When my students ask me how often they should practice yoga, I say daily. I also say, practicing one to three times a week is ideal. Just like any other type of exercise, yoga benefits you when practiced more than once a week and on a consistent basis.
“The purpose of yoga is to build strength, awareness and harmony in both the mind and body,” states Dr. Natalie Nevins, DO, a board-certified osteopathic family physician and certified Kundalini Yoga instructor in Hollywood, California.
"The relaxation techniques incorporated in yoga can lessen chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome,” explains Dr. Nevins. “Yoga can also lower blood pressure and reduce insomnia.”
Other physical benefits of yoga include:
increased muscle strength and tone
improved respiration, energy and vitality (improving lung capacity)
maintaining a balanced metabolism
weight reduction and management
cardio and circulatory health (reducing heart rate and blood pressure)
improved athletic performance
protection from injury
There are also benefits to our mental health, such as stress reduction, considered one of the best benefits of yoga. Stress can hinder the body's ability to heal itself and if not managed, can have harmful effects on our mental state and physical body. “Stress can reveal itself in many ways, including back or neck pain, sleeping problems, headaches, drug abuse, and an inability to concentrate,” says Dr. Nevins. “Yoga can be very effective in developing coping skills and reaching a more positive outlook on life.”
There is a growing amount of research documenting the psychological benefits of yoga. The American Psychological Association states, "Several recent studies suggest that yoga may help strengthen social attachments, reduce stress and relieve anxiety, depression and insomnia. Researchers are also starting to claim some success in using yoga and yoga-based treatments to help active-duty military and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder."
"The evidence is showing that yoga really helps change people at every level," says Stanford University health psychologist and yoga instructor Kelly McGonigal, PhD. (source, www.apa.org/monitor/2009/11/yoga)
It is evident, yoga gives us tools through body movement, meditation and breath work to help us manage our internal healing process. I couldn't agree more with Dr. Nevins, who also says, “Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness; increases body awareness; relieves chronic stress patterns; relaxes the mind; centers attention; and sharpens concentration.” Body- and self-awareness are particularly beneficial, she adds, “because they can help with early detection of physical problems and allow for early preventive action.”
This is why I love to share the gift of yoga. Within my teaching experience, I have witnessed mental and physical improvements in my students' health within an average of three months (practicing one to two times a week).
Of course, one can definitely feel benefits of yoga after every class, leaving with a calm state of mind, refreshed and better body mobility. But imagine adding another day or two of yoga practice. Three months can turn into less time to observe and absorb benefits.
Three months may seem like a long time to see and feel the benefits of the physical practice of yoga, but I always remind my students about how long they have been living with discomfort in their bodies. Most of the time, it's a lifetime on our bodies that have taken a physical and mental toll; a lifetime of developing body and mind discomfort.
One can be born with physical or mental limitations. One may face chronic pain caused by lifestyle or accidents that lead to possible physical trauma, which can lead to mental trauma, developing depression, anxiety, insomnia, energy depletion and low vibrations. This calls for us to be compassionate when it comes to how we judge ourselves. Therefore, I always encourage the self practice of patience, kindness and compassion. And especially, give yourself time.
Yoga is not a quick fix. It is a practice that takes time to give your body and mind the opportunity to create an environment to begin self-healing and promote overall well-being. Of course, this is in addition to any medical or mental treatment one may be receiving. Yoga is an integrative support of the healing process.
And where does this process begin? It begins with self care.
Hope to see you at the chapel every Wednesday at 1:30 pm for a sweet practice of chair yoga to embody high vibrations as a whole.
In love, gratitude and blessings,
Resident Yoga Teacher and Self Care Doula