How often should I practice yoga?

Many people often wonder how often they should be practicing yoga. When considering how often you should get on your mat, consider first what your goals are. Do you want to build strength? Encourage flexibility? Develop mindfulness? Your answers to these questions may alter the frequency with which you care to practice.

When you’re encouraging conditioning of the muscles, it’s best to have a consistent physical practice with periods of rest. For most people, that means practicing for 30-60 minutes three to five times a week. Though you’ll see some improvements with a once-a-week practice, the increased movement will help move you toward your goal and maintain progress.

There is a such thing as practicing too much. Always give yourself at least one day a week of rest from your yoga practice. If you practice a more vigorous style of yoga like Baptiste, power yoga, or Ashtanga, consider taking off more than one day, or using one of your practice days for restorative or yin yoga. This will help you avoid overuse of your muscles and give your body much needed rest.

Speaking of rest, if you’re sick or nursing an injury, give yourself more time to recuperate, or opt for a gentler practice.

Also remember that it’s important to give your body a well-rounded physical practice. That means incorporating some strength-building into your yoga routine, or into your physical regimen as a whole. Additionally, regularly including aerobic exercise like walking, running, biking, swimming, kickboxing, or dancing will help keep your heart as healthy as your mind-body connection.

If your goal is to develop mindfulness, yoga can be an excellent daily practice. The physical practice of yoga, asana, is only one of eight limbs of yoga [], so consider making your yoga practice about some of the other limbs, like attention to the breath or meditation.

As for me, I tend to practice asana four to six days week, and I always take at least a full day off to rest. Over the last few months, I’ve been incorporating more strength building for my arms, hips, and shoulders to help balance the stretching and motions common to yoga (I’ll share some of my favorite exercises in future posts).

I am trying to take a more conscious approach to yoga’s other limbs. This practice is isn’t as consistent as I would like, but I’m making progress. I could tell as much during the holidays when shopping and errands tweaked my sanity. I breathed, and breathed some more, and this helped me avoid yelling my way through December (mostly). This helped me realize I need as much meditation and breathwork as I do asana — if not more.

As you’re trying to find your sweet spot for practice days, remember that your needs may change. Be gentle with yourself and open to this change. Be as consistent as you can, for consistency will likely lead to growth.

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