Whether you’re learning yoga via YouTube videos or in-person classes, it sometimes seems like everyone can do the perfect triangle pose or downward facing dog. And they make it look easy! It’s no wonder many beginner yogis often feel like giving up. The reality is different though. You don’t need to be the agile person in your class to benefit from yoga. In fact, the less flexible you are the faster you’ll see results.
While thephysical practice does play a role, the ultimate goal of yoga is “moksha,” inSanskrit (an ancient language of India), or liberation—the ability to find trueinner peace and release from suffering. The thought is that the more youpractice yoga, the deeper the connection you’ll find between the physical body,the mind, and the spirit. The stronger this connection is, the more mindfulnessyou can bring into your life.
How does yoga benefit you?
Theapparent benefit is improved flexibility. Regular practice helps lengthen yourmuscles and free up tight joints. Over time, this can reduce the chance ofinjuries or pain. There are far more benefits to yoga. Other physical benefitsinclude stronger bones, improved muscle strength and better balance. There issome evidence that yoga can help weight loss too. Your overall health can alsobenefit from regular yoga practice. There’s evidence to suggest that yoga mayhelp improve sleep quality, boost your immune system, improve the health ofyour heart and decrease inflammation. It’s also great for reducing stress andanxiety.
How often should you do yoga to see results?
Perhapsyou’re interested in practicing yoga for the physical aspect—you want to workhard, sweat and get fit. You might find, however, that yoga is so much morethan that.
Maybe youfound yoga through wanting to begin a meditation practice, and now you’ve foundthat your body is physically capable of things you never thought possible.Whatever your reason for beginning your practice, at least it’s brought you tothe mat!
It’sprobably no surprise that the more you practice yoga, the faster you’ll gainthe benefits (most of the time). You’ll see results much sooner if you practicefor an hour every day, for example, than just an hour every Saturday. Thatdoesn’t mean short practice sessions can’t help though.
Someexperts believe that even a few minutes of practice each day can help improveyour mood. By focusing on your breath (much like meditation), you can practicebeing in the moment. With a bit of practice, your yoga “timeouts” will be awelcome break from the whirlwind of thoughts that accompany us throughout theday.
Of course,the amount you need to practice also depends on your goals:
If you wantto gain many of the benefits of yoga – including improved strength,concentration and flexibility – 2-3 halfhour sessions each week is a good place to start. This isn’t too much thatyou’ll overstretch your muscles, but is regular enough to provide consistentimprovement. Ideally, you’ll do some practice on a daily basis – but this maynot be possible if you have a hectic schedule. The Yoga Burn program alsorecommends practicing three times a week.
To improveyour sleep, a short session of around 10 minutes before bed can help.
Forimproving flexibility, one hour-long class per week may be enough to gain someof the benefits. You’ll see much faster progress if you practice more though.
To reversebone loss due to osteoporosis, 10 minutes daily practice is also enough fornoticeable improvement.
Developinga regular practice can bring feelings of gratitude and compassion to thesurface. Perhaps you’re able to gain an understanding of why you might havepoor eating habits or make poor choices regarding your health on a deeperlevel. After a time, you may be able to find forgiveness for yourself and thus changeyour habits altogether.
Dependingon your physical capabilities, you might work your way up to these classes injust around a month of regular practice. Regular practice for most isconsidered to be at least a few times a week, though many seasonedpractitioners will get on their mat every day.
Whileadvanced classes may be accessible to practitioners after a few weeks or acouple of months of regular practice, again depending on where your body isphysically, there are many advanced postures that may take years to becomeavailable to you.
It’s notuncommon to hear of people practicing for five or six hours a day. This isextreme – and has the potential to cause injury if not under the instruction ofa skilled teacher – but there’s no substitute for putting in the hours. Thegood news is you don’t need to practice six hours a day to see improvements instrength and flexibility. Practicing daily (instead of a few times per week)can speed up your progress though.
Yoga shouldnever be rushed. Everyone’s body adapts at different rates, so trying to“force” progress is nearly always going to end in pain and injury.
Learningeach pose is a process. You see it performed by instructor, then try and do ityourself. Over time, you work on the position, gaining a little bit offlexibility each time you practice. It could take a few weeks or it might takeyear. Eventually you’ll perfect the pose.
When youfirst start, try to practice at least twice per week. This should initially beunder the instruction of a competent instructor, but once you know the basicsyou can practice at home too. The most important thing is to practiceregularly. If you leave too long between sessions, you’re effectively startingagain each time – which can make yoga frustrating. The more regular of apractice you have, the more quickly you’ll experience positive changes in yourlife. It could begin with an improvement on a mental level that then developsinto physical results or the other way around. If practicing every day doesn’thappen immediately for you, just a couple of classes a week can be considered aregular practice. Take whatever you can get! Results of any kind—physical,mental or spiritual—can be felt almost immediately, and your body and mind willlikely be craving more right away.