I’m happy to kick off a new series today entitled Yoga 411. I will be answering the most common questions I receive about the practice of yoga. If you have a yoga question you’d like me to answer, comment below or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Countless studies have shown the benefits of a regular yoga practice. Most people report an improvement in their well being after just a few minutes of even very basic yoga poses. But, people often wonder…
How frequently do I need to practice yoga to see benefits?
There are two main components of a healthy yoga practice – asana (or poses) and savasana (or relaxation). While they are commonly practiced together, asana followed by savasana, there is nothing that says you have to practice them at the same time. In fact, I often don’t! Here’s what I do myself and recommend to others.
Asana Practice (The Poses)
Two of the most common reasons we practice asana are to reduce physical pain and to decrease stress. Both of these motivations have to do with “undoing” the damage we do in our everyday routines.
For example, when I sit at the computer for a prolonged period of time, my shoulders start to roll forward, bringing my head and neck along for the ride, and before long I have a tension headache. So, I roll out my mat and practice a few downward facing dog and cobra poses to undo the tension and restore a healthy posture.
While I might feel an immediate improvement in my neck and shoulders, it will likely return quickly when I sit back down at the computer. After all, how can I effectively “undo” hours of bad habits with just a few minutes of good habits?
Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting that you need to spend as much time on the mat as you do at the computer. But, when you spend regular time practicing yoga poses, about 20 minutes, three to five times a week, something amazing happens. You get reacquainted with your body! You notice more. You pay attention more. And, you find ways to enjoy yoga off the mat.
You roll those shoulders back when you sit at your desk. When you’re on the floor playing with your kids, you notice “Wow, my back is rounded.” So, you lengthen your spine and sit in a bound angle pose. Or, you’re sitting in traffic and you notice your heart is racing, so you just pay attention to your breath for a few minutes, gently lengthening your exhale. Maybe you stretch your calves while you brush your teeth.
If you commit to 20 minutes of asana, three to five times a week, you will find the practice leaking into your everyday routines and greatly improving your well being as it does!
This might come as a surprise, but Savasana is the part of the practice that has the most profound ability to impact your life. We all need to practice 20 minutes of relaxation every single day.
Remember, this isn’t relaxing with a book or a movie. This isn’t sleep. Savasana is the formal practice of doing nothing at all. People often tell me they have trouble with relaxation, that it agitates them. The truth is, being in Savasana reveals the agitation that we normally ignore. Savasana doesn’t cause anxiety, it is the salve for it!
I like to practice a restorative yoga pose for five minutes, then 15 – 20 minutes of Savasana. While I relax more easily if I practice Savasana immediately following my asana practice, some days I practice only Savasana, or I practice it at a different time of the day. Do what works for you.
Try it, I know you will be glad you did!
How frequently do you practice yoga? Do you practice asana and savasana together? I’d love to hear in the comments!
P.S. If you are ready to commit to a more regular yoga practice, but you are not able to attend regular yoga classes, check out my virtual classes.