Fitness Tips

How Often Should You Do Yoga as a Beginner? A Comprehensive Guide to Building a Sustainable Yoga Practice

So, you’ve made the pledge to start doing yoga consistently. (Congratulations!) The mat is unrolled, the YouTube tutorials are bookmarked, but one question looms large: How often should you do yoga as a beginner?

As a general rule, practicing yoga 2-4 times per week is recommended for beginners. This frequency allows you to experience the benefits of yoga, such as stress relief, improved balance, and enhanced well-being, without risking overexertion or injury. However, it also depends on the type of yoga, the intensity of the sessions, and your personal goals.

woman doing yoga as a beginner - featured image

As someone who has been practicing yoga for over a decade, allow me to break down in detail everything that can influence the ideal frequency of your yoga sessions as a beginner and how to maximize the benefits of your yoga journey.

A Closer Look at Yoga Frequency for Beginners

The Balancing Act: Regular Yoga Practice vs. Rest

When you’re a beginner in the yoga world, finding the perfect balance between regular yoga practice and sufficient rest can be challenging. Too much yoga in a short period can lead to overuse injuries, while too little can result in minimal gains.

Most experts recommend starting with 2-4 yoga sessions per week, between 30 to 60 minutes. This ensures that you experience all the benefits of yoga, such as stress relief and improved balance, while giving your muscles time to recover.

For myself, I started by doing one 60-minute in-class session per week, and two or three 15-30-minute sessions at home using an app.

Choice of Yoga Styles: Hatha, Vinyasa, Hot Yoga, and More

The frequency of your yoga workouts can also be influenced by the type of yoga style you choose. For instance, Hatha and Yin yoga classes are gentler and can be practiced more frequently without increasing the risk of injury.

In contrast Ashtanga, power, and Bikram yoga tend to be a lot more strenuous and will likely require more rest days in between. Especially if you’re practicing a more intense style, it’s crucial to consult a certified yoga teacher to help you identify the best fit for your physical abilities and yoga goals.

Setting Realistic Goals: Physical and Mental Milestones

While engaging in a yoga practice, it’s essential to set achievable goals, both for your physical and mental health. Goals can range from mastering certain poses and sequences to reducing stress levels or improving your overall health and well-being.

Having clear objectives can guide your practice and make it easier to determine how much yoga per week is suitable for you.

For example, when I first started doing yoga, it was a way to ease back into physical activity when I could no longer run to lose weight. I wanted to get stronger and find a safe but effective way to get my body moving. Over the long term, I added more goals, like achieving certain poses (eight-angle, baby!) and improving that mind-body connection.

Listen to Your Body: The Art of Self-awareness

Be careful about overcommitting in the beginning; I’m guilty of it myself, so I can tell you firsthand that being ridid about frequency can be counterproductive to reaching your goals.

It’s fine to set a goal to practice a certain number of days per week, so long as that goal does not precede listening to your body. Adjust your frequency and yoga style based on how your body feels after each session.

If your practice frequency ends up causing injury or strain, it’s time to reevaluate. For example, if you’re doing strenuous yoga and find your muscles are really sore and tight after the first day, think about skipping the second day or swapping it out with a restorative style of yoga.

Here’s everything else you need to know to guide your beginning journey in the realm of yoga practice.

Choosing the Best Times for Yoga Practice

Morning Sessions: A Kickstart to Your Day

Many yoga practitioners prefer starting their day with a yoga session. Morning yoga classes tend to be energizing and can set a positive tone for the rest of your day. An argument can also be made that practicing yoga in the morning might aid in weight loss by burning a few extra calories before your first meal.

But Ii you’re not a morning person, however, there’s no hard and fast rule that mandates a sunrise practice!

Lunch Break Yoga: A Midday Refresher

Another option for incorporating yoga into your schedule is to utilize your lunch break. Many yoga studios offer shorter, 30-minute classes designed to give busy individuals a moment to relax and rejuvenate. Even a few minutes of deep breathing and stretching can have an immediate calming effect, reducing stress levels and enhancing your sense of well-being.

Lunch yoga is my personal favorite. I am lucky enough to work at home so during my lunch break, I just roll out my mat next to my desk and do a quick 20 minute flow to destress and recenter before tackling the rest of my day.

But even if you’re at the office or can’t get away, you have options. Find a 15-minute chair yoga routine on YouTube, and you’ll be surprised at how rejuvenating it is!

Evening Classes: Unwind and De-stress

Evening yoga sessions often focus on relaxation and stress relief. These classes may incorporate more Yin yoga and breathing exercises, making yoga ideal for calming the mind and preparing for restful sleep.

However, it’s essential to finish your practice at least an hour before bedtime to ensure that the energizing aspects of yoga don’t interfere with sleep quality. (Something I learned the hard way!)

Related: Choosing the best time of day for yoga to lose weight.

Consider Your Fitness Goals: Aligning Yoga Practice with Personal Objectives

Understanding your fitness goals is a crucial step in determining how often you should engage in yoga as a beginner. The beauty of yoga lies in its adaptability—whether your goal is weight loss, mental health improvement, or enhanced balance and flexibility, a yoga workout can be tailored to meet these diverse needs.

To that end, let’s delve deeper into how you can adjust your yoga routine based on specific fitness goals.

Weight Loss and Yoga: Achieving Caloric Deficit Through Asanas

If weight loss is high on your list of priorities, you might consider more frequent yoga sessions, with a focus on styles that elevate the heart rate and induce calorie burn.

Power yoga and hot yoga classes are popular choices when weight loss is the end goal. These yoga styles blend traditional poses with a faster pace and added resistance, facilitating a robust cardiovascular workout. Importantly, these are more than just yoga workouts; they’re fitness regimens that require your full engagement, both mentally and physically.

Coupled with a balanced, calorie-conscious diet and a diversified exercise routine that might include aerobic and resistance training, yoga can be a powerful tool in your weight loss journey.

Remember, losing weight is not just about the number of times a week you roll out your yoga mat—it’s about an integrated approach that includes diet, other physical activities, and overall lifestyle changes. For example, I was able to supercharge my weight loss this past summer by combining the Keto diet with my yoga practice.

Yoga for Mental Health: Healing the Mind One Pose at a Time

If your primary objective is more to improve mental health and less about physical gains, you can consider practicing more often. Stress relief, focus improvement, and emotional well-being are some of the mental health benefits of yoga that have been backed by studies.

For such goals, shorter but consistent daily yoga practice can be incredibly effective.

Breathing exercises or Pranayama, combined with mindful meditation, can help achieve an immediate calming effect, significantly reducing stress levels and enhancing mental well-being.

Mindfulness and yoga go hand in hand; even a few minutes of deep breathing paired with poses that require focus can create a meditative state, providing mental clarity and emotional balance. Opting for specific sequences or poses that align with your mental health needs can also improve balance and make your practice more effective.

For this type of practice, I recommend finding an app with guided yoga meditations. The Asana Rebel app has some good ones!

Improving Balance and Flexibility: Consistency Over Intensity

Achieving flexibility and balance is a gradual process that doesn’t happen overnight, so consistency is key. If this is your primary goal, even shorter daily sessions can yield better results than infrequent, longer practices. (A downward facing dog a day keeps the doctor away!)

However, certain asanas and inversion poses, like the headstand, will likely require longer sessions of practice and consistency to master.

When it comes to improving balance and flexibility, it’s really crucial to focus on proper alignment and technique. That’s why I always suggest consulting a professional yoga teacher in the beginning to ensure you are on the right track, preventing any injuries that could arise from incorrect posture.

Choosing the Right Environment for Yoga: Context Matters in Your Yoga Journey

The environment in which you practice yoga plays a significant role in how effective and enjoyable your sessions are. Be it the setting, the instructor, or the tools at your disposal, your choice of location can either elevate your yoga practice or present challenges that may hinder your progress.

Here are some key considerations to help you decide the best setting for your asanas.

Yoga Studios vs. Home Practice: Guided Instruction or Self-Directed Flow?

For beginners, yoga studios offer the considerable advantage of guided instruction from a certified yoga teacher. This ensures that you maintain proper alignment, minimizing the risk of getting injured and enhancing the effectiveness of the pose.

Even if you don’t want to go to yoga classes forever, I would strongly recommend investing in them for at least the first month or so. YouTube videos and apps are great, but they aren’t the same as an in-person yoga teacher who can physically show you what you’re doing incorrectly.

For example, I thought I had nailed down dog, but I’ll never forget the day my yoga teacher gently adjusted my pose, and suddenly I understood what it meant to “melt my heart towards the floor” and “push my hips back.”

Once you feel the correct pose, you can emulate it again. But the differences between what you see and what is correct can be so subtle that it’s nearly impossible to get it right without someone in person to guide you.

Studios also offer a range of yoga styles, from slower-paced hatha yoga classes to more intense and dynamic vinyasa and hot yoga sessions. Many studios also offer specialized classes such as yin yoga or iyengar yoga, allowing you to diversify your practice and work on particular aspects of mind-body connection.

But I get that studio classes may not always align with your schedule or budget constraints. Travel time to and from the studio is another factor to consider, as it adds to the total time investment. In such cases, practicing yoga at home can be a viable alternative.

Once you have a strong foundation for your practice, there’s nothing wrong with doing yoga at home – that’s what I do now! I love a home practice because it gives you the flexibility to adapt your sessions to fit your immediate needs, whether it’s stress relief, a quick workout, or deep breathing exercises for relaxation.

The takeaway here is that a regular practice—whether at home or in a studio—is crucial to garner all the benefits yoga has to offer.

Outdoor Yoga: A Natural Setting for a Holistic Experience

For some, the serenity of natural surroundings provides an added layer of stress relief and focus during their yoga practice. Doing yoga outdoors helps you connect with nature, making it a holistic experience that nurtures both body and soul. Whether it’s a local park, a quiet beach, or even your backyard, an outdoor setting can infuse your practice with the calming energies of nature.

Studies also show that exercising outdoors – particularly around treed or soil-rich areas – can help boost the immune system and even reduce stress and inflammation.

However, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea; the ground may be uneven, affecting your balance and making certain poses more challenging. Moreover, outdoor conditions—be it the blazing sun, strong winds, nose-clogging allergins, or a sudden downpour—can also be an understandable determinant.

If you do decide to roll out your mat with Mother Nature, focus on proper alignment and be extra cautious with poses that require balance or involve complicated movements.

Tools and Accessories: Elevate Your Practice Beyond the Basics

While the simplicity of yoga means minimal gear, the right tools and accessories can definitely enrich your experience and facilitate your progress.

Mostly, you’ll want to consider getting the best mat for the job and possibly some supportive blocks and straps geared toward optimizing your daily practice. Here’s a closer look at some of these essential tools.

The Humble Yet Crucial Yoga Mat: Your Personal Space for Practice

Often overlooked but vital to your practice, a good yoga mat is your personal space for yoga, acting as a cushion between you and the ground and providing traction for your hands and feet. Mats come in various thickness levels, materials, and textures, each with its advantages and limitations.

A thicker mat may offer better cushioning, which is essential if you’re focusing on restorative or yin yoga classes. However, thicker mats can also be bulkier to carry. On the other hand, thinner mats are generally better for stability in more dynamic practices like power yoga or vinyasa yoga.

Mats made from natural rubber offer excellent grip but might be a bit heavy. Those made of PVC, though lighter and cheaper, might not offer the same level of grip and may not be eco-friendly.

Investing in a quality yoga mat that aligns with your practice style and ethical considerations can enhance your experience and even motivate you to practice regularly. (One of my favorite overall mats is the Manduka Prolite!)

Yoga Blocks and Straps: Foundational Support for Every Pose

For beginners and even for those with some experience, certain yoga poses may initially prove challenging due to limited flexibility or strength. This is where yoga blocks and straps come in handy. Yoga blocks can support you in poses that require more flexibility than you currently have, ensuring that you maintain proper alignment and reducing the risk of injury.

They are particularly useful in poses where you need to reach the ground but can’t do so comfortably. For instance, in poses like the triangle or the half-moon, a block can act as an extension of your arm, allowing for better balance, stability and form.

Yoga straps serve a similar purpose. They can help you stretch and hold poses that require more flexibility in areas like the hamstrings or shoulders.

For example, in seated forward bends, a strap can help you maintain the length of your spine and deepen the stretch without compromising your posture. Investing in these accessories is an excellent way to enhance the efficacy of your yoga sessions, helping you gain maximum benefit over time.

Each of these tools and accessories plays a role in fine-tuning your yoga experience, contributing to a more effective and satisfying practice. From the foundational support of yoga blocks and straps to the comfort and utility of proper apparel and a reliable yoga mat, choosing the right accessories can make all the difference in your yoga journey.

Final Thoughts

As you set out on your yoga journey, remember that the most important aspect is to find a routine that suits your lifestyle, fitness goals, and well-being. Whether it’s twice a week or daily, a few minutes during lunch break, or an hour-long session, what matters most is the commitment to your practice.

You’ll soon find that the physical benefits, mental health gains, and sense of overall well-being will make every moment on the mat worthwhile!

FAQ

Can I do yoga every day?

Yes, you can, especially if you’re focusing on lighter forms like hatha or yin yoga. However, listen to your body and include rest days as needed.

What if I get injured practicing yoga?

If you hurt something during or after a yoga class, it’s time for a rest day or two! Yoga is all about listening to your body and you don’t want to try and push through the pain and hurt yourself further.

Is online yoga as effective as in-person classes?

Online classes offer the convenience of practicing at home but may lack personalized guidance from a personal trainer or a certified yoga teacher.

How long should each yoga session last?

A typical yoga session can last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on your experience level and goals.

Is it necessary to have a yoga mat?

While it’s possible to practice without one, a yoga mat provides cushioning and grip, enhancing your practice.

Can I practice yoga for weight loss?

Absolutely! However, for best results combine yoga with a healthy diet and other forms of exercise for optimum results.

What are the most common yoga injuries?

Strains and sprains are common, often due to overexertion or improper form. Always consult a professional for proper technique!

Corrie Alexander is a former ISSA-certified personal trainer, home fitness advocate, and founder of The Fit Careerist. A proponent of personal growth and a self-proclaimed fitness app-junkie, Corrie shares tips and product reviews with the goal of helping others on their own fitness journey.

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