If you're starting to get more serious about yoga, you might wonder how often you should practice it in order to not over- or under-do it. Actually, yoga is not too different from the other kinds of workouts that you might be doing.
Set Your Goals First
Whenever you do something it is advisable that you actually have a goal. Why? Because you can plan your way to that goal accordingly and make sure that you don't get off track. So the first thing that you must determine is what you expect to get from your yoga practice.
Now, you might have your own personal reasons for doing yoga, but I believe the most common ones are: to increase flexibility, lose weight, gain muscles, relax / de-stress, or to just stay fit in general. Some want the entire package: meditation, philosophy and physical fitness. As for me, my goals are to make my workout more balanced, increase my flexibility, and become more conscious of my body.
Whatever your goals are, the most important thing is consistency. Seriously, I can't stress this enough because it has been the biggest challenge for me with any kind of athletic or workout ambitions. If you want to achieve a goal, make the path to achieving this goal part of your life. If you want to improve your mind, body, or soul with yoga, you have to make sure that you practice it on a regular basis.
A practical tip from my side is that you do it at least once a week. Doing yoga every two weeks just won't do the trick, because your body will take way too long to develop muscles and flexibility. The only exception might be if your goal is just relaxation or meditation, because the focus is more on the mind rather than the body. I personally have set the goal of doing yoga twice a week. Not more and not less.
Be Cool – Manage Your Drive
A mistake that I have to keep myself from committing is to waste all my enthusiasm in the first couple of weeks. That's why I force myself not to do yoga more often or less often than planned. I decided to do yoga only twice a week based on my personal goals and lifestyle (I want to increase my flexibility and get more conscious of my body in order to compensate for other workouts that I do). So for me, doing yoga twice a week works just fine.
When you decide and create your own workout schedule, make sure that it is realistic. I know it sounds boring, but I truly believe that it is better to go easy in the beginning and then increase the frequency and intensity along the way. If you blow out all your enthusiasm and energy for yoga in week one, you might not have the gusto to go to the ashram the next week. Also, do not ignore the fact that you might hurt yourself if you go too fast in the beginning. Yoga exercise, after all, is just like any other human activity. If you take it seriously it will eventually become a habit, and that's when it really starts to be fun!
Your Body Defines The Limits
Obviously, beginners are much more at risk of taking it too far than advanced yogis and yoginis. Like with any other workout, you have to adjust your yoga practice to your physical limits. If you’ve just started out with yoga, and you’re not in good physical shape, don’t over-exert yourself by attending difficult classes every day. Instead of feeling relaxed and at peace, you might end up feeling burned out.
I've been training to build muscles for over 10 years now but whenever I had a break of more than 3-4 weeks I always take it easy the first week or two that I'm back in training. Whenever I ignored this rule of mine, I ended up having to pause for another couple of weeks because I overstretched or even sprained a ligament.
A good way to start your yoga practice in a gentle and gradual way is to do some warm-up workouts at home. If you go to the gym or your ashram to start or re-start your workout, tell your instructor that you want to take it easy today. From there, you can work your way up to a more consistent practice at a higher level of difficulty with less problems. This will vary from person to person, but as mentioned, consistency in yoga is key to seeing actual progress.
Remember that your efforts are directly proportional to the results. I'm not telling you to do yoga as often as possible, but to know how often and WHY you are doing it. Set realistic goals, be consistent, manage your enthusiasm and don't surpass your limits.