Students come to yoga with different goals like losing weight, improving strength and flexibility and lowering stress. So how many times a week should you practice to achieve these goals?
The answer depends on your goal as well as your current health and lifestyle.
Valley Vinyasa teacher Joe Kaufman noted that a steady and regular practice was promoted more than 2,000 years ago in the Yoga Sutras by guru Patanjali.
“Steady and regular can mean one 60-minute class a week, but the results would not be the same as a 10-minute practice at home six days a week. That's why a short home practice on days when you can't make it to the studio are so important for reaching your goals, or, in a more yogic light, being your best,” said Kaufman.
Although different sources suggest varying amounts of weekly mat time, most agree that two or three hour-long sessions are ideal. However, since consistency is the key, a studio class once or twice a week combined with a regular home practice is the best way to meet your goals.
With two or three sessions a week for eight weeks you can show measurable increases in strength and flexibility, according to the Journal of the American Academy of Physician’s Assistants.
Some specific factors that may impact your goals:
Strength and flexibility: More mat time is better if increased strength and flexibility are your goals. Regularity is essential, especially if you spend large amounts of time in sedentary activities like computer work or driving. Three classes per week would be great, especially if you supplement with a short home practice. A home practice for flexibility could be as simple as some cat/cows and sun salutations to warm up the muscles followed by some hip openers and gentle back bends. Poses for strength could include plank, the warrior series and chair.
Weight Loss: An active yoga class, such as vinyasa flow, several times a week combined with regular cardiovascular exercise and a healthy diet are optimal. Also, remember that stronger muscles burn calories more efficiently.
Decreased stress: If you are hoping to calm your mind and find inner peace, you will reap the most benefits from two or three classes a week, especially if you can work a daily mediation into your home practice. All yoga classes emphasize connecting with the breath, which is essential for stress relief, but a weekly Yin Yoga class would be a great way to release tension.
“No matter what brings you to yoga, a steady, regular practice is the only way to achieve your goals,” said Kaufman. “Doing three classes one week, zero the next, then four, then one the next week, averages out to two classes a week. But it is not at all the same as doing two classes a week, and you definitely won't get the same results as you would with a steady practice.”