Yoga offers a range of health benefits, including greater flexibility, calmness and well-being. But how often should you do yoga? Read on to learn how to build a practice that works for you.
by James Han
Yoga is a popular practice that can help you feel centered and calm as well as strong and flexible. Its poses, which can be easily modified for any level of fitness or expertise, tend to prioritize mind-body well-being rather than physique.
That said, the word “yoga” itself is an umbrella term for a number of ancient and vastly different lineages, some of which are more physically and/or mentally challenging than others.
So how often should you do yoga to get the most out of your practice? It doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie to the mat or a seasoned yogi — the frequency of your routine depends on a number of factors, including the type of yoga you’re practicing; your individual goals, abilities and needs; and how much time you have in your schedule. Here, we’ll help you build a practice that works for you and still allows you to experience its benefits.
The Benefits of Doing Yoga
Studies show that doing just 15 to 30 minutes of yoga a day can have positive effects on your overall wellness. Though yoga has been a staple of Ayurvedic exercise and philosophy for centuries, science has noted several clear benefits of the practice. To start, yoga is great at easing stress and promoting relaxation. One study of 131 participants found that doing one hour of yoga a week for 10 weeks provided an “improvement in stress, anxiety and health status” compared to relaxation. Yoga can also help improve flexibility and balance, promote better-quality sleep and increase energy and mood.
One of the key points that draws nearly 36 million Americans to yoga is that it’s mostly age-friendly and ability-friendly. Kids, adolescents, adults and seniors can all find a pose or sequence that works for them, and there are plenty of adjustments or personalizations that people can make, whether they are recovering from an injury or have a disability.
Popular Yoga Styles (and How Difficult They Are)
When most people think of yoga, they picture sun salutations or downward dog, but there are dozens of schools of yoga that each feature distinct — but sometimes overlapping — exercises, meditations and stretches. Keep in mind that you don’t have to commit to a single type of yoga. If one style doesn’t work for you, feel free to try a different one or even a combination of others. Here are several of the most popular yoga styles.
Popularized by K. Pattabhi Jois, who lived in Mysore, India, Ashtanga yoga is a six-series set of asanas, or postures, that increase in difficulty. Practitioners start with the Primary Series and memorize the sequence of postures, practicing independently with occasional adjustments from a teacher.
Difficulty: Practicing the whole Primary Series can take up to two hours and is physically demanding. If you’re a beginner, skip Ashtanga until you’ve gotten the basics down.
In Vinyasa, also known as “flow” yoga, a teacher creates a sequence of asanas that transition seamlessly from one to another, using the breath as a guiding force. Unlike Ashtanga, no two Vinyasa classes are alike, which can keep things feeling new as well as reduce the likelihood of repetitive motion injuries.
Difficulty: There’s a learning curve to Vinyasa that involves understanding the basic mechanics of breath, attention and each asana. At most studios (or in online tutorials, if you’re practicing at home), there are Vinyasa classes for different levels, ranging from beginner to advanced.
Kundalini yoga was brought to the U.S. in the late 1960s by Yogi Bhajan. Its focus is on awakening the kundalini, or “coiled energy” at the base of the spine, and using it to activate all seven chakras. If you’re new to Kundalini, you might be thrown for a loop — instead of flowy movements, there’s intense breathwork, singing of mantra and asanas that are repeated for long stretches of time. The result is often clear-headedness, reduced fatigue and improved mood.
Difficulty: Kundalini is perfect for all levels. In fact, there are no “beginner” or “advanced” Kundalini levels, and a typical studio class will include a spectrum of ages and abilities. Kundalini students are encouraged to listen to their bodies and modify exercises as needed to prevent strain.
4. Yin Yoga
Yin yoga is a slower, more meditative practice that targets your deep connective tissues, such as your fascia, joints, ligaments and bones. The postures are more like stretches which you’ll be asked to hold for 3 to 20 minutes, with all your muscles completely relaxed. As such, it’s a fantastic restorative practice for anyone looking to lengthen their connective tissues and improve their flexibility.
Difficulty: Yin yoga classes are great for all ages and abilities. Even though you likely won’t break a sweat, you’ll feel relaxed and calm after a session.
Other Popular Yoga Styles
There are many other lineages of yoga that you can try. Here are some other popular styles:
How Often Should You Do Yoga to Stay Healthy?
The short answer is that yoga can be effective when done regularly. Though getting to a point where you’re practicing three to five times a week (at least 15 minutes per session) will help you experience the most benefits, your first goal should be to find a way to consistently practice. If you’re just starting out, try doing one 15- to 30-minute session a week, and working your way up to three sessions per week over the course of several months. The key is to find a pattern that’s sustainable and feels right for your body. You may be able to comfortably squeeze in three Vinyasa practices a week, but only one Kundalini session — the result depends on your own physical and mental responses to specific exercises. Remember that most yoga classes in a studio are about 90 minutes long. Doing more than that isn’t necessarily helpful, and too much yoga (like too much of anything) can hurt your body in the long run.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine frequency:
- Am I trying to become calmer and more relaxed? In this case, shorter but more frequent practices that involve meditations and breathwork might be best for you. A five-minute breathing session repeated twice a day might be all you need.
- Am I trying to become more flexible? Shorter but regular stretches and restorative exercises (that you might find in Yin yoga, for instance) are ideal. Try to find 15 minutes in the morning or at night to loosen your muscles.
- Am I trying to get stronger? Take a Vinyasa class that will challenge your muscles and tone your body. You might find yourself needing to take at least three classes a week to start seeing changes in your physique.
4 Tips for Building a Consistent Yoga Routine
Building a consistent yoga routine is the cornerstone of a long-term, beneficial practice. Again, there is no set standard of what your specific yoga regimen should look like — have fun in learning exactly what your body needs.
1. Get in the Right Headspace
Get yourself in the right headspace for your yoga practice by taking a few deep breaths and taking SLOW, an Ayurvedic tincture with natural essential oils such as sweet fennel, basil and orange that is amplified with hemp CBD. Taking a dropperful of SLOW 15 to 20 minutes before your yoga practice can help you feel grounded and present.
2. Start With a Goal You Can Commit To
Look at your calendar. If it’s packed with meetings, family obligations and personal commitments, trying to do too much yoga in a week may ironically add to your stress and lead to rapid burnout. If the only time you have is 5 minutes during your lunch break, or 10 minutes before bed, that’s perfect. Find a small way to reward yourself for sticking to your goal.
3. Carve Out a Space for Your Practice
If you’re practicing at home, have a designated space where you can calm your mind and complete your yoga set. Whether it’s a sunny corner of your room or your dining area, add a plant, cushion or candle to help you get in the right mindset, and continue to practice in the same spot each time.
4. Find a Teacher You Love
Whether you have a favorite studio or practice at home, find a teacher — in-person or online — that you love, and who can help you look forward to class as well as challenge you to grow in your practice.
5. Plan Your Sequence Around Your Life
If you’re running a marathon, have a busy week of traveling for work or simply have too many items on your checklist, scale back your practice to a few minutes a day. When you have the time again, you can always add more sessions to the week or tack on an additional 15 minutes to your sequence.
Yoga can be a versatile and effective practice to help you experience greater holistic wellness. To learn more about how often you should do yoga and essential techniques to reduce stress, check out these pieces on our blog:
- Feeling Nervous? Try These Stress-Busting Yoga Poses
- Gentle Yoga Poses for a Relaxing Nighttime Routine
- How Yoga & Ayurveda Can Work Together To Support Well-Being
James Han is a writer, editor and content strategist based in Los Angeles. When he’s not deep in a Google Doc, you can find him reading, watching films and taking long walks.
Complementary Therapies in Medicine - A Randomised Comparative Trial of Yoga and Relaxation To Reduce Stress and Anxiety
International Journal of Yoga - Impact of 10-weeks of Yoga Practice on Flexibility and Balance of College Athletes
Indian Journal of Medical Research - Influence of Yoga and Ayurveda on Self-Rated Sleep in a Geriatric Population
Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine - Randomized, Controlled, Six-Month Trial of Yoga in Healthy Seniors: Effects on Cognition and Quality of Life
The Good Body - 38 Yoga Statistics: Discover Its (Ever-increasing) PopularityYoga Journal - Find Your Match Among the Many Types of Yoga