How Often Should I Practice Yoga (and When)?

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There’s no right or wrong time of day to practice yoga, and it doesn’t matter how long your session lasts. Mostly, you just want to do it, whether that means sitting silently for 10 minutes or moving through asana, or postures, for 60 minutes. As you’d expect, like most beneficial activities, it’s best to do at times that work for you—so that you actually do it.

Woman Practicing Yoga During the Day |

That said, 10 minutes of daily yoga soothes stress and generally improves mood more than a single experience, once a week, lasting much longer (say, the typical duration of a class, 60 to 90 minutes). As “Experiential Anatomy” co-host Mary Richards says: “A little yoga goes a long way.” If you can manage more than 10 minutes a day, even better, though there’s no need for more than an hour a day. Making a home practice at least part of your yoga habit will help.

In terms of physical benefits from yoga’s exercise aspect—flexibility, heart health, strengthening muscles and connective tissue—consider how significant the aerobic and/or strength-training components of the type(s) of yoga you do are, and from there extrapolate how often you should practice based on federal guidelines.

Finally, here’s the best part: If you practice yoga regularly for long enough (and explore its tenets), you’ll reap its deeper benefits: an affirming acceptance of who you are and what is, while also cultivating skills to observe and change your tendencies. You’d notice this in a matter of months, and it would become more and more pronounced over the years, potentially empowering you in ways you’d not thought possible before practicing yoga.

As you chart your course, keep the following in mind:

Morning yoga

Pros: Generally, your mind is clearest and freest when you first awaken from nightly slumber, so it takes less effort to slip into a meditative state in the morning. Practicing yoga early also sets you up for the day, physically and mentally.

Cons: Your body is stiffer in the morning than later, and that can limit your range of motion. It also could be risky to practice, for example, Yin yoga, which targets dense connective tissue, if you don’t know how to properly move into shapes or if you resist backing out of them should you feel pain.

Afternoon or evening yoga

Pros: You have something to look forward to. Drained? A Restorative practice is in order. Feel defeated? An empowering Vinyasa practice will invigorate you. Bored? Try Iyengar, which demands attention to detail. Also, at this hour your body is more receptive to movement and physical stress than at the crack of dawn.

Cons: A late-day practice is much more likely to be derailed if you don’t make it through your to-do list. On the flip-side, that challenge could strengthen your willpower: You commit to 15 minutes of yoga every day at 6 p.m., no matter what.

Before-bed yoga

Pros: A sweet way to unwind before bed is spending 10-30 minutes in gentle yoga postures that encourage activating your parasympathetic, or “rest-and-digest,” nervous system. That includes all manner of forward folds, Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose and any pose in the Restorative yoga cannon.

Cons: If you practice anything other than down-regulating styles such as Yin or Restorative before sleepy-time you’ll be wired.

Spontaneous yoga

Pros: You get to tap yoga’s benefits exactly when you need them. Yoga teacher Lizzie Lasater, daughter of yoga great Judith Hanson Lasater, the force behind Restorative yoga, encourages “Spontaneous Savasana,” wherein, for example, she lies down for 10 minutes in Savasana right after walking through her front door, shoes still on.

Cons: If you want to practice a style that requires movement or props, planning helps so that you’re safely outfitted.

Mitra Malek has taught yoga regularly since 2006. In her role as a contributing editor for Yoga Journal, she has worked with, and learned from, Mary Richards, Lizzie Lasater and Judith Hanson Lasater.