How often should you practice yoga?

The short answer is: every day. But wait, there’s more.

When #yogaeverydamnday started doing its rounds on the Instagram spheres a few years ago, I wanted to attain that goal SO badly, but I just had no idea how I would fit a 1.5 hour class into my schedule AND budget.

Little did I know that #yogaeverydamnday actually referred to ALL aspects of yoga –the largest part of which actually occurs OFF the mat. A few years into my practice, I found a teacher who shared the philosophical aspect of yoga with her students as well, which was a welcome change from the cheap gyms I used to attend classes in, and the start of learning about the ‘Eight Limbs of Yoga’ –of which the asana practice is only ONE limb!

The ‘Eight Limbs of Yoga’ are described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and offer guidance on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life. The sage Patanjali essentially organised and compiled knowledge about yoga from much older traditions, and the Yoga Sutras have become the main guiding texts for yogis to this day.

Since the physical asana practice is one of those limbs, how often should you practice? Well, you know your body best. And you might also know that practicing 2 hours a day without resting is not going to be beneficial for your physical health. In fact, Ashtanga yoga prescribes rest days on full moon and new moon, as the body will be more prone to injury, and also prescribes ‘women’s holidays’ –which means that women should avoid practicing during the first few days of their menstrual cycle.

10 minutes is better than 0 minutes

The key here is to not overdo it, but to also realise that even 10 mins spent on your mat every day is better than 0 minutes on the mat. Over time, you will find that your body will crave a few stretches, and before you know it, you’ll be 20 mins deep into your practice. If we can find time to watch cat videos on the internet, we can find time for practices that will help us be the best version of ourselves. Because you deserve it, and the people around you deserve it.

A study done by one of my teachers has shown that a more frequent yoga practice (4-6 times a week) scores much better on aspects of emotional well-being (such as purpose of life, mindfulness, affect regulation, perceived stress) than a less frequent yoga practice (1-2 times per week)*. Try to roll out your mat as often as you can, even if it’s just to find a 10-minute pocket of peace.

*Meissner, M., Cantell, M. H., Steiner, R., & Sanchez, X. (2016). Evaluating emotional well-being after a short-term traditional yoga practice approach in yoga practitioners with an existing Western-type yoga practice. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2016.