How often should a beginner do yoga? You’ve found this practice, you’re ready to start. You see the value and the benefits, but how often do you need to practice to get the most out of it? And safely? Is it OK to do yoga every day? Do you need rest days from yoga? How much time should you spend doing yoga? I’ll address all of these questions in this post.
(This is Part 2 of a 5 part series.)
10 Frequently Asked Questions About Yoga For Beginners (Part 2): How Often Should A Beginner Do Yoga?
Before we address the amount of time you are considering practicing yoga, it’s important to look at what your body and mind are doing for the average 24 hours of the day.
Think about the shapes your body makes every day. We sit in cars, we sit at desks, we sit on couches. We slouch, we slump, we hunch, we stare down at our phones. All this stuff is repetitive stress on the body, and after just one day of this you may have racked up 6 to 7 hours of repetitive stress. By the time you get to bed you’re likely feeling pain or discomfort in your low back, neck, shoulders, upper back, hip flexors and/or hamstrings. Ouch!
If you’re fortunate enough to have a more active job and lifestyle, you are still spending 6 to 8 hours a night in bed, reducing mobility in your joints and your fascia (connective tissue)
Mentally, this wears on you. When your body becomes tense with chronic pain and discomfort, you become more irritable, agitated and restless. This can lead to exhaustion, burn out and conflicts at home. The cost of stress at work is estimated to be in the millions. This can lead to coping with food, tv or distractions, without addressing the underlying issue.
We Are Born to Stretch
What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Before you go to the bathroom. Before you drink water. Before you check your phone (ideally). You stretch.
If you watch animals, they do it too. What could be more natural? Imagine how tense you would feel if you woke up and *didn’t* stretch. Imagine how much more nerve racking every little stressor would be throughout the day.
If you’re like me, you’ve often gone days, weeks or months without even *knowing* you were holding tension in your back until someone touched it.
So, we stretch.
We wake up, reach our arms for a few seconds and we feel ready to get out of bed. This is a great start. But what about all those little tensions that have built up over the last 24 hours? What about the 8 hours of sitting yesterday? And the 8 hours of sleeping?
Try Practicing Yoga Every Day
To counter sitting, sleeping and developing text-neck every day, I highly recommend that you schedule some time for a mindful stretching practice (Yoga) every day. It is the most natural and fitting counterbalance to our modern lifestyle, and a huge reason of why Yoga has become so popular in recent years.
Is it OK to do yoga every day? The short answer is: absolutely. Is it recommended to do one repetitive practice the same way every day? The short answer is: only if you know how to prevent injury. My suggestion: begin with Gentle Yoga (as mentioned in the previous post) and include a variety of sequences so that over the course of a week you are moving your entire body; all major muscles, joints and connective tissue, as well as practicing mindfulness and breath awareness in ways that you can apply to your every day life.
Try practicing yoga every day. Try it for a week. Then a month. Then 3 months. Take a break as needed, then come back. Experience, as I did, just how quickly your body accumulates tension when you stop practicing, and just how quickly you can release that tension with regular practice.
How do you do it? What do you do during your daily practice? I’ll offer a free simple way to start at the end of this blog.
How Do You Maximize the Benefits of Yoga?
The short answer is: practice consistently. The benefits of yoga include mind-muscle connection, strength, flexibility, balance, mobility, clarity of mind, mental focus, nervous system regulation, injury reduction, improved digestion, improved sleep, increased happiness, improved interoception and proprioception, to name a few.
These positive qualities take time and consistency to develop, including repetitive *positive* stressors, like a consistent Yoga practice. In the same way negative effects are formed through repetitive *negative* stressors, like sitting for 8 hours.
Is It Safe to Practice Yoga Every Day?
Without a doubt, you can safely practice yoga every day. An experienced instructor will give you plenty of modifications and guidance to make sure you include variety and modifications in your practice so you are never over stressing any one area of the body. As we will learn later, stretching is largely a neurological process, less so than a muscular process. Having the daily repetition of regulating your nervous system will give you the benefits of yoga not only during your hour of practice, but all throughout the day as continue to live your life with the same mindfulness you develop in your practice.
How Do I Make Time For Yoga?
Despite knowing all of these benefits. Despite how much you want to practice yoga consistently. Despite knowing you will feel more flexible, strong, focused and balanced: There is that voice in the back of your head that says “I would love to, but i don’t have time.”
I know this voice well, and this is how I think about it, whenever it creeps up:
You have 24 hours a day (168 hours a week)
You likely sleep 8 hours a night (56 hrs a week)
You likely work 8 hours a day (45 hrs a week with commute)
That leaves 67 hours of free time.
If you dedicate just 7 of those hours a week to practicing yoga, you still have 60 hours to do whatever you’d like —- and feel incredible for all of it.
In short, if you commit 4% of your week (7 hours) to this thing called Yoga, you will feel incredible for everything you do the other 96% of your time (161 hours). Pretty awesome deal, wouldn’t you agree?
Do You Need Rest Days From Yoga?
In short, it depends on the style of Yoga you are practicing. For Gentle Yoga, you may not need a rest day, but you may want to also include more active practices in your schedule. For Ashtanga Yoga, one of the most vigorous styles of yoga, a weekly rest day is part of the prescribed practice.
In all aspects of yoga practice and lifestyle, we are seeking balance of opposites. With your own self inquiry and the guidance of an experienced teacher, you will know what is best for you. When considering rest, the yogic concepts you are addressing are “Stirha” and “Sukha.” When you look into this foundational aspect of practice, decisions of wether to exert more or less, when to be active and when to be passive, become much clearer.
The word Hatha Yoga translates to “Sun Moon” Yoga and is the foundation of most modern Yoga practices. Sun meaning active, engaged, vigorous, strengthening, structure, stability; this is synonymous to the Sanskrit word “Stirha”. Moon meaning passive, relaxed, yielding, lengthening, fluidity, ease; this is synonymous to the Sanskrit word “Sukha.”
One of the main teachings of the Yoga Sutra (300 B.C.E.) is “stirha sukha asanam,’ which suggests you find the middle ground between these opposite qualities in your asana (posture). Learning to embody structure when you need to. Learning to embody yielding when you need to.
As a beginner this may all sound foreign, and that is totally ok. Many modern classes may not address these aspects of practice, but as you practice regularly you will become more aware of the flow of energy (prana) in your body and be able to adapt and change when you feel you need more or less engagement in a posture and in all ares of your life.
How Much Time Should You Spend Doing Yoga?
In short, an hour a day would be best. But as little as 5 minutes, 3 times a week consistently would be far better than, say, a 90 minute class once every few weeks.
As I suggested above, an hour a day, 7 days a week is only 4% of your time in a given week. While that is true, and it sounds very doable just looking at the math, the reality is we are not machines, and our lives are full of twists and turns.
We’ve all had the experience of being optimistic and having good intentions about a new routine or habit or healthy lifestyle choice, only to find ourselves repeatedly quieting the phone notification we set to follow through with the intention.
One of the most valuable skills I’ve learned to cultivate in yoga practice is self awareness. For example, I can be self aware that I’m falling out of a balancing pose, and choose to practice the yogic principle of Ahimsa, non harming. Instead of judging or criticizing or comparing myself to others, I can be kind to myself and know that I’m doing my best. The same with my schedule and my practices. If I feel off, worried, overwhelmed, agitated and miss a day of practice, that is okay. It happens. It’s part of being human. The important thing is not that I rigidly adhere to a schedule, but that I am kind to myself and adjust as needed, knowing i am doing my best.
So aim for a goal that is challenging but doable. For you that may be 5 minutes, 3 days a week to start. Or one 60 minute class a week. Maybe your schedule is very full in this season of your life, and that’s okay. I have found that being aware of myself, my thoughts and my reactions to my circumstances — and choosing to practice self compassion, self forgiveness and understanding is itself a yoga practice. In those busy or highly emotional phases, any amount of movement can go a long way in helping to alleviate physical discomfort and emotional distress.
Ultimately, I find that I do best when I follow the guidance of my mentors and show up consistently even if i don’t always feel like it, i often feel incredible after practice. If you don’t have a yoga teacher or guide in your life right now, it can be incredible helpful, encouraging and supportive to find that. Until then, as your guide through this writing, I encourage you to aim for one hour a day of practice, and I make it as easy as possible with my weekly podcasts you can practice at home, and my Yoga Every Day series. There are also countless online classes and in person classes all over the world you can choose, but I was amazed at the benefits and transformation I experienced when I began practicing for one hour daily, and I think you’ll enjoy the benefits as well.
One Next Step
I’m all about making things simple and applicable with One Next Step you can take after reading this. So, in short, seek out a 60 minute Gentle Yoga practice to start, and you’ll like find a great introduction to the basics. With time you will build confidence with the essentials of alignment, breathing and mindfulness. The more consistently you practice the more benefits you will begin to see.
To make things even easier and laid out for you, you can sign up below for Start Your Yoga Practice to receive a full week of Gentle Yoga audio classes that you can follow along with from home, all you need is a yoga mat and a blanket for padding your knees in some of the poses. You can start here and repeat this 7 day series as many times as you like.