Practising yoga is similar to most forms of exercise in that both shorter and longer durations can be beneficial. Whether you intertwine your yoga and meditation time for a short 20 minute session, or you go for an extended workout longer than an hour, both can do wonders for your flexibility, muscle strength and a bevy of other health benefits. To better show the specific benefits of short and long duration yoga sessions, here is some helpful information about both.
Short Duration Yoga Sessions (less than 60 minutes)
The benefits of yoga sessions lasting less than an hour mirror those of longer sessions in many ways. They can drastically improve flexibility and joint mobility if made a regular part of someone’s weekly exercise routine. Also, studies have shown that various forms of yoga can improve muscle strength, endurance and balance, even when practised in durations under an hour. More specifically, a study funded by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and performed at the University of Wisconsin, found that a group practicing yoga experienced a 13 to 35% increase in flexibility after only eight weeks (source: https://www.acefitness.org/getfit/studies/YogaStudy2005.pdf).
In addition to the aforementioned health benefits, yoga also lends many conveniences when fitting a workout into a busy schedule. Short duration yoga sessions allow you to work out pretty much anywhere so long as you bring your yoga mat with you. For instance, if you have an hour or even half an hour lunch break from your work, you can easily fit a 20 minute yoga workout in while still having enough time to eat. You can do so, by taking your yoga mat over to a local park or utilizing a private, perhaps exercise related space that your work has. What’s more, this goes for any time throughout your week, including mornings, nights and even weekends.
Long Duration Yoga Sessions (60 minutes or longer)
While short duration yoga sessions are great for a busy schedule and provide benefits that are otherwise missed without any exercise at all, longer duration yoga sessions ensure that you get the full benefits of the exercise, including muscular strength, endurance, flexibility and balance. For example, in the same study performed at the University of Wisconsin, researchers found that the benefits of an hour yoga session transferred over to other forms of exercise as well. Such results included members of the group performing on average six more push ups and 14 more curl ups, attesting substantially to the participants’ improvements in muscular strength and endurance.
The structure of the previously mentioned study consisted of five minutes of relaxation breathing exercises, followed by a 10 minute warm up, 35 minutes of full on yoga poses and a five minute relaxation breathing and cool down portion. With such a significant chunk of time devoted to exercise, you must be sure that you can fit it into your schedule without rushing. After all, one of the main purposes of yoga is to walk away feeling rested, rejuvenated and relaxed, not in a hurry to make it to work or to pick up the kids from soccer practice. When this is the case, the mental benefits of yoga can be greatly reduced.
When trying to gauge how to fit yoga into your busy life there is nothing wrong with adopting a mix match of short and long sessions. Both have many of the same benefits, albeit it on different levels. So, if you are only able to fit three 20 minute yoga sessions during your work week and one longer 60 minute session on the weekend, do not beat yourself up about it, anything is certainly better than nothing when it comes to figuring out how long you should do yoga. Also feel free to discuss it with your teacher. Talk to Amanda at Metta Yoga in Wellington. You can also leave a question in the comments area.
Sending you love and warmth – Namaste