Sunday, October 6, 2013

How Often Should I Practice Yoga?

This is a question students often ask me, whether they are trying to improve their physical endurance or help heal from the loss of a loved one.  It’s hard for me to give a definitive answer.  When my teacher is asked that question he answers, without hesitation, “every day.”    But I tend to use Viniyoga’s  standard answer to every question: “It depends.”  It depends on your goals, your lifestyle, and even more importantly how you define yoga practice. 

Let’s start by assuming you define yoga practice as asana, or movement.

In that case, Gary’s answer of “every day”  seems really overwhelming to me.  He equates a daily practice to flossing your  teeth;  something you do  consistently, gently, daily, for overall health.   But to be completely honest, there are days I don’t get around to flossing, either.  (Don’t tell my dentist!)

And I do avoid sharing that information with my dentist.   Because when he asks, I know the answer he wants to hear.  I don’t lie to him, but I always feel guilty, even though the answer is almost every day.  Likewise, if we think the goal of yoga is to practice asana every day, anything less than that feels like a failure.    And if we fail, we are more likely to give up on yoga altogether. 

So I never tell students to practice asana “every day.”   Don’t get me wrong.  I believe strongly in the benefits of a consistent  asana practice.  It can help improve everything from emotional stress  to low back pain.  I’ve found that the “sweet spot” for my clients, however, is usually practicing around three days a week.  More than that is likely a bit better.  Less than that will very often bring results, just not as dramatically or as quickly. 

If you can go to  yoga class three times a week, awesome!  My early morning yoga immersion students can attest to the benefits they receive from practicing at the studio that often.   If you can’t, however,  I recommend one class with a teacher each week.  You can do two other, shorter, practices  (15 to 20 minutes is surprisingly effective)  at home.  

But the above still only addresses the question if you define yoga as a physical practice. In fact, it is so much more than that.   It is a set of tools that encompasses meditation, sound, movement, breath work, and ritual.  Beyond even that, it is a system of living that fosters connection, compassion, and presence.  It’s about cherishing the relationships of your life, and striving to better understand the people within those relationships.  Those are components of yoga I try to practice every day--even on those days the dental floss doesn’t make it out of the bathroom drawer.    It’s not just a daily practice, but hopefully a continual one.


Tracy  Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out my author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available for preorder now from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Whole Life Yoga, and other retailers!


Linda O. Johnston said...

I'd imagine that the best thing to do is to make yoga a habit, no matter how often you do it, Tracy, right? I've established a habit of which days I go to my workouts--far from every day, but I know that when the days I've chosen come, I'm on my way. And it sounds like it's all the better if you make yoga part of your life!

Tracy Weber said...

Yes, making it a habit is important. And I think it's also important, when starting, to start small. Like 15 minutes at a time. Build on success!