How long should you hold a yoga pose? The short answer is it depends on the type of yoga.
Yoga is an incredible exercise, no matter which style, helping you challenge your limits, enhancing flexibility and reaching new heights of strength, both internally and externally. However, yoga should not be a source of acute pain for you, and you should never stretch beyond your own body’s capacity to cause it.
Rather, the aim is to deliver a balance between attempting to push your abilities and you and your body’s tolerance for the effort being put in. Yoga should always be something you look forward to because you can feel how it benefits you, not dread because of the pain it causes.
Having said that, holding poses longer does bring benefits, the key is to build to it gradually, listen to your body and avoid acute pain that is a sign of pushing too hard too soon. But, how long should you hold a yoga pose? It’s an interesting question, and how long you do hold a pose for depends on several factors. Firstly, as we have mentioned, your own limits, the pose itself and the style of yoga, and your own willpower of course. Once you have taken care of the basics, such as finding yoga attire that feels right and learning the safe way to pose, the next logical step is improving your technique and duration.
Increasing the amount of time you can hold certain poses is a great way to challenge yourself.
Getting that extended hold for a pose means preparation and determination, meditate for 10 minutes, stretch well, lengthening the spine and preparing your joints for the intense effort of prolonging a pose, this gets your body ready. You also need to be focused and determined to make sure you hold the pose as long as desired. Building up that length of hold over time involves all of these things, building the body’s ability to cope with the process, and also strengthening the mind to focus for that duration too. The combination of the two together will help you accomplish that goal. It is a goal worth pursuing as well, there are many benefits to extending pose holds that are worth the effort.
How Long to Hold Different Yoga Poses
How long to hold a yoga pose really depends on the types of yoga. Here are a few guidelines:
- Vinyasa. This is usually more of a flow, with one pose leading to the next. You normally hold each pose for a shorter time, perhaps 5-20 seconds.
- Bikram. Normally looking for 20 seconds to 2 minutes per pose, but it depends on the pose.
- Ashtanga. Focus more on breathing — trying to get 5 breaths per pose. But you are usually going for 45 seconds to 2 minutes each.
- Hatha. Normally hold the pose for about 1 minute.
Again, these guidelines are admittedly oversimplified, but we wanted to give you an answer rather than the annoying “it depends.”
Anyone who regularly does yoga already knows that every yoga instructor will give a different answer following this ‘it depends’. Each will likely have solid reasons that they are basing their reasoning on. Sometimes these reasons are based on tradition, and sometimes on new yoga research like that coming out of Kaivalyadhama Yoga Health and Scientific Research Center. Similarly, it’s wise to remember that yoga is as much about the meditation as the lengthening of your muscles.
If you are looking for more of a workout, you will need to adjust both the amount of time you hold your poses and the poses you select. For the days that you need to calm the mind more than pump up your adrenaline, you can adjust to longer holds on easier poses.
The other way to consider measuring your yoga pose holds is by breaths, instead of seconds or minutes. Holding a pose for at least 10 controlled breaths, and as many as 30, can be a good measure of endurance. It is also the duration that allows your joints and muscles to truly settle in to the posture, fully engage, expand, and align.
Why Hold a Yoga Pose Longer?
Firstly, extending the time you hold a pose builds strength and stamina, as it works your muscles much harder to keep the pose, and this not only benefits your yoga but overall fitness.
The second way you benefit from an extended duration pose is that it gives you time to truly master your alignment. While you don’t want it to become your sole focus, it does give you the time to perfect your alignment for each pose, and this can ensure you get that alignment right even during short holds as your body gets accustomed to just what the correct alignment feels like. One note — if you are really going to work on holding a pose for a long time, you need to be on a good, solid surface. That can be a game changer. Culprits that can compromise a good pose duration include a poor yoga mat, or using a yoga mat on a slick surface like carpet.
The third way you benefit is emotionally. While much of the focus of longer poses is of the fitness benefits, there is also much to be recommended for your internal wellbeing as well. Holding a pose longer than normal introduces stress and effort beyond that which you normally experience, and it is at these points, where we leave our comfort zones, that fear, anger and other emotions can come to the surface much more easily. These emotions coming to the surface is a good thing, as it is an opportunity to practice acceptance and stay present to the emotions as they arise. Practice breathing through it rather than trying to block whatever emotion is there. This ability to embrace acceptance will prove incredibly valuable whenever anything happens in your life, enabling you to deal with the emotions that you don’t like in a much healthier way.
Finally, holding poses for a longer time stabilizes the mind, as it takes more effort to remain present the longer the pose is held. Over that extended time, it is easy to lose focus, and start thinking about dinner, the shopping list and so on, but by constantly recommitting your anchor, you can really build that stability in the mind that improves focus and concentration in all aspects of your life.
It’s all well and good knowing how to approach a longer hold, and just what the benefits are, but how long is long enough? As mentioned previously, this really does depend on your own abilities and the style of yoga you are practicing,
Yin Yoga or Restorative Yoga are built around longer poses, and it is common to hold for 5 minutes or even longer with these, while Ashtanga Yoga looks to a minimum 5 deep breaths per posture. Whatever style you do, it really is all about listening to your body. If you feel a lot of pain or are unable to maintain focus, that is the time to let it go, and work on holding for a little longer next session. Whatever your target for hold times, always respect your body, it will tell you when its long enough.