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Practicing Yoga – How Much is Too Much?

 Yoga pose

If you are a student of yoga who wishes to continue learning and evolve into an “advanced” yoga teacher training practitioner, the first question to ask yourselves is: "How should I do it?" One cannot have a "serious" practice by taking occasional short term classes or exploring various styles without any cohesive direction. All of us require experienced guidance taking into account our individual personalities, traits, circumstances and most importantly, our drawbacks. Only an experienced yoga guru can guide and train along a certain path that will help us achieve our desired goals, while at the same time evolving as individuals in the process. In fact in the past, gurus used to tailor the daily practice according to their students’ personal needs. This is still done at the Himalayan Yoga Institute to this day, and is a special addition on all our yoga teacher training courses.
No matter where a yoga student’s focus may be (asanas, kriyas, pranayama, chanting, meditation etc.), it goes without saying that one needs to practice regularly. Which leads to the next question: In order to become a "serious" yogi, how much should one train or practice?
There are those who are quite happy practicing yoga for 15 minutes a day, and others who practice longer. Some people are able to squeeze in a couple of hours a day. If the practice in the early years is consistent and at least for the duration an hour per day, the body gets conditioned and tuned to receive similar results even with shorter sessions, in later years.
And yes, it is very much possible that you overdo it. Ensure that at the end of a practice session, you should feel relaxed and invigorated - NOT exhausted. A lot depends on your age and fitness level, so be sure to account for that when practicing asanas. Make sure to practice with care and awareness, listening to any signs from your body. Remember, you’re the only one who can really judge whether or not you’re overexerting, so better pay attention to any nudging sensations that may arise.
Even the most experienced gurus will tell you that they are still learning and are struggling in one way or another. Yoga is a lifelong learning process. Those who claim they are already enlightened may be fooling themselves and others. A truly enlightened master will never make such claims.

How Frequent and How Long

When one starts practicing yoga, there’s often a honeymoon period, where one is enthusiastic and highly motivated to practice on a daily basis. New students are understandably enamoured by the whole experience, with a general feeling of exhilaration and maybe some lightening of the body – in both weight and spirit. But once the routine sets in, they may diminish the frequency of their practice.
So the question to be answered is this: what should be the duration and frequency of yoga practice? It depends on several factors. These include the chosen style of your yoga practice, your diet, other kinds of exercise or physical activity you might be engaging in, particular injuries or physical limitations; etc.

Defining Goals

Some people can take to yoga easily, while others may struggle for an entire lifetime to achieve the same. It might take years to master a single pose. When we force our body into positions that it isn't ready for, chances for injury increase. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t attempt poses that are challenging or complex. Remember, it's a journey: we start with a pose, work on it for several years, before finally mastering it.
In general, a solid one hour yoga practice 3 times a week is great; however keep in mind that a little yoga every day is ideal. If all you can spare is 20 minutes per day, it’s always better than skipping your practice and then doing a long practice every once in a while.

The approach you should take

The objectives for taking up yoga could include building strength, increasing flexibility, improving posture, losing weight, cleansing your chakras, controlling your emotions, relieving stress or a combination of any of these factors.
Improving posture and flexibility is directly related to the frequency and duration of your practice as well as what you do when you’re off the mat. Being deskbound for 8 hours a day, running a few miles every week or engaging in a weight training practice, all these play a part. Flexibility will decrease if you are engaging in either long hours at a desk or physical exercise and only occasional yoga. In general, to increase flexibility, you need to practice yoga in excess to other physical activities.
Weight loss is also not just about your practice alone, but what you eat and your lifestyle. It is better if you can supplement your yoga practice with another intensive cardiovascular activity, such as swimming or dancing.
While most styles of yoga emphasize deep and rhythmic breathing, resulting in a relaxing effect on the nervous system, regular restorative yoga classes and meditation practice are wonderful ways to effectively reduce stress.
Hatha or Restorative yoga can increase flexibility as well as aid greatly in stress reduction. Vinyasa flow classes can improve flexibility while power yoga helps to build strength.
Overall, what matters is finding a class, a teacher and the style that allows you to achieve your desired objective.
Rajadhiraja yoga has been developed over a period of thousands of years with the intention to cleanse and strengthen the chakras, regulate the endocrine glands and balance emotions. It has many healing properties and can also be used in yoga therapy. If help to tackle emotions and leads to a sense of general well being. Besides, all the above mentioned benefits also accrue from the practice of Rajadhiraja yoga. Therefore this school of yoga is today the most comprehensive, well-rounded system for the development of body, mind and soul.

Yoga Combos – Choose Wisely

Other kinds of exercise or physical activity that you may be doing can play an important part. Many athletes lack flexibility if they don’t include stretching and yoga in their daily routines. So if you are not achieving the expected results, you would want to look at the combination of everything you are doing and see if there is a connection.

As with all guidelines, those detailed above are general in nature and may require further customization and fine-tuning to help you achieve the results you desire. Whether you are just starting out in your practice or wish to master advanced postures, the best advice would be: practice yoga to your heart’s content, while keeping in mind that you want to feel relaxed at the end of your practice - not exhausted.

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Himalayan Yoga Institute. Mount Pleasant Road, London N7 6JQ, UK. Phone: +44-7969-157994 Email: info@himalayanyogainstitute.com