When beginners come to my yoga studio, one of the most commonly asked questions is: How many times a week should I do yoga? The truth is, it really depends on our body, your needs, and what you want to get out of it. So is doing yoga once a week enough?
It depends on the type of yoga. A class that focuses on stretching may increase our flexibility, while a more physically demanding class may also increase our strength. However, practicing once a week may lead to us feeling like we are starting from the beginning of each class.
More and more academic studies are shedding light on how a consistent practice can make us stronger and more flexible, but perhaps more importantly, it can do wonders for our mental health. If once a week is all the time you have for yoga, then that’s a good start.
Why yoga once a week is a good start
Yoga classes generally involve a combination of the following: poses, regulated breathing, and relaxation. There is a lot of variation in teaching quality and style and so depending on the style we choose to practice, we may notice different results.
Doing yoga once a week is like a gentle stepping stone into the wonderful world of yoga. It will give you the time and space each week to focus on yourself, your breathing, and how your body is feeling that day. This, in turn, teaches us to be present in the moment and gives us the luxury of a time-out from the outside world.
“If you practice yoga once a week, you will change your mind.
If you practice yoga twice a week, you will change your body.
If you practice yoga every day, you will change your life.”
Depending on the style we choose, we will get different physical and psychological results.
Types if yoga
Although the overall meaning of yoga is about joining body and mind, there are many types (Restorative, Yin, Ashtanga, etc) that build on the core principles and have slightly different variations of practice.
|Hold postures for long periods of time for calming the nervous system
|Hold postures for long periods of time for very deep stretches
|Strengthening and improving flexibility
|Dynamic and physically demanding
|Dynamic and physically demanding
In a nutshell:
- If you want to find a practice that elevates your heart rate and gives you a good workout, aim for Ashtanga or Vinyasa.
- If you want to improve your flexibility, aim for a yin yoga class.
- If you want a class suitable for all levels with some strengthening and some flexibility, aim for Hatha yoga.
- If you have been under a lot of stress and want a class that will help ground you, aim for restorative yoga.
And from there you yourself will be able to see if once a week is enough for your body and your needs.
What the research shows
Yoga Once A Week May Help Back Pain
Back pain is one of the most common health problems in the West, with an average of 50% of working adults affected. Research has shown that yoga appears to alleviate back pain by increasing flexibility and muscle strength.
A study carried out in the US found that low back pain was decreased after a course of yoga. More specifically, adults with chronic low back pain were randomly assigned to a yoga group where they did yoga once a week for 12 weeks. There was also a therapeutic exercise group and a self-care group (assigned to read and practice exercises in a book). After 12 weeks of yoga, back pain was reduced and back-related function was superior in the yoga group as compared to the therapeutic exercise and book-reading groups.
Yoga Once A Week May Help Osteoarthritis
Yoga offers a gentle form of exercise that helps improve range of motion and thus may help alleviate the pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis.
A study carried out in 2014 of 36 women with knee osteoarthritis, found that those who did yoga experienced significant improvements in their symptoms compared with women who didnít do yoga. The yoga group had a 60-minute class one day a week. They were also encouraged to practice at home on several other days.
After eight weeks, they reported a 38% reduction in pain and a 35% reduction in stiffness, while the non-yoga group reported worsening symptoms.
Yoga’s effect on our mood and stress levels
A study carried out examined peoples’ moods and stress levels on an inpatient psychiatric unit after a single class. The study found that after yoga the participants’ levels of fatigue, anger, hostility, depression, and anxiety dropped significantly.
Additionally, they found that patients who continued to participate in yoga experienced continued to benefit from the practice.
One study examined how yoga can improve our mood with 2 classes a week.
Questions remain about exactly how yoga works to improve mood, but preliminary evidence suggests its benefit is similar to that of exercise and relaxation techniques. In one study, 24 women who described themselves as ’emotionally distressed’ took two 90-minute classes a week for three months. Women in a control group maintained their normal activities and were asked not to begin an exercise or stress-reduction program during the study period.
At the end of three months, the women in the yoga group reported improvements in perceived stress, depression, anxiety, energy, fatigue, and well-being. Depression scores decreased by 50%, anxiety scores by 30%, and overall well-being scores increased by 65%. Initial complaints of headaches, back pain, and poor sleep quality also resolved much more often in the yoga group than in the control group.
The changes you’ll see the more you practice
Yoga once a week can have benefits to both body and mind. However, each week we may feel like we’re starting over when we step on the mat. The more consistent and frequent we are with our practice, the longer-lasting, and the faster the benefits we will experience.
The more often we practice yoga, the more the practice becomes part of our lifestyle. Of course yoga once a week is better than not practicing at all. But if we want to experience all the benefits of yoga, by practicing every day, even if it just a short meditation practice, we may be able to achieve this.
By becoming aware of what we eat, how we sleep, how we relate to others, we are tapping into the rich tradition of yoga which teaches us how to live a more conscious life. And that is the essence of a consistent practice.
Some changes you may begin to experience in your daily life with consistent practice are:
Practice makes perfect
As beginners in a yoga class, many things are new and may appear difficult at first. And this is the reason so many people try out yoga classes and never come back. And yet, it is important to stick with it, stick with the practice as we are given the opportunity to work on the things that challenge us. Whether it is flexibility, strength, balance, staying calm, or simply being able to sit still and breathe mindfully.
Peace of mind
One thing that is rather obvious in many of my classes is the change in peoples’ moods before and after class (and similarly when first starting yoga to years later). I have taught classes where people came in with a lot of tension and frustration. And at the end of the class what I then saw was calm faces and gentle, grateful smiles.
Our modern lives are difficult and hectic, to say the least. And so you may notice that the more you practice, less frustrated you may feel, and the less tension and weight you may feel like you are carrying on your shoulders.