How Long Should You Hold a Yoga Pose?

When starting your yoga practice, it’s normal to wonder how long you should hold yoga poses.

As much as we would love to give you a simple answer and formula that you can use each time you step onto your mat, the answer is not black and white.

When planning your yoga practice, there are many factors to consider – including your goals, how you feel, and how much time you have.

In this post, we’ll give you all the information you need to help you decide how long to hold a yoga pose.

Benefits of Holding a Yoga Pose for a Short Time

Holding yoga poses for a short amount of time (usually between 1-2 breaths) has the following benefits:

  • Improves cardiovascular health by increasing your heart rate
  • Helps to burn fat and increases metabolism
  • Increases stamina in both your yoga practice and daily life, including in other sports

Benefits of Holding a Yoga Pose for a Long Time

Holding yoga poses for a long time (for several breaths or between 2-15 minutes) has the following benefits:

  • Increases strength in standing poses such as downward facing dog and tree pose
  • Improves stability
  • Increases flexibility and mobility
  • Improves balance
  • Allows you the time to find the correct alignment and add any props you need to make the pose more accessible for you
  • Lengthens and stretches muscles and deep tissue in the body
  • Gives you time to get to know a pose and explore different variations

Factors to Consider

When building your practice and deciding how long to hold yoga poses, there are many factors to consider.

There’s no simple solution to figuring out how long to hold yoga poses – the best way is to spend time on your mat every day, getting to know the poses and your body until you’re able to use your knowledge of yoga and your own intuition to create a practice that serves you.

That said, it can be helpful to have a sort of guideline when practicing yoga – the following factors will provide you with exactly that.

Why Are You Practicing Yoga?

You’ll first need to ask yourself why you started your yoga practice in the first place. In other words, what are the goals you’re hoping to achieve through your regular yoga practice?

Do you want to improve mobility, release tension, and soothe your nervous system by practicing long and deep stretches?

Or do you want to energize your body, burn fat, and increase stamina by moving through poses faster?

The reason you’re practicing yoga will help you decide the length of time you want/need to spend in yoga poses.

How Are You Feeling?

How you feel on any given day is another good way to decide how long to hold poses.

Noticing the state of both your body and mind before you begin your practice can help you to design a practice that works for you.

  • Are you feeling particularly tight anywhere?
  • Is your mind feeling stressed, anxious, and in need of some calm?
  • Are you feeling tired and looking for a way to increase your energy?
  • Maybe you’re feeling tired and looking for a way to rest?

If you are looking for a way to slow down, longer poses are probably the better choice.

Do You Have Any Injuries?

If you’re coming to your yoga practice with injuries, it’s particularly important to listen to your body to avoid hurting yourself.

Moving through your practice slowly and spending at least a few breaths in each pose will give you the time that you need to find stability, add necessary props, and support your body without hurting yourself.

Long stretches approached slowly are a great way to gently mobilize muscles that have been injured – but you’ll need to be wary of overstretching. A good rule when injured is to approach stretches and poses at 50% of your maximum.

How Difficult Is the Pose?

If you find a pose particularly difficult to the point that it’s making your practice unenjoyable, it might be better to spend less time in that pose.

Instead, work on building strength in that pose over time by building the necessary muscles in various other poses and adding time to the difficult pose every time you practice it.

Is There an Intention Behind This Particular Practice?

Every time you step onto your mat, it’s a great idea to be aware of the intention behind your practice.

  • Are you just waking up and looking to mobilize your joints and energize your body?
  • Are you looking for a way to reduce stress and anxiety?
  • Are you hoping to recover after a long workout?

Whatever your intention is will help you to decide how long to hold yoga poses.

How Much Time Do You Have to Practice Yoga?

If your only intention is to practice yoga and move your body, you might like to hold poses depending on the amount of time that you have.

For example, if you only have 10 minutes, you might like to move through a few rounds of sun salutations as opposed to practicing two long stretches.

On the other hand, you might prefer to use those 10 minutes to lay in reclined butterfly pose and open your hips or spend those 10 minutes in child’s pose to relax after a long day.

It all depends on the various factors behind why you’re practicing.

Related: How Many Times Should I Repeat A Yoga Pose? (Important Considerations)

The Best Way to Decide How Long to Hold a Yoga Pose

We’ll let you in on a secret…

Sometimes, you can spend what feels like hours mapping out the perfect “yoga” sequence only to end up feeling like you haven’t really enjoyed your practice. Or you may have abandoned your planned poses and sequence completely in favor of something that feels better.

This is because the best way to decide how long to hold a yoga pose is to listen to your body and mind.

Tuning into how your body and mind feel during your practice will give you a much better idea of what you need on any given day than planning out a minute-by-minute sequence.

However, it’s still a good idea to have at least a vague idea of how you would like to spend the time on your mat. After all, your body might not necessarily agree with the length of time that you’re holding the poses, even though you know that practicing long/slow poses is crucial to your yoga goals.

For example, if your goal is to increase flexibility, you will want to stay in deep stretches for several minutes – something you’re likely to plan for ahead of your practice.

That doesn’t mean your body will love every second of it! In fact, you’ll probably feel uncomfortable and maybe even a little agitated.

But it doesn’t mean that you should scrap the long stretches and practice vinyasa instead – it’s not going to help you achieve your goals as quickly as you would like, and in this case, it’s probably better to stick to your planned sequence.

The more you practice, the easier it will be to create a yoga practice that moves you towards your goals and serves your needs on any given day.

This is not something you can be taught – it’s something you’ll learn to feel in your body.

The Takeaway

When deciding how long to hold a yoga pose, you’ll want to consider the following:

  • Why you’re practicing yoga
  • How you’re feeling
  • Whether you have any injuries
  • What your intention is behind your practice
  • How much time you have to practice

Overall, the best way to decide how long to hold a yoga pose is to tune into your body and mind to decide what you need from your practice.

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