Daily yoga practice seems daunting at first, but over time, it can become as habitual as brushing your teeth. Never missing a day on the mat gives you the flexibility and strength benefits you seek. You'll also receive much in terms of mental and emotional clarity.
Even if you practice the same sequence day-in and day-out, you'll notice that your body never quite feels the same— and neither does your mind. Some days, yoga comes with ease, while other days it's a struggle to get to the mat. In this way, your daily practice becomes a metaphor for life.
With daily practice, you'll spend much more time on the postures than you would with a once or twice per week yoga class. They'll become second nature as creaky joints and tight muscles release into a more fluid, flexible you.
You'll find release and greater depth in poses with which you might struggle because of tight hips due to chronically sitting at a computer, such as Triangle or Side Angle. A daily practice may help you make progress when you have trouble reaching your arms overhead in Mountain or Warrior I.
You'll also learn your limits — sometimes your anatomy is such that certain poses, including extreme backbends like King Pigeon, are never possible. A daily practice also makes you OK with this fact as you learn to accept your body, limitations and all.
You'll also develop greater strength. Longer holds in poses becomes possible as do poses once too difficult because your core or legs were simply too weak. Boat, Warrior III and Dancer grow into postures you're willing and able to hold for five, 10 or 20 breaths at a time.
From a very tangible standpoint, a short daily practice may also reverse bone loss that leads to osteoporosis. A 2016 issue of Topics of Geriatric Rehabilitation published a study of more than 700 women showing that 10 years of a near daily yoga practice consisting of 12 poses actually reversed bone loss that had reached the stage of osteopenia and osteoporosis. The practice took the participants just 12 minutes per day to execute.
As you practice every day, start to notice its effects on all aspects of your life. Your posture improves, balance becomes easier, you're more coordinated and you experience a greater range of motion.
Whether your daily practice is a vigorous flow or calming and restorative, you'll garner the benefit of clearing your mind. A regular morning practice might help you set the right, forgiving mindset for the day; a regular evening practice allows you to reset after work and family challenges and put the day in perspective. After some time, the poses become old friends — it's almost second nature to relax into Child's pose and simply connect with your breath.
The simple act of yoga, repeated daily, can also help ward off anxiety and depression. An article in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, published in 2007, showed that yoga is a valuable adjunct therapy for people already suffering from depression or other mental health disorders.
Yoga has been shown, as noted in a 2015 paper in Ancient Science, to stimulate feel-good neurotransmitters to help improve your mindset and reduce anxiety. Practicing daily allows you to reinforce this positive effect of yoga. Even if you don't currently suffer from clinical depression, daily yoga can help make those days where the blues set in a little more tolerable.
Self-Observation and Patience
A daily practice, especially one that is repetitive, becomes a meditation of sorts. You'll eventually know the postures so well that you learn to trust yourself and focus only on how your body is feeling and the breath, which is the essence of meditation. Physical concerns, such as whether your feet are the "correct" distance apart or if your chest is "blossomed," become secondary.
Yoga every day also allows you to respect how you're experiencing that particular day. Instead of feeling like this is your one chance this week to execute all the postures, you can be forgiving if your energy is slightly lower than usual. There's always tomorrow and the next day to be aggressive in your practice. In this way, you can let go and be patient with your body's progress.
Yoga's Flexible Nature
A daily yoga practice doesn't mean you have to do a high-intensity Power or Bikram class seven days per week. Let your choices vary, from powerful vinyasa to gentle Hatha to calming Yin.
Some people welcome the routine of doing the same practice every day, or others commit to a short practice, such as few Sun Salutations, when they don't have a lot of time and save a longer practice for the weekends. A daily yoga practice doesn't have to look a certain way.
When you pressure yourself to do a certain type of yoga, the commitment to a daily practice is likely to fail. Instead, work with the rhythms of your body. Be disciplined, but forgiving.