*Exactly* How Often You Should Do Yoga to Reap the Maximum Benefits

Photo: Getty Images/ Alexandra C. Ribeiro / Aurora Photos
The #YogaEveryDay hashtag has 5.7 million photos attached to it on Instagram. Some of them feature people doing headstands in front of exotic locales (Machu Picchu seems to be a popular choice), while others simply show yogis hanging out in child's pose in their local studios. The vast collection serves to prove that there are a whole lot of yogis out there getting into their practice on the reg. But whether you subscribe to the "yoga every day" way of life (like one of our writers, who got her vinyasa on every day for an entire year), or hit the mat only as frequently as the mood strikes, how much yoga should you do to be able to reap the benefits?

Well, there isn't really a one-size-fits-all answer to that question. Really, it depends on what you're looking to get out of your practice, be it a stronger mind, body, or something else entirely. But according to the pros, there are definitely positives associated with the #yogaeverydamnday (another very popular take on the hashtag with 16.1M 'grams) movement.

"Daily yoga practice can definitely help your mood,"says Kajuan Douglas, founder of Merge New York, pointing to studies that cite yoga as an aid to coping with anxiety and depression. "Besides becoming stronger and more flexible, you will start to change your outlook on life. Whether you believe it spiritual, mental, or emotional, daily yoga can help instill patterns or routines for self care." Los Angeles-based yoga teacher Claire Grieve also notes that with a regular yoga practice, "you will likely also find yourself with increased natural energy and vitality, a better mood and the ability to stay calm even while facing the stressors of daily life."

If you can't make time to get on the mat every morning, noon, or night—not to fear: Here's how often you should do yoga to improve every area of your life.

How often should you do yoga for...a calmer mind

"Yoga for a calmer mind can be done daily and as often as you need—don’t subscribe to the one-yoga-class-a-day thought to help your mind," says Douglas, noting that you don’t necessarily need a full class to feel good. He suggests a simple, three-minute breathing practice of square breathing (sama vritti) or alternate-nostril breathing (nadi shodhana). Grieve is a believer that everyone can benefit from a daily restorative yoga practice, because its relaxing nature helps promote stress relief, anxiety reduction, better sleep, and balanced emotions. She suggests trying child's pose, pigeon pose yoga, goddess pose, and legs up the wall for the best results on your own.

With all of that in mind, though, the real answer to the question of "how often should you do yoga for a calmer mind" is as often as feels right for you. "Practice any yoga pose that you find to be stress-relieving to help your mind be at ease," says Douglas. "For some of us, a vigorous handstand practice can help us release anxiety. For others, a simple child's pose for 10 to 20 breaths may be the right practice for you."

How often should you do yoga for...better balance

When it comes to balance, the frequency of your yoga practice is only one of the factors that comes into play. "Balancing is a daily practice. It will change depending on how you sleep and what you have done during your day," says Douglas.

"Mountain pose or tadasana will help you set the foundation of how to feel the floor and your legs. Once you have that, the best balancing poses to test your stability and build your balance is eagle pose. It works the subtle and intricate muscles of your body and the binding of the arms and legs challenge your mind." Tree pose also offers the same benefits.  So really, integrating yoga into your life in any way can help with balance, as can strengthening your core in other areas of your workout regimen.

How often should you do yoga for...more flexibility

If you want to be able to pretzel yourself into a bird of paradise, drop down into a full split, or even just be able to do twisting yoga poses without discomfort, Douglas suggests three to five classes per week. A few of his favorite flexibility-building moves? Twisted lunges, kneeling crescent lunges, and (of course) practicing your splits will "change your body fast." Not to mention, butterfly pose is great for opening up your hips and groin.

An added bonus with this type of practice, says Grieve, is that it will also likely reduce muscle soreness and improve your posture.

"I find that most people experience tightness in their hips and hamstrings—these are also the areas that, if tight, can sometimes cause chronic pain, so they are very important to keep loose," she says, calling on reclined hand to big toes, thread the needle, pigeon, forward fold, seated twist, and half moon twist as a few of her go-tos for stretching out these areas.

How often should you do yoga for...stronger muscles

If you want to use your yoga practice to get stronger, it's more about the type of class you're taking than how frequently you're hitting the mat. "Focus more on strength-based classes like power vinyasa or power yoga," says Douglas, noting that classes focused on physicality will "transform your body." He suggests taking these classes three times a week, and being sure to give your body the appropriate amount of rest time in between to let it recover from the vigorous practices.

If you want to try a strength-building yoga practice sans studio, Grieves suggests holding each of these challenging full-body poses for one to two minutes each for maximum benefit: warrior 2, warrior 3, boat pose, chaturanga, plank pose, and chair pose.

No matter how frequently you're letting your inner yogi out to play, trying doing it in a yoga jumpsuit. And these poses will help with posture after a long day slumped over your desk. 

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