swing up into anxiety and panic, or down into lethargy and depression when faced with something uncomfortable.
  • self-confidence

    • improved strength and flexibility leads to improved posture. When we look confident, we start to feel confident. We may notice we are less reactive and more grounded. When we notice small improvements in our strength and flexibility, we feel a little more secure in ourselves and perhaps a little more connected to our wonderful bodies. We might notice that our minds are less cluttered and we have more space to think. All these things can tie back to improved self-confidence.
  • compassion

    • As we develop curiosity about our practice on the mat, it leaks out into our world off the mat. We might notice fewer judgmental thoughts, instead developing curiosity both about ourselves and others. This leads to feelings of compassion, something the world needs in abundance.
  • ​boundaries

    • On the mat, we develop the skill of listening to our bodies. Your body will tell you what feels like the right amount of challenge and what is too much for today. We begin to set boundaries with our own egos. Just because crow pose looks good doesn’t mean my innocent body is ready for it yet. When we set boundaries with ourselves, and learn to respect them, we get more confident in setting them with others. For chronic people-pleasers (welcome to the club) this takes time. Be patient and loving with yourself.
A woman in dark grey yoga clothes facing the camera is practicing an upward-facing dog pose.

​Is morning the best time of day to practice yoga?

Now let’s get into the (vegan) meat and potatoes of this post. For many of us, mornings are ideal. For the rest of us, they are far from it! Consider your answers to the following questions to decipher if mornings are the best time of day to practice yoga for you:

  1. Are your mornings already rushed, or do you have 30 minutes to spare to hop on the mat?
  2. Are you an early morning person? Can you realistically consistently wake up 30 minutes earlier than you already do?
  3. Are you looking to improve (or create) your morning routine?
  4. What are your energy levels like in the morning? Do you have low blood pressure?
  5. Are you interested in honoring the traditional view that mornings are the best time of day to practice yoga?

If you have stressful mornings already, there is no point in adding a full yoga practice into the mix. Yoga is there to help, not hinder, so don’t force yourself just because you think you have to.

If you’re already struggling to wake up when you do, then trying to wake up even earlier is going to become a struggle. It’s not impossible, but personally, I’d rather you were well-rested than force yourself out of bed in the morning for the sake of it.

Adding in a short yoga practice can help to solidify a healthy and revitalizing morning routine. If that is something you’ve been wanting to do, consider adding in a regular morning practice (you can build upon this slowly) that you pair with other morning routine activities.

If you suffer from low blood pressure, a morning yoga practice may feel more draining than energizing. Consult with your trusted medical professional first before considering yoga as part of your morning.

​Honoring yoga traditions is one way to ensure we avoid culturally appropriating this beautiful practice. If that is important to you, then integrating yoga into your mornings is a great way to do that.

Is the afternoon the best time of day to practice yoga?

Afternoons are often overlooked as an appropriate time of day to practice yoga. It would be great for you if:

  1. mornings just aren’t feasible for you, but you still want a revitalizing,  refreshing energy boost
  2. you have a lot to deal with at work during the day and you need something to give you a reset
  3. you sit a lot at work, and you want to add in something that helps to wake the body up and maintain your flexibility levels
  4. You prefer a physical practice when your muscles are already warmed up a bit.

Afternoons can be a great alternative for many of us. If lunchtime is your go-to for yoga, make sure to practice first before you enjoy lunch.

Are evenings the best time of day to practice yoga?

I’m 100% biased when I say “Yeah, I think so”! For me, it’s the ideal time.

  1. I prefer to practice with warmer muscles because I know I have a tendency to listen to my ego and push past my limits. This is not a good habit to develop with cold muscles. So, until I learn to tame my ego, evenings suit me fine.
  2. Simply put, I have more time in the evenings. That space between preparing and eating dinner is my happy hour. The chores are done, and a yummy dinner is waiting for me followed by something dystopian on Netflix with the cats.
  3. I am a light sleeper, so I like to use my practice as a way to signal to the nervous system that it’s time to calm down and prepare for rest. Evening practices are a great way to do this.
  4. It is a great way for me to let go of the day and settle into a relaxing evening

An evening practice doesn’t have to be long. Ten minutes might be all you have in which case a few sun salutations followed by some calming breathwork and meditation would be the perfect way to close down your day.

Be aware that, as bedtime is approaching, you want to avoid any dynamic type of yoga and focus more on slowing down. Yin, Hatha, or Restorative would be great.

If you really want to practice something dynamic, then be sure to spend a good amount of time in savasana so your parasympathetic nervous system has time to activate.

​Could bedtime be the best time of day to practice yoga?

Bedtime yoga might well be for you if you’re:

  1. interested in pursuing restorative practices more than dynamic ones
  2. not that fussed about powering through an energetic practice
  3. a reluctant night owl, so are hankering after a good night’s sleep more than anything else
  4. interested in learning about different breathing exercises that stimulate the rest-and-digest response.
  5. It’s the only time you have to yourself.

Bedtime yoga is a beautiful thing. Is it the most dynamic? No. Will you still gain a plethora of benefits? Absolutely! If you struggle to sleep well, then the restorative aspect of bedtime yoga is for you.

Better sleep improves your overall physical well-being. Restorative yoga is optimal for this time of day, and if you can include some breathwork and meditation too then your parasympathetic nervous system will love you for it.

A woman in a pink eye mask and a pink sweatshirt is lying in bed sleeping peacefully.

Key Takeaways

For yoga beginners, there is a lot to consider when choosing the best time of day to practice yoga for you. I usually recommend the following steps:

  1. Take a look at the benefits of yoga listed above and consider which ones are most important to you. This will go some way in informing you when the best time of day to practice yoga is for you.
  2. Consider when you realistically have the time. Forcing yoga into your day will lead to rapid drops in motivation and you may struggle to maintain consistent practice.
  3. Take into account how you want to feel for the rest of the day. Energized and refreshed? Try morning or afternoon practices. Rested and relaxed? Evenings and bedtimes might be the perfect time. A mix of the two? Switch it up each time you practice – variety is the spice of life after all.
  4. Remember that “regular practice” doesn’t have to mean every day – just what works for you. Take a look at this post to learn more.

​Yoga at different times of day is going to give you different benefits. Pay attention to your body’s rhythms to help gauge when is the best time of day to practice yoga for you. Remember to practice on an empty stomach – so either before a meal or at least two hours after eating.

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Until next week, much love,