Just starting yoga and not sure how often to practice? Or want to know how often the “best” yogis practice each week? Keep reading to answer these questions and more…
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The reality is different though. You don’t need to be the supplest person in your class to benefit from yoga. In fact, the less flexible you are the faster you’ll see results. In this article, I’ll go through how often you should practice yoga, along with some tips for getting the most out of your practice.
What are the Benefits of Yoga?
If you want to gain the benefits of yoga, you need to make practising a habit. And it’s much easier to develop a habit when you have a clear reason for creating it.
The good news is that yoga has plenty of benefits – so this isn’t difficult!
The most obvious is improved flexibility. Regular practice helps lengthen your muscles and free up tight joints. Over time, this can reduce the chance of injuries or pain.
There are far more benefits to yoga though. Other physical benefits include stronger bones, improve muscle strength and better balance. There is some evidence that yoga can help weight loss too.
Your overall health can also benefit from regular yoga practice. There’s evidence to suggest that yoga may help improve sleep quality, boost your immune system, improve the health of your heart and decrease inflammation. It’s also great for reducing stress and anxiety.
The question is, can you gain these benefits from a single weekly class? Or are they reserved for “serious” yogis who practice for hours each day?
How Often Should Beginners Practice?
It’s probably no surprise that the more you practice yoga, the faster you’ll gain the benefits (most of the time). You’ll see results much sooner if you practice for an hour every day, for example, than just an hour every Saturday.
That doesn’t mean short practice sessions can’t help though.
Some experts believe that even a few minutes of practice each day can help improve your mood. By focusing on your breath (much like meditation), you can practice being in the moment. With a bit of practice, your yoga “timeouts” will be a welcome break from the whirlwind of thoughts that accompany us throughout the day.
With that said, there are some guidelines for how often you should practice as a beginner if you want to experience all the benefits. A few minutes a day might make you feel more relaxed, but how long should you practice to get more flexible? Or improve your sleep?
Weekly Practice Guidelines for Beginners
The great thing about yoga is that it doesn’t require a huge time commitment. You can experience many of the benefits by practising an hour each week – although you won’t progress as quickly as if you practised more often.
Of course, the amount you need to practice also depends on your goals:
- If you want to gain many of the benefits of yoga – including improved strength, concentration and flexibility – 2-3 half hour sessions each week is a good place to start. This isn’t too much that you’ll overstretch your muscles, but is regular enough to provide consistent improvement. Ideally, you’ll do some practice on a daily basis – but this may not be possible if you have a hectic schedule. The Yoga Burn program also recommends practising three times a week.
- To improve your sleep, a short session of around 10 minutes before bed can help.
- For improving flexibility, one hour-long class per week may be enough to gain some of the benefits. You’ll see much faster progress if you practice more though.
- To reverse bone loss due to osteoporosis, 10 minutes daily practice is also enough for noticeable improvement.
Creating a Regular Schedule
The key is practising regularly though. You’ll gain more from practising for short periods every other day than one long session once per month. Practising often instead of long is nearly always better.
It’s also important that you set realistic goals. If you’re just starting out, do you really have the time to practise for an hour four times per week? If yes, then great! But if not, pick a practise length that you know you can complete – and then stick to it.
Over time, your practice will become more enjoyable and you’ll want to increase it. There’s no need to rush.
How Often Should You Practice Yoga to Lose Weight?
Let’s face it: an hour of yoga (unless it’s a form of exercise yoga) isn’t going to blast fat like cardio or weight lifting. You’ll burn a few extra calories and improve your strength – but don’t expect to lose weight rapidly just from yoga. It needs to be combined with a healthy diet and other forms of exercise.
What About if You Want to Become a “Serious” Yogi?
A common question we get from enthusiastic beginners is “how often should I practice if I want to become a serious yogi?”
That’s a tough question!
As you’ve probably guessed, “serious” yogis practice often and long.
It’s not uncommon to hear of people practising for five or six hours a day. This is extreme – and has the potential to cause injury if not under the instruction of a skilled teacher – but there’s no substitute for putting in the hours.
The good news is you don’t need to practice six hours a day to see improvements in strength and flexibility. Practising daily (instead of a few times per week) can speed up your progress though.
But before we go any further in this article, I want to make one thing clear…
Yoga should never be rushed. Everyone’s body adapts at different rates, so trying to “force” progress is nearly always going to end in pain and injury.
Learning each pose is a process. You see it performed by instructor, then try and do it yourself. Over time, you work on the position, gaining a little bit of flexibility each time you practice. It could take a few weeks or it might take years…but eventually you’ll perfect the pose. This can’t be rushed.
I also think it’s important to have a great yoga guide if you’re doing a lot of practice – especially when you’re starting. That could be on YouTube or in a class…but there needs to be structure to your practice. If you’re constantly watching videos from different teachers, it’ll take longer to make progress.
The Bottom Line
Practising yoga is a lifetime endeavour. When you get on your mat, you’re not just performing a series of stretches. You’re strengthening your mind-body awareness, which can have a positive impact on every aspect of your life.
When you first start, try to practice at least twice per week. This should initially be under the instruction of a competent instructor, but once you know the basics you can practice at home too.
The most important thing is to practice regularly. If you leave too long between sessions, you’re effectively starting again each time – which can make yoga frustrating.
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