Once, twice, three times a week?
Unfortunately there’s no easy answer to this question, but it’s one that Yoga Teachers get asked all the time. Unlike a doctor prescribing medicine, I can’t tell you to do it twice a week for a month to cure all your aches and pains, or tick the ‘touch toes’ box off your list.
You need to see yoga as a long term lifestyle choice rather than a short term solution. Most of the time when people ask how often they should do yoga, they’re actually asking how many classes they should come to each week. The crucial thing to remember in this situation, is that yoga isn’t just something you do when you’re on your mat. The physical practice is the first thing that people think of, but there’s actually seven other aspects of it too. If you want to know more about this and how you can practice yoga when you’re not in Lycra, you can read my previous blog post here.
With regards to the physical practice of yoga postures, people want to know when they’ll see results. This is going to vary massively from one person to the next and it’s very dependant on what results you’re looking for and whether they’re short term or long term. For some people it’s immediately obvious how great yoga is, and for others it can take a little while and a lot of dedication. If people ask me this, then my generic go-to answer would be that once a week is better than not at all, but ideally over time you might look to build this up to two, three or four times to really notice the benefits and see results. HOWEVER, I’m really reluctant to answer this question so simply, because everyone is different and it’s impossible for yoga to be a one-size-fits-all approach. There are many factors to consider and it helps to know what you’d like to get out of your practice and why.
The good news is that the short term benefits are usually visible after just one class. You might have heard of that post yoga glow - it’s the result of loosening up your body after sitting at a desk all day and enjoying a whole 60-90 blissful minutes without your phone or laptop. It’s quite an addictive feeling and sometimes that’s enough to keep you coming back for more.
There are also many different styles of yoga and each one comes with its own set of benefits and challenges. As always, it’s about balance. A mixture of breathing, stretching, and more dynamic movements will be more beneficial than only focussing on one component, like flexibility for example. When it comes to touching your toes, 10 minutes of stretching every day will get you closer than two hours once every two weeks.
A problem that many of us face (yes, even me as a teacher) is motivation. Sometimes we need the energy of a group class to keep us engaged and trying to do an hour by yourself at home can seem impossible. Practicing yoga doesn’t have to be 60 minutes of mat based movement; it could be as simple as taking some deep breaths or as easy as showing some self-compassion/kindness (although sadly it seems that is easier said than done these days). I also encourage my students to incorporate yoga into their everyday lives. I’m forever offering variations on ways to brush your teeth (try it on your tip-toes or in Tree Pose) or what to do while the kettle boils. You’ll even hear me suggesting stretches you can do while having a wee or waiting for the bus. There are so many fun and creative ways to include yoga in your daily routine; next time you wash your hands, rather than facing the sink, try standing sideways and twisting your body towards the taps for five seconds of spinal release.
It’s also important to listen to your body and know when it’s time to take a break from your physical practice. Getting on your mat seven days a week isn’t a good idea if you’re starting to get some twinges or painful sensations. Maybe as an alternative you could do some restorative postures or try five minutes of meditation or wrist mobility exercises.
To summarise, it’s a good idea to practice yoga all day every day(!), but I’d recommend ‘doing’ yoga a minimum of once a week and aim to build this up to three or four times for that added feel-good factor. Try to do a mixture of gentle stretching, soft movements and more dynamic strength classes.
As a side note, if you’re doing more than six classes in a month, the unlimited six month membership works out as my cheapest pricing plan. That way you’re free to do as much yoga as you want, when you want. I’m also offering an all-you-can-yoga Easter pass for just CHF 50. It’s valid for 22 classes between the 13 - 28 April if you’re keen to come along. Both are available on Momoyoga. :)