A key aspect of getting into shape is making sure your body has time to rest. Recovery is just as important as actually working out, otherwise you risk exhaustion and injury. But that doesn’t mean you should just lay around and veg out either. Low-level intensity for self-care is actually the best option.
There’s a difference between rest days and active recovery days. Rest days are for rest, and active recovery days are for times when you need exercise but don’t need to go at full intensity. Either way, your active rest day is supposed to be just that – restful, with an emphasis on helping your body recover.
It’s not a cheat day, nor a training day. Your goal should be to take it easy and allow your body to recover. How easy you take it depends on your personal level of fitness.
When to Take It
Going from zero to seven days a week of any kind of workout is setting yourself up to fail. If you’re just getting into a routine, take it slow. There’s no race. For people who are already used to working out and have their regular routine down, then working in a light exercise on rest days is a good option.
Yoga can even be a good supplement to a routine if you have some lighter days. If you go hard, you obviously don’t need to include additional workouts. But if you have a day where you worked out but got cut short or didn’t feel up to full strength, then yoga can be a good additive. Most of the time, stick to using it as a gentle addition to off days.
Why Do It?
Working out is all about balance. If you’re a runner, you need to lift some weights to keep yourself in balance and prevent injuries. The reverse applies for weight lifters, who need to work in cardio to stay in top shape. And, of course, every workout needs rest days.
Those rest days are a great time to concentrate on the parts of yourself that don’t get worked out often. You might lift and run, but flexibility and mental health are also important aspects of your overall health. Keeping yourself in balance is how you’re able to keep working out without hurting yourself.
What Kind to Use
There are as many different kinds of yoga as there are yogis. To make this work for your rest days, choose a gentle version. Avoid an intense workout like you would get with hot yoga or a power yoga class. Power yoga may require less strength than you use for weightlifting, but it’s still a hard stress on your body.
Iyengar yoga is a gentle introduction to more vigorous forms. It focuses on holding poses and attaining proper alignment. Poses can be held for a long period of time, so you’ll definitely get a burn! This is a good option for people who are already strong and have a basic yoga foundation, but want to work on perfecting their technique. If you choose this option, count it as a mild workout.
Kundalini yoga focuses on your spine. It usually includes meditation, which makes it a great rest for your mind as well as your body. The postures aren’t held as long as in Iyengar yoga, so you’ll get less of a physical workout. The focus is less on breaking a sweat and more on achieving greater awareness. That means awareness of your body and mind, so it helps you to really know yourself. That aspect is important, especially for athletes. You must know yourself to know when you’re pushing too far.
Meditation is important, and it plays a part in many kinds of yoga. Yin yoga is one that has as much focus on the mind as the body. It’s a gentle, calming practice that works on stretching and flexibility. Depending on the workout you’re recovering from, that might be exactly what you need. And because of the focus it places on meditation, it helps your mind recover as well.
You know that mental strength is just as important as physical strength, and you might improve your workouts as a result.
Restorative yoga, as the name implies, is for helping you to relax. It’s yoga, so it’s exercise, but the focus is on stretching and lengthening the body, along with clearing your mind. The goal of the exercise isn’t to break a sweat, but simply to rest. You’ll use props and you’ll hold gentle, relaxing poses for as long as you feel like it. It’s a pretty awesome way to learn yoga — or get yourself ready for bed!
If you hear someone refer to Hatha yoga, that can be pretty much anything. Hatha is the practice of yoga, so it doesn’t give you a great idea of the details. In general, Hatha yoga is an introduction to the practice of yoga. It focuses on teaching the basics, learning good alignment and starting to move with your breath. It’s the perfect place to start if you’re a beginner.
Active rest days are an excellent complement to any training routine. They work to keep you active while also recovering. It’s really the best of both worlds. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to work yoga into your routine and make sure you’re taking care of your whole self, body and mind.