This is a question I often get asked. Mostly, new students are wondering if one hour a week of yoga is going to make any difference to them. The answer to that is of course yes, but it is, in my opinion, the absolute minimum. If you are attending a class then you need to come at least once a week and if you can’t make it then you need to put in an hour of yoga to make up for it on another day. Otherwise the gap between practices is just too long and no gains of any kind will be achieved. Having said that, if yoga is just a pastime for you that you truly enjoy without having any goals, then doing it whenever you want is just fine!
However, if you do have goals then one practice a week is the starting point. Once you have completed a course of six or eight weeks, practicing the same routine each time, then it should be possible to practice one day at home and one day in class. Two practices a week will (obviously) double your practice and you will begin to notice positive change coming more easily and with more regularity. With just two hours a week then you can being to ‘progress’ in flexibility, strength and concentration.
Ideally, once your routine has become more internalized, more natural and flowing, then three days a week will be even better. You will make steady progress over the years and occasionally when you miss an hour or a week here or there it will be no problem to get back into the rhythm of your routine. For most people, this will be more than enough for a lifelong, satisfying practice of yoga.
If you are a teacher, then in my opinion, you need to be practicing a bit more than this. You can still continue to teach on 3 or 4 hours personal practice (not counting anything you do in class) a week, but your ability to take advanced students to higher levels of practice will be compromised. Nothing wrong with this of course, but it will limit your teaching ability to beginners and maybe to intermediate as well if your 4 hours a week are good and things come naturally to you.
My personal feeling is that a teacher could aim to practice at least 6 days a week. Alteranating different styles of yoga to allow for changes and natural cycles of rest and progress in the body. Ashtanga practitioners should be practicing 6 days a week, resting on Saturday and on days of the new and full moon.
As a teacher of mixed styles, I aim to practice 7 days a week if I can, outside of my yoga classes. In reality, this usually means that I get to practice 6 days a week with a day of ‘enforced’ rest through tiredness or lack of opportunity. Like any form of exercise, if you get into a good rythm of practice then it becomes easier to practice than to not practice and you will feel it if you skip more than a day and visibly see it if it goes longer than this.
So to sum up, here are some levels of practice:
1. If you just enjoy stretching, then you can do yoga whenever you want, but don’t expect any concrete results and don’t think that you are actually practicing yoga.
2. If it is your first time and you are just starting, practice at least once a week, absolutely not less.
3. After 6 or 8 weeks, aim to practice twice a week if you can. Not less than once.
4. Maybe after 6 months or a year, if it is right for you and you want to see more progress, then practice 3 or 4 times a week when you can.
5. If you are planning to teach, then start to aim for 6 days a week, not less than 5.
6. When and if yoga becomes your way of life … then its up to you, you will know what’s best for you already. If your life and your body permits, then why not aim to practice everyday and just rest when your body tells you it’s time to rest.
Hopefully this is a useful guide to someone somewhere.
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