How Often Should a Beginner Do Yoga?
As a beginner, starting a yoga practice can be difficult. There are many questions, and this article on beginner yoga helps to address many common ones.
People new to yoga often ask me, “How many times a week do I need to do yoga to get the benefits?”
It’s an interesting question, and the answer, as with most yoga-related questions, is that it depends on you.
If I think back to when I started, I remember attending my first couple of classes more out of duty than because I wanted to be there.
I wanted the benefits I’d read about and had grand visions of becoming leaner, more toned, and in tune with myself, but I had no idea how to survive a whole hour of quiet and deep breathing.
Within a couple of weeks, I was hooked!
I could feel the tension melting off me as I walked into the yoga studio, and I was sleeping like a baby on the nights after I attended a class.
I was sitting up straighter, experiencing less back pain. I felt calmer, and my brain seemed to be much sharper than before.
Within a month, I was doing two yoga classes a week, and after two months, I was up to three classes, alternating between Hatha, Bikram, Vinyasa, and restorative yoga.
So, if you’re a beginner, you can easily start as I did with one session a week. And, as you begin doing yoga more regularly, there’s a good chance you’ll be hooked too and won’t be able to wait a full week to get your next yoga fix.
If I’m a Yoga Beginner, How Many Times a Week is Ideal?
The more often you practice yoga, the faster you’ll start to see the benefits.
You’ll get results much sooner if you do an hour a day compared to once a week, but this isn’t always practical.
If you’re new to yoga, your body will need to learn to move in a new way, so it’s ideal to start practicing in a studio with a qualified yoga instructor at least 2-3 times per week.
The class environment provides the necessary structure and support for a new student. You will learn how to do each pose correctly to get the maximum benefit, correct alignment, and avoid injury.
But 3 classes isn’t the magic number; the ideal number of sessions a week depends on your goals. You’ll be able to access many benefits even if you only practice once a week, but you won’t progress as quickly as if yoga was part of your daily routine.
If you aim to improve strength and flexibility, three half-hour or hour sessions a week is a good start. That way, you won’t overdo it, but the regularity of your practice will be enough to provide consistent improvement.
The common thread here is that you need to create a regular schedule that works for you because if you’re realistic about what you can commit to, you’re much more likely to stick to the schedule.
You’ll be able to make greater progress practicing more regularly for shorter periods than a long yoga class once a month — which means there’s also scope for shorter sessions more frequently. Many instructors say that even a few minutes daily can help improve your mood.
Be realistic when you set your goals if you’re starting. If you can only take two classes a week, do that rather than decide on a schedule you can’t stick to.
I will let you know yoga’s best-kept secret: you don’t need to start with a massive commitment. Start small because as time passes and you start seeing the improvements for yourself, you’ll start to enjoy yoga more, which means you’ll start to look forward to your practice times, and you’ll want to do yoga more regularly. It gets addictive!
Should I Start With a Beginner Class?
There are many different yoga styles, so it’s worth reading up on the different types before signing up for a class. Hatha yoga is a good place to start; these classes are slower-moving, and the instructor has enough time to help you get the poses right.
If the studio you’re joining has beginner classes, sign up for those first and progress to more advanced classes when you and your instructor feel you’re ready (usually around the 10-class mark).
Beginner classes are ideal for learning the correct alignment, how to engage your muscles and the right way to breathe.
If beginner classes are not offered, Yin-Yoga classes are another good place to start, as they’re typically slower moving (some can get intense).
No matter which class you choose (you can start with any), I highly recommend starting in classes with little to moderate heat.
Hot yoga classes bring an extra element that most beginners (including myself at the time) are not ready for at the beginning — just getting used to the poses is a huge challenge in itself.
When I started, the yoga instructors seemed to go through poses SO fast. Now, I find myself experiencing the opposite — with some instructors “talking” too much in their instruction.
Whichever you choose, you want to get a great yoga mat!
I Can Only Commit to Fifteen Minutes a Day, Is That Enough?
Research shows that yoga can decrease the secretion of cortisol, the stress hormone that triggers our fight-or-flight response.
Elevated cortisol levels are associated with several health conditions, such as high blood pressure, weight gain, and even anxiety and depression. Regular yoga practice, in addition to decreasing cortisol, boosts serotonin production, the so-called happiness hormone.
So, even fifteen minutes a day can profoundly affect your brain’s chemistry, boost your mood, and improve your overall health and well-being.
Will Yoga Once a Week Make Any Difference?
You bet! Although, it’s better to incorporate at least two classes into your weekly schedule. I started doing one or two classes a week and found that some poses helped to release tension in my neck and shoulders, while others that stretched out my back felt amazing and left me wanting more.
I could incorporate some poses into my daily routine, almost unconsciously. I’d feel stiff after sitting at my desk for a few hours, and it felt natural to take a five-minute break and do a few yoga stretches to release the tension and reset my brain.
OK, I’m Hooked. Can I Do Yoga Every Day?
Of course you can! You need to be a bit careful about how you go about it.
If you’re a beginner, I’d advise starting slowly and working with a qualified instructor to get your alignment right. This can be especially helpful if you have any injuries or an underlying condition, as the yoga instructor can offer variations that consider your limitations.
Generally, you'll quickly notice the difference if you start and end your day with 10 minutes of yoga.
In line with the research, you’re likely to feel calmer, sleep more deeply, become more flexible, and enjoy some of the health benefits of regular yoga practice.
How Long Will It Take to Notice the Effects, and Will I Lose Weight?
This depends greatly on the individual, how often they practice, and how yoga affects their body.
Everyone, myself included, wants to see results as soon as possible.
In general, though, the more regularly you practice, the faster you can expect to see changes. This will require a certain degree of awareness, being present to the changes in your body, such as soreness following a class that may signify that you are starting to work dormant muscles.
Other changes, like weight loss, strength, flexibility, and body tone, may also be noticeable after a few weeks. If you’re focused on yoga for weight loss, the results will depend on your type of yoga.
Hatha yoga, for example, burns calories at the same rate as a brisk walking pace. Weight loss relies on creating a calorie deficit, burning more calories than you take in, but yoga can also shift general health behaviors, impacting your weight.
One study found that young adults who did yoga ate more fruit and vegetables, exercised more regularly, and consumed less junk food. These findings were supported by another weight loss study that followed 20 women who had lost weight by doing yoga, which included a noted shift towards healthier eating and healthier living through support from fellow yoga practitioners.
In my experience, as you practice more regularly, a subtle shift happens where, instead of focusing on the tangible physical benefits of yoga, you start to become more aware of other, often more important, changes.
These changes can be feelings of increased calm, lower stress levels, decreased anxiety, improved digestion and sleep quality, and better focus.
For me, I noticed a general sense of relaxation that lasted for hours after the class itself had ended. I have also become more aware of my body, noticing where muscles feel tight or carry tension.
Plus, let’s not forget that yoga is hard! Sometimes, just getting to the mat can be a victory for the day.
What Are My Thoughts?
I think regular practice is key.
If you can only manage one yoga class weekly, do that. But don’t skip classes — once a week is an absolute minimum. From there, you might find that you’re looking forward to the classes and can make space in your weekly routine to incorporate another class.
Ideally, you want to aim for three yoga classes a week while fitting in strength training on other days. With yoga, the need for cardio goes way down — again, yoga is not easy, and your heart will get an amazing workout.
The other thing to remember is that you don’t need to attend a class to practice yoga. Ten to fifteen minutes every day at home or work can also make a big difference.
And, as I mentioned before, if you’re a beginner, don’t worry too much about how often you’re doing yoga because once you start to see and feel the benefits, you’ll want to rank up the frequency of your practice.
So, instead of yoga being something you feel you have to do, it becomes something you can’t wait to do!
Tony Lee, MS, RD
Tony Lee, RD, MS, is a highly qualified and accomplished Registered Dietitian with a Master’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences from Arizona State University. Tony brings over two decades of experience in dietetics, specializing in sports nutrition. Interests include studying all aspects of wellness, fitness, genetics, and peak health performance.