The Complete Guide To Yoga For Beginners (Part 2): How Often Should A Beginner Do Yoga?

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.

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The Complete Guide to Yoga For Beginners (Part 1) What is the Best Type of Yoga for Beginners?

Prepare for your first yoga class with this Complete Guide to Yoga for Beginners. 

 

Yoga Does Not Have To Be Intimidating

Long before I stepped foot in a yoga class, I started making healthy lifestyle choices and told my friend about it. I was eating whole foods. Drinking more water. Getting more sleep. I started meditating. My friend asked “So, are you a yogi?” Embarrassed that she said this strange word in public, I looked around to see if anyone else had heard her. No one looked at us funny so I assumed 1. “being a yogi” was a good thing and involved making healthy lifestyle choices, making positive environmental and social choices and 2. It had something to do with men in loincloths. All these years later, I can say I was definitely right about at least one of those things. 

My irrational fear of wearing a loincloth was soon superseded by a new, more rational fear; I would leave my comfort zone of lifting weights and enter that mysterious room at the gym where they do yoga sometimes. 

I got home and scoured the internet for anything i should know about starting a yoga practice. The internet in 2008 wasn’t what it is today. I found a couple random youtube clips of yoga and random blog, but i didn’t feel any clearer on what to do next, so I just showed up at the next class on the schedule. 

Well, I almost did. I avoided it for a few weeks.. made myself late.. figured i could just stretch at home.. The truth is I felt intimdated. Uncomfortable with doing something in public that I had no experience with. Insecure what other guys walking by the room who see me in there might think.

Eventually, I made it to class, and I realized that those judgments existed solely in my mind. The teacher, the students and the practice of yoga is completely non-judgmental. In fact, it’s all about practicing self compassion and self care. I didn’t know most of the yoga poses, or, really, what i was doing, but that was never the point. It was a space for me to practice self awareness, develop strength, flexibilty and balance in a judgment free, supportive environment. As a side effect, we might eventually do some physically impressive postures, but the real benefit is what happens inside. I overcame that first hurdle of stepping into the room, and I left the room feeling amazing. I hope this guide helps you overcome potential hurdles to starting your practice so you can have similar benefits.  

 

Why This Guide?

I know that having access to a “yoga for beginners guide,” or knowing where to start would have helped me feel more confident, be consistent and see  progress in my practice. I didn’t know any of the yoga etiquette, the basic postures, or how to fit yoga into my weekly routine. 

I wasn’t able to find that guidance back then, but i was able to get my practice started and after a few years make it a foundational part of my life before becoming a full time yoga teacher. I learned from going to hundreds of classes, reading dozens of books, practicing at home almost every day, completing over 2000 hours of teacher trainings and teaching over 3000 classes. 

I made this guide so you don’t have to go through all that training to begin your practice. You don’t have to make the mistakes I made. By following this simple guide you can get answers to the questions that it took me weeks, months and years to learn. 

Then, you can focus on the most important part of practicing; showing up to your practice, knowing you have the essentials down. Then, you can begin exploring all the depths of self awareness, flexibility, strength, balance and mental clarity that yoga has to offer. 

I like to keep things simple and easy to reference, so I’ve organized all of my experience into the 10 most common yoga questions I had as a beginner and that i have heard from beginners. I hope you find this helpful, inspiring and clarifying. 

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This is Part ONE of a FIVE part series. For part two click here

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10 FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT YOGA FOR BEGINNERS (Part 1)


1. What is the best type of yoga for beginners?

For my first few years of practice, I didn’t know there were different styles of yoga. I thought it was all just “yoga.” I was surprised to go to a yoga studio and be asked “are you going to Hatha or Kundalini?” —- What? I have to choose? I just want to do some yoga.

It turns out there are many, many types or “styles” of yoga. There are at least 8 main types you’ll see at yoga studios and in online yoga classes. What are the 8 types of yoga? And which is best for beginners? 

I’ve given an overview of each style and rated it as 

1. BEST for beginners
2. GOOD for beginners
3. MORE EXPERIENCE RECOMMENDED for beginners

1. Hatha Yoga GOOD for Beginners

Hatha is a Sanskrit word, the origin language of Yoga. “Ha” and “Tha” translate to “Sun” and “Moon” - This style of yoga is about balancing opposite qualities of effort and ease, strength and flexibility. Expect to hold postures for several breaths, increase balance and focus your mind. Typically all levels, but some experience of basic postures, breathing and alignment helps. 

Hatha is sometimes taught in a set sequence, and sometimes in a heated room, most commonly in the “Bikram Yoga” style, named after it’s founder Bikram Chouderoy. I have met people who have only ever practiced Bikram and were surprised to find that the extreme heat (105 degrees), the choice of pose names and the harsh languaging used by the teachers (“lock the knee!” “throat choked,” “push!” “like I’m pulling you by your hair.”) is unique to Bikram and not found in other yoga classes.

Modern Hatha Yoga gets much of it’s alignment, posture names and principles from B.K.S. Iyengar who wrote “Light on Yoga” and created “Iyengar Yoga,” a form of Hatha Yoga that is very precise in it’s alignment and sequencing. The names and cues Iyengar used for poses are still widely accepted and used by most yoga teachers today. 

The primary source texts of Hatha Yoga are The Yoga Sutra (300 B.C.E.) and The Hatha Yoga Pradipika (1600 C.E.). As you can see, even within Hatha Yoga, there are many other styles and variations. In general, a class titled “Hatha Yoga” is GOOD for beginners

2. Gentle Yoga BEST for Beginners

A version of Hatha Yoga with modifications to be less strenuous, but still include strength, flexibility and balance. Typically less standing postures than Hatha Yoga, and fewer advanced postures. Great for beginners, people with injuries, and anytime you want something more restful and less strenuous. Suitable to all levels. Gentle Yoga is the BEST place for beginners to start. Why? It’s highly adaptable, the poses are simple, and the pacing is easy to keep up with. 

3. Yin Yoga GOOD for Beginners

The second slowest and the deepest stretching form of Yoga. Here you will hold postures 1 to 5 minutes. No standing postures. Little movement between postures. Focus is on increasing flexibility and releasing tension, little to no focus on increasing balance or strength. Equally challenging and rewarding as far as releasing physical tension and settling the mind. You may get halfway through class and realize that you have been exhausted and moving fast for weeks and relish in finally having the time to be still, as I have experienced in Yin Yoga. Some of the poses can be intense if you have limited flexibility, though you can always make modifications, and a good teacher will give you options. Gentle would be a better place to start, but if you have access to Yin class it is definitely a great place to start or include in your beginning practice. GOOD for beginners.

 

4. Restorative Yoga 2nd BEST for Beginners

What is the easiest yoga? As far as physical effort, that would have to be Restorative Yoga. The slowest form of Yoga, in a Restorative class you will hold postures for 5 to 25 minutes each. Often only practicing 2 to 5 postures during the entire class. This can be difficult if you are brand new to practice and feel a lot of physical tension or mental stress. Trying to be still for that long can be aggravating. On the other hand, having the space to be still for that long can feel incredibly relieving and relaxing. Many people fall asleep during Restorative Yoga and that’s ok, though not required. Expect to use lots of props. No focus on strength, flexibility or balance. Instead the focus is on activating the Parasympathetic Nervous System, or the “rest and digest” mode of the Central Nervous System. This is the opposite of the Sympathetic Nervous System, or the “fight or flight” mode. We are most often in some level of SNS mode throughout the day, and some people go long stretches without ever entering the PNS mode, so Restorative Yoga can be incredibly healing and, well, restorative. Restorative Yoga is SECOND BEST place for beginners to start. 

 

5. Vinyasa / Flow MORE EXPERIENCE RECOMMENDED 

A faster paced version of Hatha Yoga that is influenced by the primary sequence of Ashtanga Yoga. The word Flow and Vinyasa are often used interchangeably. Vinyasa means “to place in a way to direct prana (energy),” and can mean many different things, but is most commonly associated with the 3 pose sequence of moving from Chaturanga (low push up) to Upward Facing Dog to Downward Facing Dog. This sequence is challenging and, done safely, builds strength, flexibility and internal heat.  For the average beginner, this is very difficult to do safely and repetitively while maintaining a relaxed breath. For these reasons, I recommend building your skill in Hatha Yoga first before trying a Vinyasa class. In the Vinyasa class, whether the teacher says so or not, you can always skip the “Vinyasas” and hold Downdog or Childs Pose instead. 

Many beginners I meet have tension in their shoulders and upper back and would not benefit from doing dozens of pushups in a yoga class, so when I teach Vinyasa and Flow classes I often do not include many of these sequences, and instead focus on opening the chest and shoulder area while still making the practice vigorous and challenging. Still, despite not having the repetitive shoulder stress, I recommend building your overall strength, flexibility and balance first in Gentle Yoga, then Hatha Yoga before trying Vinyasa. By all means, you can jump right into Vinyasa, though, if you’re like me, it might leave you intimidated and drenched in sweat your first time. It’s important to note that there are many all-levels Vinyasa classes that are not as strenuous. 

 

6. Ashtanga / Power MORE EXPERIENCE RECOMMENDED 

Ashtanga is a specific lineage of yoga created by Krishnamacharya and Patahbi Jois in the early 1900’s. Ashtanga is a taught in set sequences, traditionally in a direct teacher-student relationship where the teacher gives you postures as you are ready for them. You practice 6 days a week and practice the same sequence of sun salutations, standing postures, seated postures and vigorous vinyasas. Ashtanga is the origin of modern Vinyasa yoga - which forgoes the set sequencing to include creative sequencing. Ashtanga is also the origin of modern Power yoga - which is a tern loosely used to mean more challenging, vigorous classes with emphasis on advanced postures, often in a heated room. Can beginners do power yoga? Yes, especially if you have a background in strong physical exercise. If you feel drawn to this style, a Hatha Flow, or Vinyasa class may be a better place to start to get an idea of the fundamentals first. 

7. Kundalini GOOD for beginners

Kundalini is a word for the latent potential within all people, said to reside at the base of the spine until stimulated through breath and movement to rise up to the crown of the head, creating a “Kundalini Awakening.” This can be an intense experience if you are brand new to yoga, though many modern Kundalini Yoga classes are sequenced in a way that is accessible to beginners. This style is great if you have any sort of stagnation in your life; emotionally, physically, mentally or spiritually. Kundalini is about overcoming your perceived limitations in “Kriyas” or “acts” that sometimes resemble meditation, pranayama (breathwork), Yoga Asana, Tai Chi and Qi Gong. These movements are often said to have specific benefits for such things as the liver, the kidneys, increasing prosperity in your life, and just about anything else you can think of. There are over 3500 documented kriyas in the 3HO lineage of Yogi Bhajan, and many more in less popular lineages. This style is quite distinct from other Yoga classes and definitely worth exploring to see if it resonates for you. Classes can vary to a wide degree - from doing a single arm movement for 31 minutes - to doing a vigorous fully body sequence. 

 

8. Yoga Nidra GOOD for beginners. 

Nidra means “Sleep” and this practice is not about taking a nap, but about accessing the deep, relaxed state of theta brainwaves without actually falling asleep. This is said to have many benefits for the central nervous system - to enter the parasympathetic nervous system mode where the body rests, digests and heals itself. This practice can be difficult for complete beginners because of how much time is spent laying still. Typically, Yoga Nidra includes 45 minutes of laying down and mentally scanning your awareness to all areas of the body. It is encouraged to stay awake, though it is okay if you do fall asleep. If you fear you will feel restless laying down for 45 minutes, that is possible, though you may be surprised at just how relaxing the process is for you. One way to work around this is to arrive early to class and get some movement in so you feel ready to lay still. 

Other Styles of Yoga

As you might imagine, there are far more styles than this, and there will likely continue to be new variations of yoga created every year (Doga, Goga, Naked Yoga, Symphonic Black Metal Yoga). That being said, Hatha is widely considered the foundation of yoga, and Gentle Hatha Yoga is a great place to start.  

This is all assuming you are looking for asana-based yoga. You may be surprised to learn that none of these are the most popular form of Yoga in India, it’s country of origin. In fact, the most popular form of Yoga in India is “Bhakti Yoga,” which has little do with postures at all, and involves “Bhakti” or “devotion” to ones spiritual beliefs, practices and teachers. Most often through chanting mantra and making offerings. This is not as popular in America, though you can find “Kirtan” chanting events in most major cities and it is a great way to get to experience Bhakti Yoga for yourself. The mantras are often simple and made easy to follow along with handouts. This is a much bigger topic but, in short, you do not need to follow any religious or spiritual belief to chant mantras as part of a Bhakti Yoga practice like a Kirtan. 

 

Your 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 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. 

Not sure where to find a Gentle class? Sign up below 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. 

SIGN UP BELOW to get a your free “7 Days of Gentle Yoga for Beginners” download 

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