When I was a studio manager, one of the things I enjoyed most was meeting brand new yogis. It is such a privilege to be with someone at the very beginning of their yoga practice. To see where they start and wonder where yoga will bring them. One of the questions I was asked most frequently was, “How often should I practice?” It’s a surprisingly tough question. Even now, what I want to say is, “It’s up to you,” but I think people really do want some guidance, so I try to share something a little less esoteric.
These are a few things I’ve learned about frequency of practice from my own practice and from watching people grow in my classes.
Start with what you can do. If you can get to class once a week, great! Go to class once per week and celebrate that.
Be practical. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend making a pledge to practice 3 hours a day for the rest of your life. Maybe you can practice 20 minutes per day 3 days per week and catch a class sometimes. Great! Setting realistic goals leads to success, which leads to more success.
If you want to make changes, practice more, not harder. Practicing often, with compassion, can lead to wonderful changes in your life. Practicing aggressively leads to injury.
Something seems to happen when people step up to 3 days per week of practice. I have no research or evidence for this; it’s just something I’ve seen. Things start to shift more quickly. I can’t tell you exactly why, but my theory is that we have less time between practices to return to our habitual postures and tightness-es.
I like to practice often. I feel my best on the days that I practice. I am more grounded, smarter, and more kind. I am also more physically comfortable. Theses things are intimately connected. I practice 5-6 days per week.
I don’t like to practice every day. So far, committing to practicing every single day makes me feel stressed, and it leaves me injured. Lot’s of people thrive on a daily practice; maybe you are one of them… I am not.
Practice pain free or pain free-ing. If you are going to make a habit of something, make it a habit that improves your wellbeing. You may need to practice more often or less often. You may need to ask your teacher for modifications before class or schedule a couple of private sessions to learn how to do this. It’s worth it. You are worth it.
It doesn’t have to be pretty. You won’t see many pictures of me practicing on instagram, and that’s because I frequently practice in fluffy slippers or giant sweatshirts or -in the summer- practically nothing. This is the joy of a home practice, and it makes it easier for me to get on the mat more often.
It really doesn’t have to be pretty. You can practice at home or go to class in any emotional state. You don't have to get "it" together before class. When the going gets tough, the first place I usually go is my mat. I practice more often. Family tragedy? I went straight to yoga. Work pushing your buttons? Off to class. Bring your sweat and tears, and your practice will be there.
Your time is precious. I believe that time is the most precious thing we have. I feel great about the time I invest into my practice.
So it’s up to you, but how do you decide? Now that we are at the end of the blog together, I’d recommend that you take a couple of minutes to sit with yourself and think about it. Breathe deeply and feel for your honest answers.
What would I like to get out of my yoga practice? How do I need to practice for that to happen? Can I practice that often / that way? Are there any changes I can make in my routines to make it possible for me to practice the way I want to? Do I need help? How can I get that help? When do I want to start?