Yoga has become a popular form of exercise and can be found in health clubs, gyms, studios, community centers, senior centers, schools and hospitals. A regular yoga practice can provide many benefits and there are a variety of forms from which to choose. When trying to decide how often you should practice yoga, you need to decide what health benefits you hope to gain.
Practicing yoga can provide a variety of benefits for your physical well-being as it can improve flexibility and posture, enhance muscular strength, reduce muscle tension and tightness, and strengthen your heart and lungs. Yoga can also help you emotionally by teaching you techniques to reduce stress and anxiety, and promoting feelings of peace. Some also turn to yoga for spiritual reasons, though not all styles focus on this aspect. The first step in designing a yoga practice is to set your primary goal. However, as with any form of exercise, it is best to vary your routine as each provides specific benefits.
If your primary goal is to lose weight, you need to combine your yoga practice with cardiovascular exercise. The bottom line in weight loss is that you must burn off more calories then you consume by cutting back on intake, exercising to burn calories or a combination of the two. Since one pound is equal to 3,500 calories, you must create a daily deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. If you want to accomplish this through yoga, you would need a fairly vigorous practice such as a vinyasa or flow-style class, according to "Yoga Journal." A gentle hatha yoga practice may burn about 200 to 300 calories per hour, while a more vigorous flow-style class can burn 300 to 400 calories in the same time span. In comparison, an aerobics class can burn 500 or more calories per hour, and running at 8 mph can burn up to 900 in 60 minutes. So if you want to lose 1 pound per week, you would need to participate in an hourlong vigorous yoga practice every day. However, even gentle yoga may help by teaching you ways to deal with emotions and beliefs that may contribute to overeating.
Yoga can also help reduce your risk of heart disease. High blood pressure, which can be caused by unhealthy lifestyle habits, can be managed through yoga practice. Yoga needs to be part of a total plan that includes weight loss if you are overweight, a healthy diet and aerobic exercise. Stress has been linked to higher blood pressure and heart disease and learning relaxation techniques can help lower your risk, according to Cleveland Clinic. A yoga practice can help you relax by teaching you to be 100 percent present while practicing. Taking time each day to completely focus your attention on your movement or breath or practicing one of the many relaxation techniques that yoga offers can calm the body and mind and help keep your blood pressure down. Aim for between 15 and 60 minutes each day of either yoga or meditation.
If you live with chronic pain, you may find some relief through a daily yoga practice. Chronic pain can often make your muscles tight, and you may be restricting your movement to prevent more pain. A gentle yoga practice can help you learn to let go of tension and move your body in a way that does not exacerbate your symptoms. Stretching gently can help relax your tight muscles, which in turn will lessen your pain. In addition, the American Pain Foundation suggests that while yoga may not cure the condition that is causing your pain, it may help improve your emotional outlook and sense of well-being.