Surely, yoga is about the process, not the progress. But let's be real here. Many end up on the mat for the sake of reaching specific goals.
Whether it's calmer mind, stronger muscles or leaner reflection in the mirror, feeling and seeing the progress remains the best motivation to actually focus on the process and keep moving forward in the lifelong yoga journey.
If you've only started exploring yoga and asana practice, the tricky question "how much should I practice yoga to see results" is ever more natural.
I hate to break it to you, but there is no correct answer. The cookie-cut approach of three times per week, unfortunately, doesn't work with yoga. There are so many factors to consider — your objectives to start with.
If you want to gain strength, then your practice will be different if you wanted to increase flexibility or relieve stress. If you're a beginner, then you might want to have a different schedule than a seasoned yogi.
Is yoga your primary physical activity or a part of cross-training program, how much time can you dedicate to yoga practice - these are just some of the questions you need to ask yourself.
Hopefully, these tips below will clear up the picture and help you create a yoga schedule that will bring you closer towards the set goals.
Table of Contents
Beginners should be worried less about fast results and more about forming a habit.
Most probably you didn’t get on the mat just to get a killer body and six-pack abs in 2 weeks anyway. Firstly, because it’s nearly impossible in such a short term. Secondly, yoga isn’t the place for super quick transformations.
Start doing yoga as often as your schedule allows. Even an hour every week is beneficial.
Naturally, the more you do yoga, the more you’ll improve. In this case, however, consistency is more important than overall length. You’ll likely see more progress when practicing half an hour every day than two hours once a week.
There’s a higher chance of sticking to the habit if you’re not forcing it. So listen to your body cues. If you’re exhausted but have a fast Vinyasa class scheduled, there’s no shame in taking frequent rest throughout the session and modifying challenging poses.
Make yoga a happy place where you’re comfortable in your own body. It should become an activity that you’ll be glad to free your time for. This way, even if you’ve got a busy schedule and have time for only one studio class a week, you’ll grow willing to come back to the practice at home, during your lunch break or whenever you have as little as five spare minutes.
Vinyasa is a dynamic, flow-style yoga. Check out our comprehensive breakdown of the most common yoga styles here.
Create a calorie deficit to lose weight. That means you have to eat fewer calories than your body burns.
Healthy nutrition is critical if your goal is to shed those nasty pounds. You can do intensive yoga for two hours every day but still gain weight in case your diet isn't in check.
Yoga is not as efficient for weight loss as cardio exercises like running, dancing, aerobics, etc. because it burns fewer calories compared to high-intensity training.
That said, it can still be a part of a successful weight management program. Practice fast and vigorous yoga styles such as Power Yoga, Vinyasa, Ashtanga that will keep you moving throughout the class.
The most optimal number would be between three to six yoga sessions a week (at least 1 hour each), depending on how much weight you want to lose and how fast. Beware of the burnout and give your body at least one rest day per week to restore and regenerate.
Yoga is not just stretching, despite the popular myth. After all, certain styles of yoga are strength training. Only instead of lifting heavy weights, you’re lifting your body mass. Plus, you can always add weights to your yoga routine if you’re up for a challenge.
To build strength and muscles, focus on dynamic and challenging styles of yoga. Ashtanga, Power, Vinyasa, and hybrids such as yoga with weights are the styles to go. Hot yoga and Bikram also showed promise in increasing muscle mass and general stamina.
Aim to practice three times a week on average (at least one hour each session), but don’t overdo it. Muscle tissues need rest days and time to regenerate.
If you want to do intense yoga more than three times a week, no problem. Just try to rotate the focus on different muscle groups each yoga class instead of doing a full-body workout seven days a week. Also, beware of the risk of dehydration when doing hot yoga.
Hot yoga, including Bikram, might be superior to non-heated yoga styles in promoting muscle growth and endurance. To get more information, check out our article on the risks and potential benefits of hot yoga.
It depends on your body.
Some people are naturally extraordinarily flexible. For them, even one or two of 1-hour yoga classes per week is enough to retain the body suppleness.
Others (like me, for example) need to practice every day for the sake of limbering the muscles and joints. I can stretch for splits for months, but when I get back on the mat after a week's break, I find myself starting almost from scratch.
Every style of yoga will increase joint mobility and suppleness, sooner or later. Longer holds offered by Yin Yoga are the best if the end goal is high flexibility and splits.
There are no restrictions about how often to practice. You can do yoga every day or even twice a day to limber the body if that's what you need.
There's a catch though. Flexibility training should always go hand in hand with at least some form of strength training. By focusing on flexibility alone, you're risking to develop hypermobility and instability in joints. Strength training will help you build muscle around the joints and protect them from injury.
If you're working towards splits, check out how I participated in a 30-day split challenge and how it changed my body.
Do yoga every day, any time and anywhere you feel like.
Gentle yoga and breathing techniques often have an immediate calming effect. But regular and consistent practice will bring far greater benefits in the long term. You'll feel more control over your energy levels, emotions, and focus.
If you're not a regular yogi_ni and have a busy schedule, start small. Even a short and gentle asana practice before bed may have an instant positive impact on the quality of sleep. A simple pranayama technique such as three-part yogic breath (try this technique following these simple step-by-step instructions here) at a workplace or during the commute can relieve stress and calm your nervous system.
Once yoga turns into a habit, it becomes a lifestyle. At this point, no amount of yoga is too much.
If you do yoga for several hours every single day and you're happy and satisfied - great! But if you know someone like this and feel bad about yourself for not doing the same, even though this frequency doesn't fit your life - don't be. What works for some people doesn't work for others.
So stay sensible. Constant muscle soreness after yoga is not okay. Besides, you're not doing your body any favors by experiencing pain or extreme discomfort from the practice.
The key to beneficial yoga practice lies in you. As long as you find time for yoga, stay attentive to your needs, approach the practice as something exciting and pleasurable rather than forceful, the expected results won't be long in coming.
How often do you practice yoga?
Share in the comments!