Practicing yoga can result in a host of benefits, according to MayoClinic.com, including improved balance, flexibility, range of motion and strength and reduced tension and anxiety. But you don’t need to practice every day to realize these benefits. Giving yourself time to rest and recover between classes may actually prove better for you in the long run and may help prevent burnout.
Balance and Flexibility Improvements
For most people, practicing yoga three days a week is enough, says Natasha Rizopoulos of “Yoga Journal,” especially for beginners who may not be very flexible. “Consistent practice and/or stretching is more useful than intense but less frequent work,” says Rizopoulos. If you can’t make it to class three days a week, developing a home-based practice as well can help loosen tight muscles, increase your range of motion and improve your balance and flexibility. The more regular you are with your practice, Rizopoulos says, the sooner you'll see results.
Stress and Anxiety Reduction
A 2010 study out of Boston University School of Medicine found that three hours of yoga every week reduced levels of stress and anxiety more than walking for the same length of time did. Timothy McCall, M.D. of “Yoga Journal” says that incorporating one or two aspects of yoga in your daily life can also reduce your levels of stress and anxiety. Try Corpse pose the next time you feel wound up, letting go of your worry and relaxing into your mat. Spend five minutes a day in Corpse pose and see how much better you feel. Changing how you breathe can also lower your stress and anxiety, says McCall. Focus on making your inhalations as long as your exhalations and you don’t have much room left to focus on what worries you.
Aerobic and Strengthening Activities
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Heart Association both recommend getting in at least 150 minutes of moderate activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, every week. The CDC also suggests spending at least two days working all major muscle groups, including your hips, abdomen, chest and shoulders. Take three standard 55-minute yoga classes and you’ll meet these recommendations. Practice a more vigorous style of yoga, such as Ashtanga or power yoga, and you can get the same benefits in two classes.
Practice yoga without changing anything else about your lifestyle and you likely won’t reach any weight-loss goals you set for yourself, according to Donald Hensrud, a Mayo Clinic preventive medicine specialist. But practice yoga in tandem with other aerobic activity, such as walking or running, and eat a healthy diet and you should lose weight. How often you should practice to help you lose weight largely depends on your goals and your other activity levels, but three days a week seems to be the frequency recommended by most experts. Keep in mind that yoga is not meant as a weight-loss cure-all, says Baxter Bell of “Yoga Journal,” and weight-loss results can vary.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- American Heart Association: American Heart Association Guidelines For Physical Activity
- MayoClinic.com: Can Yoga Help Me Lose Weight?
- Yoga Journal: Can Yoga Help Me Lose Weight?
- MayoClinic.com: Yoga: Fight Stress and Find Serenity
- Yoga Journal: What’s The Frequency, Natasha?
- Science Daily: New Study Finds Connection Between Yoga and Mood
- Yoga Journal: Yoga for Stress and Burnout
William Henderson has been writing for newspapers, magazines and journals for more than 15 years. He served as editor of the "New England Blade" and is a former contributor to "The Advocate." His work has also appeared on The Good Men Project, Life By Me and The Huffington Post.