If you've taken up a yoga practice, you may be wondering how frequently you should be rolling out your yoga mat. The decision of how often to practice comes down to personal goals and your own preferences. Whether you practice yoga once a week or every day, you can experience the benefits of yoga both on and off your mat.
The frequency of your yoga practice depends on your personal goals, your budget and other factors. It's possible to do yoga every day, but you can also gain benefits from practicing once weekly or biweekly.
Alleviates Stress and Anxiety
In a study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine in 2007, a group of people with mild to moderate stress levels practiced yoga or relaxation techniques once a week for an hour. After 10 weeks, yoga was found to be as effective as relaxation in decreasing stress and anxiety levels and improving overall health.
Promotes Flexibility and Balance
Regular yoga practice promotes muscle flexibility. As such, it's an increasingly popular activity among competitive athletes looking to up their game and prevent injuries.
A study published in the International Journal of Yoga looked at male college athletes, measuring differences in performance between those who practiced biweekly yoga sessions and those in a non-yoga group. The results determined that a regular yoga practice may improve flexibility and balance, characteristics that may contribute to enhanced athletic performance.
Improved cardiovascular function, reduced inflammation and a decrease in chronic pain are just a few of the possible internal benefits of a regular yoga practice. One study of yoga practitioners over age 40 who had been practicing for five years found positive benefits for heart health. The study participants had lower blood pressure and a lower pulse rate than those who did not practice yoga.
Establish Personal Goals
Knowing the information above about yoga benefits will help you define clear goals for your practice. If your time is limited and you simply want to start incorporating yoga into your life, you can experience benefits even with an hour of yoga a week. If, however, you have larger goals of overall enhanced health, stress relief or mastering certain postures, you might practice yoga several times a week or daily.
Start with an hour of yoga a week, and add to your practice over time to see the greatest benefits.
Types of Yoga
There are many different styles of yoga, each with its own set of principles, targeted outcomes and techniques. Your goals in practicing yoga will help determine the style or combination of styles that work best for you.
Some yoga styles are more vigorous and physically demanding, such as vinyasa or ashtanga. These styles are well-suited to those looking for a challenging workout or weight loss. Other styles are slower-paced and ideal for stress relief or a stretching-focused routine, such as restorative yoga. There may be a set sequence of postures, as in Bikram yoga, or there may be room for creativity and variations in sequencing.
In addition, the room may be heated or room temperature. Heated classes may allow muscles to warm and open up, making certain postures more accessible. Your best bet is to gather as much information as possible about any yoga class you plan to take. That way, you'll know what to expect, how it aligns with your goals and whether it's the right format for you.
Studios, Streaming and Private Classes
Practicing in a yoga studio can be a great way to begin a regular yoga practice. Most studios have various class packages to suit your frequency of attendance as well as your budget. By practicing in a studio, you can take advantage of live instruction from an experienced teacher. Some people also enjoy practicing alongside other yoga students and meeting new people.
If you prefer to practice at home, however, you can opt for streaming online yoga classes or yoga DVDs. You can also incorporate private lessons into your regular routine for personalized, expert instruction. Some yoga teachers who teach at studios also offer private instruction or small-group classes outside the studio.
Yoga Benefits off the Mat
Whereas for one yoga practitioner it might mean being a vegetarian, for another it might mean volunteering at a soup kitchen. There isn't a "right" way to practice yoga and incorporate it into your life. The key is finding the right balance of mental, physical and spiritual practices that works for you.
In yoga, what works for some will not work for all. Find the combination of mental, physical and spiritual practices that works for you.
Stay Safe If You're Pregnant
Pregnant women who have been practicing yoga regularly prior to pregnancy will often continue practicing while pregnant. Certain postures should be avoided, such as deep twists, belly-down postures such as cobra pose and, after about 18 weeks, any postures that involve lying on your back. At the same time, other postures might feel great for pregnant women, such as supported bridge pose and cat-cow.
If you plan to attend class, be sure to tell your instructor you're expecting, or look for prenatal-specific yoga classes. Always talk to your doctor about any concerns — pregnancy-related or otherwise — before starting a yoga practice.
If you're pregnant or you recently gave birth, get your doctor's approval before beginning a yoga practice. Tell your instructor you're expecting so she can help you modify postures as needed.
- NCBI: Complementary Therapies in Medicine: A Randomised Comparative Trial of Yoga and Relaxation to Reduce Stress and Anxiety
- Yoga Basics: How to Live a Yogic Lifestyle
- Yoga Journal: How to Build a Home Practice
- Healthline: 13 Benefits of Yoga That Are Supported by Science
- NCBI: International Journal of Yoga: Impact of 10 Weeks of Yoga Practice on Flexibility and Balance of College Athletes
- Yoga Journal: Types of Yoga
- NCBI: Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology: Effect of Yoga on Cardiovascular System in Subjects Above 40 Years
- Sports Illustrated: Beyond Downward Dog: The Rise of Yoga in the NBA and Other Pro Sports
- Bikram Yoga: 26 Postures of Bikram Yoga
- Elephant Journal: Prenatal Yoga Do’s & Don’ts For Every Trimester