When I first began practicing yoga, my goal was to regain flexibility
after an injury I had sustained through over-exercising. I didn’t
consider myself to be the slightest bit spiritual and I didn’t think
yoga would be challenging enough to hold my interest for long. But yoga
has a way of presenting the lessons and supporting the development that
you need right in the moment. It gets under your skin and gives you more
than you asked for.
So, when wondering if you should be "yoga-ing" every single day, or if a weekly yoga class enough, that all depends on what you think yoga is and what you want to gain from your practice. To help, here are some possible goals you've set for yourself and your practice, along with recommended practice schedules to follow.
Possible Goals & Recommended Practice Schedules
Many people think of yoga as pulling on tight leggings, getting on a yoga mat and doing some stretching. Maybe they do it at home, or in a class at a yoga studio. Either way, those movements on the mat are what they consider yoga to be. And these people are right. That is a type of yoga and one way of practicing. In the yoga community, we call that type of physical practice asana.
(Learn more about this limb of yoga in Not All Asana: The Eight Limbs of Yoga and What They Mean for Your Practice.)
How often you might want to practice asana really depends on your personal goals. If you are using your physical yoga practice as a way of releasing tight muscles, improving your body-mind connection or enhancing an existing training regiment, practicing yoga once or twice per week will make a positive impact on your overall well-being. In addition to the physical benefits, you’re likely to gain some of the mental and emotional benefits as well.
If your intention is to practice more challenging asanas or continue to increase your flexibility then a more regular practice is needed. Practicing three to four times per week will accelerate your progress. In fact, some traditional Ashtanga yogis recommend six days per week of physical asana practice. If you plan to follow this advice, definitely build up to it gradually by steadily increasing your frequency of practice at a rate that feels good to you. This will give your body and mind a chance to adjust to your new routine and will help prevent injuries.
(Speaking of flexibility, there's also Psychological Flexibility: The Other Type of Flexibility That Yoga Helps Improve.)
However, this misses an often overlooked truth about yoga. Yoga is much more than the physical asanas. It is a mental, emotional and spiritual discipline that includes everything from meditation, pranayama and your behavior off the mat in addition to asana practice. Once you start exploring yoga deeply, it becomes more difficult to compartmentalize it as something that happens only on your yoga mat. Yoga is a way of life, some would even say that yoga is life.
Reasons Yet Unknown
Having said that, I believe that no one reason to start yoga is “better” than any other. I don't mind if people come to my yoga classes to heal their back pain, relieve stress or because they want to do challenging asanas. The beauty of yoga is that whatever reason we show up for, it works its magic on us. If you’re attending class for the physical practice, the mindfulness aspect will enhance your physical experience. Many people are surprised when they feel an emotional connection to the asana practice. You could be in class to learn arm balances and discover that before your feet can leave the ground you need to face fear, self-doubt or frustration.
(You may need to learn How to Choose Love Over Fear With Each Thought.)