How Long Should You Hold a Yoga Pose for Maximum Health and Spiritual Benefit?

Since I started doing yoga to complement my running routine, I was wondering how long should I hold a yoga pose. If I am in class, the instructor always goes onto the next pose, and I follow her. In that setting, the answer is evident. But what if I am doing yoga alone, at home. Well, then the answer is not so clear. As it turns out, the duration of a yoga pose depends on the type of yoga you are doing. So there is no definitive answer to the question: how long should you hold a yoga pose?

How long should you hold a yoga pose… in different yoga styles

For example I started doing bikram yoga.There a pose can go anywhere between 20 second up to 2 hours. However different studios differ on this, even though buckram yoga should follow a very strict order of poses. Vinyasa yoga looks more like a continuous dance, a flow. There a yoga pose can last anywhere between 5 seconds and 20 seconds. Since Ashtanga focuses on breathing more, there a pose can go on for at least 45 seconds, but more importantly you always have to perform at least five breaths in one pose. Hatha yoga is the most straightforward, they hold each pose for one minute. In Yin Yoga you might hold passive stretches for up to five minutes.

No matter which style of yoga you start, it will help you challenge your limiting beliefs, master your body and calm down your mind. A good rule of thumb to follow when holding yoga poses, is that they are not intended to cause you any harm. If you feel pain or you feel yourself stretching way beyond your comfortable limits, you should stop. There is a sweet spot you can hit where you are pushing yourself just enough that you are out of your comfort zone, but you are not causing yourself any long term injuries. There is a sweet spot to reach between attempting to get better and tolerating pain.

But shouldn’t you keep poses as long as possible? How long should you hold a yoga pose? Well, as I wrote you want to avoid long term injuries and pain. The secret is to build up gradually, each time holding a pose a little longer.

How long you should hold a yoga pose depends also on the type of yoga you are doing. Certain types require you to hold distinct poses, then stop and do breathing exercises. Other are more like a continuous dance, a flow where you don’t hold any poses for an extended period. You just flow from one to the other.

The importance of stretching and visualisation

In order to hold a certain yoga pose for an extended amount of time you will need to be stretched and warmed up. Before starting a yoga session do some individual stretching. Ten minutes to stretch your extremities, your spine and get your joints moving should be enough. If you have time, meditate a little bit. This calms down and prepares your mind for the yoga class.

Have you heard the saying: it is all in the mind? Well, it is true when it comes to holding a yoga pose for an extended period. After warming up, imagine yourself holding a certain pose as long as you have never done before. This will help you leave behind your limiting unconscious beliefs. It will help you hold a yoga pose longer than you have ever imagined.

What are the factors that influence how long you should hold a yoga pose?

  • Style of yoga: This is obvious.
  • Your physical fitness: The stronger and more flexible you are, the longer you can hold certain yoga poses.
  • Your yoga experience: Logic dictates that more experienced people can hold yoga poses for longer.
  • Your age: Children and the elderly should pay special attention to what their body says.
  • Injuries: Muscle tears can make certain poses more painful than they would be normally.
  • Your state: When you are tired, exhausted or burned out, you might not be able to put as much energy into your yoga practice as you normally would.
  • Your clothing: If you wear clothing that is unfit for yoga, you are not going to stretch very far. See our reviews of the best yoga pants to make the most of your yoga classes.

What are the benefits of holding a yoga pose longer?

Holding a yoga pose longer helps you build strength and stamina. It also teaches you to overcome mental barriers and step out of your comfort zone.

After you have been holding a pose for an extended amount of time your body goes on autopilot. Suddenly you can focus on your thoughts, think and meditate.

If you don’t quite have the pose down to perfection, you can practice your alignment. Try subtle changes to perfect your alignment. The longer you stay in the correct alignment, the more it will burn into muscle memory. Next time you will be able to perform the pose perfectly.

Whenever you leave your comfort zone and hold a pose successfully, you build self esteem. When you stay in the pose and your body goes on autopilot, you can focus on your thoughts. You will have certain thoughts coming up that you would not feel otherwise. I feel that I have my best thoughts while I am running, and after a certain distance my body just goes on autopilot. My thoughts wonder and I get brilliant thoughts about work, relationships or anything I am struggling with at that moment. You will have similar experiences if you hold a pose for long.

How long should you hold a yoga pose for meditative effects?

Holding a yoga pose for several minutes calms down the mind. It is like meditation. But it takes practice. And being present to the moment. The first time you try this you will start thinking about an angry conversation you had with somebody, or what you had for breakfast. But after a while you will be able to stay in the present and declutter your mind.

So how long should you hold a yoga pose to achieve this effect? There is no concrete answer. There are several factors that influence this, but as a general rule just listen to your body and hold the pose as long as you don’t feel severe pain.

 

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