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How Often Should You Practice Yoga to See Results?

 ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, How Often Should You Practice Yoga to See Results?

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Research has connected a regular yoga practice with mental health benefits such as reduced stress, lower levels of anxiety, and decreased depression. Yoga is also linked with improving the body physically. These benefits include increased muscle strength and greater flexibility. But how often do you have to practice yoga before you begin to enjoy this practice’s many positive results? 

If You’re Using Yoga to Reduce Stress, Anxiety, or Depression

Exercise in general is good for fighting stress. Hitting the gym after a tough day helps you let go of the difficulties you are facing in your job or at home. It’s a healthy outlet for getting rid of the tension you carry both mentally and physically.

If you struggle with anxiety or depression, exercise is good for this as well. It raises your levels of feel-good hormones and increases your feelings of well-being. This, in turn, helps lower your stress, creating a synergistic effect.

Because yoga requires a certain level of body awareness, your worries are able to slip away. As you focus on your body and breathing, everything else moves away from your consciousness. With each yoga pose, you feel more and more relaxed.

Some people who practice yoga say they notice a mental shift fairly quickly. Some feel less stressed, anxious, or depressed after their first yoga session. Others take a bit more time to realize the mental health benefits of practicing yoga. 

How fast you respond depends on a variety of factors. For instance, if you’re having trouble staying in the moment while doing the yoga moves, it may take you longer to feel its mental health benefits. Or maybe you’re so focused on the physical practice that you forget to do the breathing exercises to help calm your mind. Your level of stress, anxiety, and depression matter too. If you have severe levels of any of these mental health conditions, it may take you longer to reach a therapeutic effect.

When practicing yoga, do your best to stay in the here and now. If you are the yoga teacher, continuously remind your students to be present. Draw their attention to the yoga postures and their breathing. Encourage them to let go of the outside world and concentrate on the present. This will help give their mind a break from everything else it is thinking about.

Developing a Regular Practice to Improve Mindfulness

Mindfulness improves many different areas of life. Paying attention to how you feel can help you recognize when your mental health is at risk. It reduces your worries of yesterday and tomorrow because you are focused on today. You can also achieve greater weight loss results by being more mindful

Many yoga practitioners think of this form of exercise as a type of meditation. When practicing yoga, they forget about the areas of their life that feel challenging. The only thing on their mind is following the sequence and engaging in proper breathing techniques. It is an active meditation versus sitting cross-legged and remaining stationary.

With consistent practice, you can increase your mindfulness through yoga. This generally involves developing a regular yoga routine. You can’t just practice yoga once and expect to engage fully in a meditation experience.

To achieve the highest level of mindfulness possible often requires that yoga become a daily practice. You must master each posture (asana) while breathing in and out. When these movements become secondary, you can achieve a higher level of mindfulness.

If this is your goal, you may find that you enjoy gentle yoga most. Flowing slowly from one pose to the next enables you to focus fully on the present. Restorative yoga is also worth considering as it offers the same effect.

 ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, How Often Should You Practice Yoga to See Results?, Flexibility

When Increasing Strength and Flexibility Through Yoga

What if your goal in developing a yoga practice is to increase muscle strength or improve flexibility? How long does this take?

One study revealed that participants’ handgrip strength “increased significantly” after 12 weeks of yoga. Another piece of research involved subjects who did Hatha yoga twice a week for 8 weeks. In the end, their muscular strength had increased. They also had greater flexibility.

These examples highlight the fact that it often takes weeks, if not months, to see physical improvements related to a yoga practice. In this way, yoga is like other strength training and stretching routines. You must stay committed to the workout if you want to see these types of results.

It is also important to remember that different poses stretch different muscles. For example, Child’s pose stretches the lower back, hips, thighs, and knees. Cow pose stretches the abs. The same is true when it comes to muscle groups strengthened by each pose. Downward facing dog strengthens the arms, shoulders, and back whereas easy twist in lunge strengthens the quads and glutes.

A successful yogi will incorporate a variety of poses to hit all areas of the body. This generally begins with sun salutation before transitioning into other postures. This offers students a complete yoga class.

Yoga for Weight Loss

Another physical benefit of yoga is that it makes it easier to lose weight. By relieving negative feelings, you’re less inclined to want to emotionally eat. Increasing mindfulness through yoga helps you make better food choices. Plus, the physical activity within the yoga class helps increase your ability to burn fat.

That said, yoga is not a magic bullet for weight loss. Attending one session every now and again is not going to whittle your waistline. You must practice regularly if your goal is to drop your extra pounds.

When using yoga as a weight-loss tool, it is helpful to pick more intense styles. Vinyasa yoga is one. Sometimes referred to as Power yoga, this style is active and athletic. It has more of a fitness focus than other styles, such as Iyengar yoga, which tends to be gentle.

Hot yoga is another style that some use to assist with greater weight loss. Hot yoga has been linked to other benefits as well. Improved flexibility, better mood, increased fitness, and greater stamina are a few. Yet, students should be aware of the potential risks associated with a hot yoga class:

  • Light-headedness
  • Dizziness
  • Nauseousness
  • Dehydration

Letting students know this beforehand will help them decide whether this style of yoga is right for them. It also brings potential risks to their attention. It opens the door for you to educate them as to what they can do if they start to feel bad in any way. It further reinforces the need to continuously rehydrate to help replace the fluids lost, hopefully negating these effects.

How Often Should You Practice Yoga If You Do Other Workouts Too?

What if you want to use your yoga practice as a supplement to your current exercise routine? Does this mean that you must spend more time in the gym? Not necessarily.

You can add yoga to your workout regimen in a way that provides all the benefits of this practice without sacrificing the advantages you get from your existing exercise plan. This could include substituting a power yoga session for time spent in another cardio class. Or it might involve using gentle yoga poses to cool down after a grueling workout.

Doing yoga two to three times a week will still offer benefits. Maybe not as much as a daily practice, but you’ll likely notice improvements in strength, flexibility, and mental health with this type of plan. 

Start with twice-weekly sessions and see how your client feels. If they’re happy with the results and yoga seems to work well with their schedule, that’s great. Keep it as it is. If two times a week doesn’t feel like it’s enough, increase to three or four sessions. Balance it with other aspects of their fitness program so they don’t overextend or push their body too hard.

The main point to remember when it comes to how often you should practice yoga is that you want to practice it enough to receive its benefits but not so much that you risk hurting yourself. This means paying attention to how you or your clients feel before, during, and after yoga classes. Listen to your body and it will tell you how often you should practice to enjoy the best results. 

Do you want to gain the skills necessary to lead a yoga class? ISSA offers Yoga Instructor certification. This course teaches you how to create a safe, effective yoga workout so your students can gain all the benefits of this age-old practice.

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