There are lots of different opinions about yoga and showering. In fact, if you ask Google whether you should shower before or after your routine, you’ll probably find opposite opinions right on the first search page. If there’s so much disagreement, can there be one right answer?
You can shower before or after yoga if you don’t sweat much during your routine. For more intense workouts, it’s better to shower afterward. This washes away sweat that can cause health and hygiene problems when left to sit too long.
Yoga is an ancient practice with origins in India. Its long history is part of why there are so many different views on how to do it properly. Many different types of yoga have also developed over time, and when you shower—or whether you shower at all—will depend partly on what type you’re practicing.
Showering and Yoga
When it comes to showering, the level of exertion involved in your yoga style should inform your decision about when to do it. Sweating is a perfectly natural process, but like any other bodily function, it needs to be properly managed in order to prevent hygiene problems.
Research in dermatology tells us that if you don’t get clean after a sweaty workout, you run the risk of allowing yeast and bacteria to build up, leading to infection. This is probably why so many people feel such a compulsion to shower after exercise. We instinctively know how important it is to keep unhelpful organisms off our skin.
Because of this, science seems to suggest that if your yoga leaves you more than mildly sweaty, you should take a shower afterward. If you’re unable to for some reason, it’s best to at least change out of your wet clothes and wipe off with a damp, clean washcloth. Just make sure to get dry afterward.
On the other hand, if you do lower-intensity yoga, or if you sweat very little for some other reason, it’s probably fine to take a shower before your routine, if that fits better in your schedule. Warm water will relax your muscles, possibly giving them a slight flexibility boost before you get started. Cold water can help wake you up if you’re feeling groggy.
And, if you’re a low-intensity yoga practitioner with a tight schedule, you don’t have to shower before or after your routine at all. You can safely move the shower to a different time in your day. You can probably cut back on your showers in general. Experts say that most people don’t need one every day and that several per week is probably plenty.
Types of Yoga
Some people join yoga classes that tell them exactly what kind of yoga they’ll be doing. Others might learn from a friend, or follow YouTube videos, which might not tell you exactly which variety they’re demonstrating. To figure out what time is best for a shower, let’s take a look at a few different types of yoga with different showering requirements.
These types of yoga are less likely to make you tired and sweaty. One example is Yin yoga, which focuses on a peaceful, meditative atmosphere. The poses involve some stretching but usually aren’t too difficult, and they’re often held for five minutes or longer.
Restorative yoga also focuses on reducing tension and calming the mind. It might move a little faster than yin, but it’s still unlikely that you’ll be doing anything strenuous. Poses usually happen on the floor and even make use of blocks and blankets, just to prevent unnecessary strain.
Another slow-paced form is Kundalini yoga. This one focuses on balancing the physical and spiritual aspects of yoga. Even if you find some of the poses challenging, you’re not likely to sweat much, because you’ll get breaks in the form of breathing exercises and meditation.
On the opposite end of the yoga spectrum, sessions feel much more like strenuous workouts. In some ways, they push your body to its limits, and for many people, they’re far more draining than low-intensity yoga.
For example, one of the five pillars of Baptiste Power Vinyasa (BPV) is heat. Every official BPV class takes place in a room heated to around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Obviously, this steamy temperature causes practitioners to sweat a lot during sessions, leaving the body loose but possibly fatigued by the end.
An even more extreme example is Bikram Yoga. This style cranks up the heat even higher, to 105 degrees Fahrenheit with 40 percent humidity. Unlike other forms of hot yoga, this one has a much more solemn, contemplative atmosphere, with no music, talking, or clapping allowed.
There are many other styles of yoga to choose from, but these examples should give you an idea of how varied they can be. Depending on which kind you choose, you may be exerting yourself a great deal, or hardly straining at all.
So far, we’ve discussed what modern science tells us about showering and yoga. But what about all those conflicting opinions you find with a simple Google search? Are they wrong, just because they don’t agree with what science says?
It’s important to keep in mind just how old yoga is. With thousands of years of history and a close connection to Hindu philosophy, it’s understandable that it would bring with it a few traditions and ideas that seem outdated, or at least foreign, to many people.
For example, one yoga expert wrote an article for medium.com about why you should avoid sweating whenever possible, even when practicing yoga. She points out that ancient yoga texts caution against excessive sweating, and that they even recommend rubbing the sweat back into your skin to “preserve the effort made.”
If you grew up in the U.S. or another Western country, this advice probably sounds strange to you—definitely not the kind you’d get from a doctor or dermatologist. But keep in mind that more than a billion people live in India, and many of them still put a great deal of trust in traditional teachings. Even outside India, there are people who stick to Ayurveda as alternative medicine.
When so many people believe in something, it’s usually best to at least hear what they have to say. If you know a yoga expert who gave you strange-sounding advice about showering and yoga, why not give it a try? You never know—they might be onto something.
Choosing Your Own Routine
It’s worth mentioning that even though research has been done on the importance of showering and the benefits of yoga, not much has been done on the way the two fit together. If you’re looking for scientific advice, the best you’re going to find is information on hygiene and exercise in general.
Because of this, you’ll need to consider what works best for you. If you can’t stand that sticky feeling of dried sweat after your Bikram session, go ahead and take a shower. If you’re interested in more traditional advice, try ditching the shower a few times, and avoid sweating in the first place. Pay attention to your body, and if something seems wrong, think about seeing a doctor.
In the end, both modern science and yoga tradition have a lot to offer. Sometimes they disagree, and in these cases, you’ll have to decide which one you trust more. But try not to let these differences get in the way of your yoga routine. It’s a wonderful form of exercise, and with such a rich history, you never know what discoveries it might have in store for you.
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