How often should you do yoga? Instructors reveal the best practice for the best results

The dilemma of how often should you do yoga might not have crossed your mind before, but a regular stretch session is well worth your while...

Woman doing yoga
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Learning how often should you do yoga can help you reap the multitude rewards that come with stretching out your body. Indeed, a regular flow can boost both mental and hysical wellbeing - from easing stress and anxiety, to improving lower back pain and reducing your risk of heart disease. While, fitting in the practice between cardio and weights can be tricky, it is well worth your while to make it a consistent part of your weekly workout routine.

However, the frequency with which you should practice yoga will depend on which particular health goal you have in mind. Are you keen to increase flexibility or balance? Do you want to build strength? Perhaps you are aiming to improve your mental health? These varying - but all very valid - aims will each require you to take a slightly different approach every time you step onto your mat.

So, whether you have been factoring stretch sessions into your routine for a while, or are doing yoga for beginners, we've called on top instructors to take you - step by step - through what to consider about how often to practice. They'll also share their expertise on which yoga forms or poses, are best to focus on dependening on what you are trying to achieve. All that's left to do is to carve out the time in your diary and step onto one of the best yoga mats...

How often should you do yoga?

Before answering the question of how often should you do yoga, let's first look at why incorporating regular stretch sessions into your weekly routine is beneficial in the first place. 

It is a hugely positive practice for your mind. "There are powerful benefits to your mental health, such as relieving stress and boosting your mood," says Danielle Wills, a yoga and meditation instructor for audio-based fitness app WithU Training (opens in new tab). Indeed, research from the University of Mississippi (opens in new tab) concluded that it was able to help reduce depression and anxiety symptoms.

Yoga also brings a multitude of perks to your physical wellbeing too. "It can release muscular tension, improve flexibility and mobility, lengthen the spine and strengthen overall posture and balance," explains Wills. A study, lead by the University of Maryland (opens in new tab), linked the practice with eased lower back pain, while findings from Harvard University (opens in new tab) showed that it reduced risk factors for heart disease. 

What's more, certain types of yoga can help with particular health goals. "There are so many forms and styles," adds Wills. "Restorative practices help with aches and pains, while strong and fast flows can increase strength and overall physical fitness." From flexibility to strength and balance, here's how often you should flow each week:

Woman doing yoga at home

(Image credit: Getty Images)

1. How often should you do yoga...for flexibility?

How often: 2-5 times a week

"Yoga can really help with improving your flexibility and making your body more supple," explains Wills. "In restorative and yin yoga, you hold different positions for an increased period of time, allowing your muscles to release into a much deeper stretch." If you're holding a pose for a while, then one of the best thick yoga mats may feel more comfortable beneath your body. She recommends choosing a handful of positions to practice two to five times per week to improve flexibility - but there's no need to do an hour at a time, just stay consistent.

Stuck on which poses to focus on? "Most yoga styles have a good number of poses and movements that encourage a more flexible body - think downward dog, upward dog, twists and forward bends," notes yoga instructor Scarlett Woodford (opens in new tab), who encourages you to listen to your body and remember that what might work for the person on that mat next to you might not feel right for you. "We are all built completely differently - for example, in our hips, hamstrings and back - and a pose should feel strong but shouldn't tip you into pain. It’s good to start slow and build at your own pace."

2. How often should you do yoga...for strength?

How often: 2-3 times a week

Getting toned isn't all about lifting the best dumbbells. "Yoga also helps in strength training, especially if you practice vinyasa, power or rocket yoga," notes Wills. "Yoga asana is a strength-based, full body practice. Using just your own body weight to flow through your practice will result in longer and leaner muscles." She recommends finding your level of flow and performing it two to three times in your weekly routine - perhaps alongside other resistance workouts (talking of which, here's how often should you lift weights). 

Woodford recommends looking out for particular yoga classes if you want to get toned. "Pick a class or teacher who focuses on conditioning movements - like unilateral exercises, squats and toning formats - as well as longer holds, rather than super deep stretches," she explains, noting that you shouldn't feel disheartened if others appear to have more muscle power than you. "Again, we’re all built very differently. Some people will have super strong wrists that can take a million plank holds, while others will be dropping to their knees during each plank pose - both of which are fine."

3. How often should you do yoga...for balance?

How often: At least once a week

"The art of yoga is beneficial in helping with focus, coordination and - as a result - balance," says Wills. "As you are working on your movement, mastering transitions, and developing strength, your sense of balance can be improved as you align your body and give attention to certain body parts. Better balance will come as you progress in yoga, so make sure you keep it up on a weekly basis to see results."

Don't give up if you start off very wobbly on your mat. "If you feel frustrated about not being able to stand on one leg, just know that there are several factors at play - balance has a lot to do with the eyes and ears, as well as the body," adds Woodford. "In general, when practised regularly, standing balances such as tree pose, warrior three, lunges and dancer’s pose, can be great for improving strength, muscle memory and therefore balance over time." Once in position, it's important to learn how to breathe better to maintain that stillness.

Woman doing yoga class

(Image credit: Getty Images)

4. How often should you do yoga...for getting fit?

How often: 3-4 times a week

There is nothing greater for workout motivation than feeling your fitness levels improve. As part of an increasingly regular and varied exercise routine - which also may include increasing how often you should do cardio and strength exercise - yoga can be very beneficial in helping you achieve this health goal. "Many believe that yoga is 'just for relaxation and stretching' but many forms of yoga asana can indeed improve fitness since it helps to increase lung capacity," points out Wills.

Not sure where to start? "If you’re looking to break a sweat, choose classes titled vinyasa, ashtanga, rocket and power," suggests Woodford. "These dynamic styles will get the heartbeat racing and blood pumping, along with the usual flexibility and strength benefits." Although, make sure you mix up how you move. Wills adds: "If you are looking to improve your fitness levels overall, I'd advise combining your yoga flow with HIIT or other aerobic exercise and weight training three to four times per week."

5. How often should you do yoga...for mental wellbeing?

How often: Daily if it feels good

"Yoga is one of the best tools that can help you not just survive but thrive," notes Wills. "Most of us feel stress at quite specific times of the day - first thing in the morning, when the day looms in front of us, and last thing at night, when we worry about all that we haven’t yet done. Slotting a few yoga moves or a short practice into these times of day is one of the best ways to take back your own power and improve your mental wellbeing."

How exactly can it help? "Yoga teaches you movements that help you physically release tension in your body," explains Wills. "It also instills in you breath practices that help you return to calm by tapping into the part of your physiology called your parasympathetic system." If you haven't got time to stretch on the mat, then Woodford also recommends tuning in to the best mindfulness apps to help create a sense of calm. However, if you are struggling with your mental health and are concerned, then it is important to seek the guidance of a health professional.

Lauren is a freelance writer and editor with more than six years of digital and magazine experience. In addition to she has penned news and features for titles including Women's Health, The Telegraph, Stylist, Dazed, Grazia, The Sun's Fabulous, Yahoo Style UK and Get The Gloss. 

While Lauren specializes in covering wellness topics—ranging from nutrition and fitness, to health conditions and mental wellbeing—she has written across a diverse range of lifestyle topics, including beauty and travel. Career highlights so far include: luxury spa-hopping in Spain, interviewing Heidi Klum and joining an £18k-a-year London gym.