How Much Yoga Is Enough?

How Much Yoga Is Enough?

Most yoga classes are an hour and a half. Some are an hour and fifteen. You can take a lunch time class for an hour. I remember a studio I used to go to years ago where classes were an hour and forty-five minutes.

There are yoga retreats where you’ll do 5 or 6 hours of yoga a day. Or teacher trainings where you’ll do eight hours of yoga a day.

So how much yoga is enough?

It all depends on your goals. Why are you doing yoga in the first place? Are you trying to reduce stress on doctors orders? Trying to stay fit and flexible. Optimizing your workout time by doing a hot vinyasa flow class and sweating as much as you can in an hour and fifteen minutes.

Yoga has become a craze and a trend in this country with over 20 million practitioners downward dogging their way through the days.

It has become such a craze that pictures of yogis doing crazy, intricate poses are no longer limited to the cover of yoga magazines. You’ll find them in The New York Times. Time magazine put out a casting call this January for yogis for a cover shoot (click here to see.)

Actress Kate Hudson just started a line of yoga wear. Yoga is definitively everywhere.

But that doesn’t really help you figure out how yoga is going to fit into your life.

The first thing to figure out is this: What are your yoga goals?

I remember one year, early in my practice, I decided I was going to master the splits, Hanumanasana. I spent a lot of time on the mat doing hip openers, hamstring openers, low back strengthening. The thing is, I am not, by nature, a flexible person. I have had to work extremely hard for every tiny bit of flexibility I have. There finally came a time where I had to accept my body as it is, with all its limitations. It wasn’t until then, until the moment of complete acceptance, that my yoga practice really started to bloom.

I still get a twinge of jealousy and self doubt when I see those women in the yoga clothing ads doing crazy things with their bodies. They are beautiful, almost alien creatures. And I know those poses are possible to master. You just have to devote a serious amount of time to it. But again you also have to ask yourself: what is your intention.

Yoga is so much more than the physical art of twisting your body into a pretzel. Yoga is about relaxing, de-stressing, freeing your mind, and ultimately, freeing your soul. Challenging  postures take practice, patience and acceptance.

But those cover photos leave out the crucial intention of yoga, the ultimate zenith, which is peace and contentment gained from the decidedly unglamorous practice of meditation.If what you’re looking for out of your yoga practice is ease in the body, a good level of fitness and strength, openness and ease of movement and contentment and joy in your mind, this can all be done in less time than you think.

If you have a well crafted practice, that is geared specifically to your body and energy type, you can do a powerful and well balanced physical practice in 20-40 minutes. If you add 5-10 minutes of breathing practices (pranayama) at the end you’ll be well on your way to balancing the hemispheres of your brain, and calming your stress response.

Most people who meditate agree that 20 minutes a day is a good place to start to achieve the lasting benefits of stress reduction, contentment, anti-aging, brain elasticity and memory building that meditation provides. Even if you have five minutes a day, it’s  a great way to begin, and then build up from there.

So in 30-70 minutes of a well designed practice, you can begin to achieve your goals of better health, more happiness, and less stress.

Find yourself a good yoga teacher or look to some great yoga books to help you jump start your practice, and optimize your life!
Some suggested books:

The Heart of Yoga http://www.innertraditions.com/isbn/978-0-89281-764-1
Energy Medicine Yoga: http://www.soundstrue.com/shop/Energy-Medicine-Yoga/4717.pd
Light on Yoga: http://www.amazon.com/Light-Yoga-B-K-Iyengar/dp/0805210318/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1412529274&sr=8-2&keywords=yoga+books
Yoga and Ayurveda: http://www.amazon.com/Yoga-Ayurveda-Self-Realization-David-Frawley/dp/0914955810/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1412529302&sr=8-1&keywords=frawley

Lauren Walker

Lauren Walker is the author of Energy Medicine Yoga: Amplify the Healing Power of Your Yoga Practice (Sounds True, 2014). She teaches Energy Medicine Yoga across the country and internationally. She is a certified EM practitioner and assistant for Donna Eden. She’s published in The New York Times, The Jerusalem Post, Salon.com and has a periodic yoga column on MNN.com. She’s also been featured in Yoga Journal and Mantra Yoga + Healing. You can find her complete schedule on EMYoga.net