It’s a common question – how often should you do Yoga to see progress? And is it a good idea to practice every day or should you have Yoga-free days?
Yoga is both a physical and mental practice. Most of us expect results such as reaching your toes, being able to bend your back more than before, or loosening tight hips and shoulders. And somewhere along the way, you may also discover it makes you feel and sleep better, stress less, and recover faster. These results go hand in hand so no matter if your main goal is to loosen your hamstrings, you’ll no doubt benefit in other ways too. How often you practice Yoga may determine how quickly you get there but it’s not a simple equation of ‘the more often you practice Yoga, the faster you get results’.
Find your frequency
Most teachers recommend that we should practice three to five times a week for steady progress. A large study of Yoga practitioners revealed that people who practice at least five times a week have the best results in terms of overall health, sleep, low fatigue levels, and general sense of wellbeing. However, the study found that having a regular practice is more important than anything else in terms of individual benefits – so beginners may benefit as much from two weekly practices as more-advanced students from doing Yoga almost every day. The key is in Yoga practice being a regular occurrence in your weekly schedule.
So what if you are able to only practice once a week? You will certainly benefit from it but the effects may not be as long-lasting compared to practicing two or three times per week.
On the other hand, if you want to practice every single day, you can! Just make sure you vary your practice so you don’t strain any muscles, joints or ligaments. If you don’t have a daily practice and would like to start, build it up gradually so your body has time to adapt. Doing too much too fast could lead to injuries and hinder your progress – the exact opposite of what Yoga should help you with!
The key is to find a practice pattern that suits you, is sustainable in terms of your schedule, and feels right for your body. It may be helpful to make a commitment to practice regularly (e.g. three times a week) for a month or two and then re-evaluate. This allows enough time for you to see and feel results, and find if it works for you. If not, change your routine!
How long or short should your practice be?
This is entirely up to you – most people practice for 15-60 minutes. There’s no right or wrong. If you only have time for a short 10-15 minute practice before work or after a workout, that’s absolutely fine, go for it! Try our 15-minute morning routine! Or you can start your mornings by this simple 3-exercise mobility routine. If you can then find another window of time in your day for a little more practice, that would be ideal.
At the other end of the spectrum are long yoga sessions. Sometimes you may feel like you want to do your own practice and fit every pose in. That might be good from time to time but you may end up doing too much and overloading your joints so be careful. It’s always better to do fewer poses well, than do many improperly so don’t forget to watch your alignment and breathe deeply throughout your practice. The advantage of a long practice is that you have plenty of time for each pose and you can do a longer relaxation at the end, which is beneficial both physically and mentally.
No pain no gain?
People do get injured practicing Yoga because our minds and egos get in the way. If you want too much progress too quickly, you can tear a muscle or injure a joint. If you start doing long and intense practices every day out of the blue, you can bring on a repetitive strain injury. Some pain is ok, especially if it’s mild and dull, but serious pain and sharp or stabbing sensations are clear warning signs for you to dial things down.
If you can’t perform a certain pose perfectly, modify it – use a block if you can’t rEach the ground in standing folds or a belt/scarf to reach your toes in seated/reclined positions. If the teacher offers variations, take the one that’s right for you regardless of what the ‘ideal’ pose is. It’s much better to tweak your practice rather than push through pain or give up altogether.
An important part of Yoga practice is discipline and that means knowing how to work with yourself – not always pushing yourself to the limit but knowing what works for your body and when to stop, rather than let your ego take over.
What if you don’t feel in the mood?
Some days, we just feel like we can’t be bothered. That’s normal. Sometimes you need a rest to let your body recover, other days, we’re simply lazy. Try making a deal with yourself – do 10 minutes of your Yoga practice and if you still feel like today’s not the day, stop and don’t judge yourself. Chances are that after a few minutes of the practice, you’ll want to keep going and you’ll be glad you started. It’s because exercise stimulates blood circulation bringing more oxygen and nutrients to your tissues, boosting your energy levels.
In one study, young people who felt constant fatigue were assigned to a 6-week exercise program with moderate or low-intensity. At the end of the program, the participants experienced significantly less fatigue despite exercising on a regular basis. Those in the low-intensity exercise group experienced higher energy level improvements – and that’s exactly what Yoga can do for you!
How do you know what’s right for you?
If you use Yoga to complement your athletic training, you’ll probably know if it’s right for you to practice Yoga beforehand, afterwards, on recovery days or in a specific weekly pattern. It may take some trial and error to find a pattern that works for you. Some people prefer to practice first thing in the morning, others later in the day. This also depends on your schedule and what you’re looking for – if you have trouble getting the day started, some energizing morning yoga might just be right for you. Usually mornings are the best time of day to create habits as morning schedules are least interfered with. If you struggle to wind down and fall asleep, you might want to build a calming evening yoga routine. Hardly anyone gets it right straight away so it’s not just ok to experiment – it’s a part of the process.
For best results, try to practice Yoga at least three times a week. Practicing more than five times a week may not bring any additional benefits but if you want to have a daily Yoga practice, make sure you choose a gentle one at least once a week. It’s because one day a week should be reserved for rest and recovery. Other than that, you only need patience, and you will be rewarded with steady progress!