This is a question students often ask me, whether they are trying to improve their physical endurance or help heal from the loss of a loved one. It’s hard for me to give a definitive answer. When my teacher is asked that question he answers, without hesitation, “every day.” But I tend to use Viniyoga’s standard answer to every question: “It depends.” It depends on your goals, your lifestyle, and even more importantly how you define yoga practice.
Let’s start by assuming you define yoga practice as asana, or movement.
In that case, Gary’s answer of “every day” seems really overwhelming to me. He equates a daily practice to flossing your teeth; something you do consistently, gently, daily, for overall health. But to be completely honest, there are days I don’t get around to flossing, either. (Don’t tell my dentist!)
And I do avoid sharing that information with my dentist. Because when he asks, I know the answer he wants to hear. I don’t lie to him, but I always feel guilty, even though the answer is almost every day. Likewise, if we think the goal of yoga is to practice asana every day, anything less than that feels like a failure. And if we fail, we are more likely to give up on yoga altogether.
So I never tell students to practice asana “every day.” Don’t get me wrong. I believe strongly in the benefits of a consistent asana practice. It can help improve everything from emotional stress to low back pain. I’ve found that the “sweet spot” for my clients, however, is usually practicing around three days a week. More than that is likely a bit better. Less than that will very often bring results, just not as dramatically or as quickly.
If you can come to class three times a week, awesome! Our early morning yoga immersion students can attest to the benefits they receive from practicing at the studio that often. If you can’t, however, I recommend one class with a teacher each week. The other two practices can be shorter (15 to 20 minutes is surprisingly effective) and done at home. Many of the series we offer, such as Yoga for Healthy Backs and Yoga for Real People offer home practices as part of the series, for that specific reason.
But the above still only addresses the question if you define yoga as a physical practice. In fact, it is so much more than that. It is a set of tools that encompasses meditation, sound, movement, breath work, and ritual. Beyond even that, it is a system of living that fosters connection, compassion, and presence. It’s about cherishing the relationships of your life, and striving to better understand the people within those relationships. Those are components of yoga I try to practice every day–even on those days the dental floss doesn’t make it out of the bathroom drawer. It’s not just a daily practice, but hopefully a continual one.
Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!