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How often should you practice yoga?

If you are in the ‘yoga world’, you’ve probably at some point seen the hashtag #YogaEveryDamnDay.  But is it necessary to practice yoga every single (damn) day?  Is this the unspoken requirement for every yogi? How often SHOULD you practice yoga?

I break down this topic in the vlog below.  I’ve also included a rough transcript underneath, for those of us who prefer to read articles over watching videos.

I personally think this is a really important topic, as I know a lot of people who feel the pressure (and subsequent guilt) around having a daily practice.  Some people benefit from doing yoga every day, while for others maybe #YogaEveryDamnWeek would be more helpful.  Maybe we should rename it to #YogaWhenYouWantToYoga.  I’m not saying that having a daily yoga practice is generally negative or generally positive for the masses; instead I’m just giving you the chance to think about how it affects you, what works for you – and what doesn’t.

Check out the video and/or blog, and let me know what you think!

Is yoga every damn day the official requirement?

I’m breaking this into two different parts.  On one hand we have yoga as in the physical practice; asana being the physical postures or the shapes we make on our mat.  This side is what most of us strongly associate with yoga, particularly in the West.  On the other hand, we have the rest of yoga, as outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and a lot of other fantastic ancient texts.

Let me start by saying the physical practice of yoga – triangle, down dog etc – is such a powerful modality.

  • It helps us reconnect with our body + our breath
  • It gets us out of our thinking mind
  • Yoga helps us destress + combat physical and mental tension
  • It gets us breathing deeper
  • We get stronger and more flexible in our bodies
  • We are better able to deal with things that come up in life

Thats just the tip of the iceberg.  Yoga is really kind of magical in my opinion!

BUT….

The idea of yoga (asana) every damn day as a strict rule can sometimes be unhelpful

The doctrine of practicing yoga every day is engrained in lots of, if not most, yogis.  And most people associate it with asana – the poses, and the physical work we do on our mat.

I did an online class last week.  It was on a popular platform, led by a great teacher.  And it was a fab class.  However, one of the teacher’s last comments, towards the end of the class, really ground my gears!  

The teacher said “you must do yoga every day”.  He made it clear he was talking about asana (again, yoga poses), rather than yoga overall, and went on in more detail.  Two comments* that he made really wound me up, because I think they can be quite unhelpful.

“If you do CrossFit twice a week, pilates twice a week, and yoga on the other days that is wrong.  We should be doing yoga every single day.”

“The Sutras tell us to do yoga every day.”**

*These were not exact quotes, so I am slightly paraphrasing.

** NO THEY DON’T.

This is unfortunately not the first time I’ve heard this message.  And I don’t think it’s that helpful.

Asana every damn day :

  • Is physically inaccessible for many
  • Can be challenging if you have low energy levels / fatigue
  • May lead to unnecessary pressure and guilt if you skip a day
  • Can be time-consuming
  • Can take the joy out of yoga, for some

Good enough is good enough – in fact its great!

If you are going to 1 group class a week and loving it – that’s perfect!

If you are able to practice for however-long on a daily basis and it is right for your body and mind, then that is perfect too.

There is no set daily requirement for asana

If you are feeling pressure to practice more than you are comfortable with (physically or mentally), then let go of that expectation right now.

Rachel Brathen, aka Yoga Girl, who coined the phrase Yoga Every Damn Day, said that she didn’t mean it just in reference to the physical side of yoga. 

The Yoga Sutras lay out the 8 limbs of yoga, of which asana is just one!  Some of the more initially accessible parts to being a yogi include:

  • Living your life with integrity
  • Practicing non-attachment
  • Meditation
  • Pranayama
  • Living our lives in a moral way
  • Changing our daily behaviour and mindset to something more positive 

THAT is yoga.

For most of us, the physical practice, the asana, is the gateway to the deeper side of yoga. Others find meditation first.  There is no right or wrong way to do yoga – only what’s right for you, your body, your mind, your energy levels.

The Yoga Sutras say…

Well, actually the Yoga Sutras don’t say much about asana at all! There are only 2 sutras in the whole text which allude to the physical practice of asana.

The Sutra that everybody misquotes references in relation to the regularity of our yoga practice is Sutra 1.14.

“Perfection in practice comes when one continues to practice with sincerity and respect for a long period of time without any interruption.”

Yoga Sutra 1.14, translated by Pandit Rajmana Tigunait

A long period of time without interruption? I would translate that to meaning we should have a steady longterm practice.  Surely, going by that argument, practicing once a week for 10 years is better than practicing every day for a fortnight?

I also love the reference to ‘respect‘.  One of our moral obligations to the world, in the Sutras, is Ahimsa – non-violence / non-harm.  If we are causing ourselves mental or physical harm by forcing a daily yoga practice that isn’t right for us, we are not practicing ahimsa.  We’re not living yoga.

My Take on this

A lot has changed in the approx 1500 years since the Sutras were written. I really believe that Patanjali would give us a break from the pressures of #YogaEveryDamnDay (espeically in an ‘asana’ context).

I like to think he’d understand the challenges of cultivating a daily practice and he’d understand yoga inevitably takes a backseat sometimes, in-between bills, fatigue, commuting, work, kids and sickness.

Only recently (maybe in the last 2 years of my 8 year yoga journey) have I started to cultivate an almost-every-day fairly strong practice.  Over time, I have learned to listen to my body, my energy levels and my mind, and I know how to check in to see what I need.  I make a daily commitment to myself, to do what is best for me.  Sometimes that’s asana, other times its meditation.  Some days its a nap.

How often should you practice yoga? If having a daily physical practice makes you feel strong, alert, calm and a generally better person, that’s fantastic.  If you feel like you struggle to get on your mat on a daily basis, or feel depleted as a result of it, maybe its time to reassess.

Yoga every damn day? Let’s strive to be the best yogis we can be in our lives off the mat, every day.  However, if yogasana every damn month serves you better, I’m going with that.