Yoga is a great low impact workout that increases flexibility, mindfulness, and fitness. This practice is more than a trend and has had a long life in the fitness world due to its results and appeal to different types of people. But there are sometimes questions about how frequently you need to do yoga or how long of a session you need to see results.
How many minutes of yoga a day is enough? When you are beginning your yoga practice you need to do at least three to four asanas during one session. This will be about 10 minutes of practice. This will increase with time as the ideal time is more than 20 minutes.
Asanas and how many minutes of yoga are able to be done are great questions to look at as we dive into this topic but we also need to ask another question. Can yoga be done every day without any adverse results?
Can You Do Yoga Everyday?
Since yoga is low impact and has many options for flows and time frames, it is beneficial and even encouraged to do some yoga every day. It is not, however, recommended that you do the same flow and intensity every day. With so many options and target areas to work on it is easy to switch things up.
This will keep your body guessing and working at peak condition while you become committed to your yoga practice. Just like with other exercise programs that have “arm day” and “leg day” to keep things evenly worked, you can do a long and intense yoga flow on Monday and then a short stretching flow on Tuesday.
This will actually be more effective in the long run than having very intense yoga sessions every day. It is the same with short easy sessions every day. That is not the most effective way to maximize your yoga practice.
According to the author of The Science of Yoga, William J. Broad, the more exercise we do the better our results and yoga is no different “practicing once a week is good. Practicing 3 or 4 times a week would be better.”
There was a 10-year study done that shows only 12 minutes of yoga per day was plenty of practice to see results.
What is an Asana?
Asana has been mentioned a few times already but if you are new to yoga you may not know what exactly that is. An asana refers to the actual poses that make up the practice of yoga. There are a few asanas that even people that don’t practice yoga would know by name and visually seeing the pose.
- Downward Facing Dog
- Up Dog
- Warrior Poses
- Mountain Pose
This is a very small list of the most recognizable asanas. There are a total of 84 asanas that are used in the practice of yoga. This isn’t including all the variations or modifications.
Types of Yoga
While we use the term “yoga” universally to talk about all of the kinds of yoga, there are actually five distinct types of yoga that have different focuses and are used differently. Many people that practice yoga regularly as their main form of exercise will alternate the use of all of these types in their practice.
Hatha yoga is a gentle yoga that actually does not work up enough of a sweat to count as a cardio workout. The purpose of this yoga is really to align your mind, body, and spirit. The poses are static so they don’t flow as much and are repeated. This type will build strength though it will take longer.
Hatha is safe to do every day but you will need to add a cardio workout and switch up the flows that you do to receive the maximum results from your workouts.
If this is your favorite type of yoga to do but you need to have cardio fitness then add a walk to your fitness routine a few times a week. This will benefit your health and your yoga practice.
If you are practicing yoga in a studio it is likely that you are practicing vinyasa yoga. This is a great type for gaining strength and because it is a constant movement that builds heat, it is good for weight loss and cardio health as well.
This type of yoga can be done in a hot and humid environment or a cooler environment. It doesn’t change the effectiveness. This will count toward time doing cardio exercises and can be done daily.
It is a good idea to alternate this type of yoga with Hatha yoga or another gentle exercise or yoga program. This will keep your muscles and body guessing making your yoga practice as a whole more effective.
If you have ever driven past a yoga studio that advertises “hot yoga” then they are offering Bikram yoga. This is one of the most intense types of yoga and is practiced in an environment that’s temperature is in excess of 90 degrees.
If you want a powerhouse yoga weight loss program then you should try Bikram or “hot” yoga. This class is not for beginners or those that have known cardiac problems. Before you start this intense yoga practice, make sure you check with your physician and talk about how this could harm or help your overall health.
Scientifically speaking, according to a study in Experimental Physiology, you will not see results faster with this program than you would with Hatha or even vinyasa yoga. The study looked at two different groups of people doing the same yoga practice but at different temperatures. While the group in the higher temperatures did sweat more, there was no difference in heart rate or core temperature.
Based on those findings, there are no added cardiovascular benefits to doing hot yoga. As far as sweating out the toxins, all you really sweat out is water. So make sure you stay hydrated.
It is important that any program you choose is done with commitment and consistency. No results will be seen after only one or two sessions. We will talk later about how long it will take to see a change in your body with yoga.
This style of yoga is only a little over 20 years old and is a mix of two different types of gentle yoga. While the other yoga practices we have talked about focus mostly on the physical attributes and changes of your body while still having a spiritual component, Anusara is the exact opposite.
This practice is more about the spiritual aspect of yoga with the secondary benefits of physical strength, flexibility, and health. When starting an Anusara yoga practice it is not with the idea of becoming physically fit. It is not a fitness program in the traditional sense of the word.
Anusara yoga focuses on static poses and deep breathing while aligning your mind, spirit, and body. Followers of this type of yoga claim that it will help with depression and anxiety as it focuses on your inner self.
As with Hatha yoga, if you alternate this with Bikram or Vinyasa yoga during your week you will see great results both physically and mentally. It is always recommended to not only do one type of yoga.
Kundalini, or yoga of awareness, is a different kind of yoga that boasts benefits to the nervous system, blood purification, emotional awareness and control, as well as balancing the glands in your body.
This yoga practice is great for strengthening your body, adding increased flexibility, and teaching your body and mind endurance. One of the big things that Kundalini yoga is said to do is give you the ability to control your emotions and make educated and calm decisions.
It gives you control over emotions that allows you to think clearly and chooses how you will respond to the emotions that you feel during your day. Because of this added benefit, it can help with depression and anxiety as well as decision fatigue.
Exercise vs Yoga
While we may think of yoga as exercise, and in some ways it is, there is a difference between traditional exercise and the practice of yoga. There are many different types of exercise out there but for the sake of this conversation, we will be comparing going to a traditional gym with practicing yoga.
Gym vs Yoga
How is the practice of yoga different from going to a traditional gym and lifting weights or running on the treadmill? There are a few basic differences that will separate the two and define what is considered exercise.
- Yoga is efficient. One of the great benefits of yoga is that it uses your body as a weight and a full flow will work out your whole body and all of the muscle groups. There is no “leg” day or “arm” day. Every flow efficiently works out your whole body, including your insides.
- Yoga can be done anywhere. You don’t need to go to a gym or have any equipment. You don’t even need a gym membership. Yoga can be done anywhere at any time and with so much of our lives online, you can find free online classes to follow along within your home. If you have a smartphone you can even take your yoga practice to a park or your backyard.
- Yoga is for everyone. Going to a gym and doing traditional exercises can be very intimidating and if you do an exercise wrong you could really hurt yourself. Because yoga encourages listening to your body and has many modifications to each pose, anyone can practice yoga. There is even something called chair yoga that is great for people with mobility challenges.
- Yoga has been shown to even benefit individuals with cerebral palsy.
- Yoga is also a great family exercise program and is wonderful to help children focus and quiet their minds.
- Yoga is truly a fitness program that can be done by almost anyone in some form or fashion.
How Long Until Yoga Works?
Just like with any other program, yoga is not going to give you instantaneous physical results. You may see almost immediate mental health benefits but your body will change over time. You will need to be committed to your practice to see any kind of result that lasts.
According to a study from 2017 showed that subjects showed improvement in their overall cardiac and physical health after two weeks of activity and training. If you commit to your yoga practice fully and practice at least three to four times a week, if not more, you will likely see results sooner.
Maximum results will start to be seen after 12 weeks but you will see some changes well before that time as long as you are consistent.
How Many Days a Week is Ideal?
It is common and possible to see results from only practicing one day a week but it is not ideal. Yoga is a commitment and to see the mental and physical results that are desired you will need to commit to at least three days a week, with a daily practice being the most beneficial.
That being said, any movement and exercise are beneficial and worth doing. If you are just starting out and all you can work into your schedule is one day a week then commit to that and you will still see results. They will take longer but you will see them.
How Many Minutes a Day?
The number of minutes you practice per day really depends on the number of days you practice. A full class or flow is considered to be one hour. If you only practice once a week, then you need to practice for a full hour to get the most out of that one class.
However, if you practice three or more days a week then you can get by with 25 or 30 minutes per session and see great results.
Health Benefits of Yoga
The health benefits of yoga are far-reaching and cover many areas of your body, both inside and out. While this is not a comprehensive list, it does cover some of the most common benefits that could be seen with a consistent health practice.
In a study on migraines, researchers looked at a group that practiced yoga and a group that did migraine self-care. The findings of the study actually showed that the group practicing yoga showed a decrease in headache intensity and frequency compared to the self-care group.
There are other studies that have been done related to treating migraines with yoga that have shown similar results. Yoga does show to decrease stress and increase blood flow, two things that can help fight migraines.
Yoga also may help reduce the stress of those that practice regularly. This is actually what yoga is known for. There are studies that prove yoga reduces the stress hormone known as cortisol (which stores belly fat).
It has been shown that after just 10 weeks of committed yoga practice, there was a major reduction in stress hormones and anxiety in response to life events. People that are devoted yogis are unlikely to be surprised by these findings.
Because of the reduction of stress and stress hormones in the body when you practice yoga on a consistent basis, the practice of yoga also can help reduce or prevent inflammation in the body. According to Harvard Health Publishing, Stress causes inflammation in the body and inflammation causes premature aging.
There was a study done on whether or not yoga could slow cellular aging, thus reducing inflammation. The study did show that 12 weeks of yoga in fact slowed cellular aging.
This is amazing evidence that yoga is beneficial, not only to your muscles and external body but actually has internal benefits to help improve your quality of life from the inside out. For people that struggle with chronic inflammation, this is great news.
Yoga can also help you reduce risk factors of heart disease, including helping you lower cholesterol. Yoga can help reduce the presence of bad cholesterol and possibly slow the progression of heart disease.
According to one scientific study, mid-aged adults that had been practicing for at least five years had lower blood pressure than those that did not.
Along the lines of stress reduction, yoga is also known to help promote better and more restful sleep. When we reduce the stress and anxiety in our lives through our yoga practice, better sleep is bound to follow.
Not only does it promote sleep in general, but it can also increase the quality of the sleep you get. A study actually showed that the practice of yoga helps your body produce melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. The science behind it is unclear, but regular weekly practice can promote the production of sleep hormones.