Starting on a yoga journey leads to many questions. One of the most common queries is, “how long should I hold a yoga pose for?”
Naturally, people want to understand how to get the most benefit out of their yoga sessions. However, there is no set time for how long you should hold a yoga pose.
Depending on your ability and your objectives, you can hold a yoga pose for a few seconds or up to five minutes (and beyond).
Let’s take a closer look at how long to hold a yoga pose and the different factors influencing it.
What Does Holding Yoga Poses Do?
Holding yoga poses carries several benefits at once. First off, it builds stability. Indeed, when you start doing yoga, you will find you’re wobbly and unstable. After a while, you gain strength and feel grounded.
When you can remain in a pose for longer, you work the muscles necessary to maintain it, which makes you nice and strong. You are also able to correct your alignment during a pose. This is because you have the time to work out if something isn’t quite right and adjust accordingly.
Why Is Breathing Correctly Important for Holding Yoga Poses?
Breathing is a critical component of yoga. It connects your mind with your body and helps reduce stress, improve blood circulation and improve focus. Yogic breathing is known as “pranayama” and is the act of inhaling through the nose and holding your breath for a moment or two before exhaling through the mouth.
You use this breathing technique to move through the flows throughout a yoga session. It’s also vital to understand how long you remain in a pose. Rather than counting seconds, you hold a pose by counting your breath.
How Long Should You Hold Yoga Poses
Yoga poses can be short, medium, or long, and the number of yogic breaths you take corresponds to these. The typical range for each pose length is:
- Short hold: 3 breaths
- Medium hold: 5 breaths
- Long hold: 8 breaths onwards
This is just a guideline. One person’s breath time differs from the next. If you’re a fairly rapid breather, factor more breaths into a pose and vice versa if you breathe slowly.
How Long To Hold Yoga Poses for Beginners
If you’re a beginner, getting used to the various poses and coordinating them with your yogic breathing naturally takes longer to get used to. Therefore, it is always better to err on the side of caution and limit your poses to short or medium hold.
Once you are familiar with the various poses and feel confident you’re doing them correctly, you can start to increase the length of time you hold them.
How Long Do You Hold Yoga Poses for Relaxation?
If you’re doing yoga to relax and unwind, it’s unlikely you’re doing anything complex. Simple stretches like child’s pose, for example, can be held for as long as you feel comfortable. It’s very meditative to do so, and if you focus on your breathing, you will fall deeper into a relaxed state.
How Long Do You Hold a Yoga Pose To Build Strength?
Long poses are beneficial if you aim to build strength; the longer you hold that pose, the more your muscles work.
Don’t dive straight into long poses if you’re not used to them. Ideally, start on a short or medium hold and extend it gradually, one breath at a time.
How Long Should You Hold Yoga Poses if You’re Pregnant?
Prenatal yoga consists of adapted poses and simple stretches that can be held for a medium amount of time. However, if you ever feel uncomfortable during a pose, it’s essential that you stop.
One of the most beneficial yoga poses for pregnancy is Shavasana. This is the final resting pose at the end of most yoga sessions and involves lying down in a relaxed state. You can go to town on this pose and hold it for up to 20mins if you like.
How Long Should You Hold a Yoga Pose for Each Type of Yoga?
The different styles of yoga vary wildly. Some are fast-moving and require short poses, while others focus solely on long-held poses. Many are somewhere in between.
Here’s a quick reference guide for each style and how long to hold yoga poses:
- Vinyasa: 1 – 5 breaths
- Ashtanga: 5 breaths
- Power: 1-6 breaths
- Hatha: 1-2 breaths
- Yin: 8+ breaths up to 5 minutes per pose
- Restorative: 5-20 mins per pose
- Bikram: 5+ breaths up to 90 seconds per pose
What Happens if You Hold Yoga Poses for Too Long?
If you’ve been practicing yoga for a while and are already quite supple, you will likely find you can hold poses for a long time without suffering any adverse effects.
Newbies, however, risk stretching their muscles beyond their current limit. This heightens the risk of tearing a muscle or sustaining an injury.
Your best defense for avoiding these problems is to take it slowly, start with a shorter pose time, and gradually increase it as you gain flexibility.
When To Stop a Yoga Pose
It’s normal to feel a stretching sensation when you’re in a yoga pose; however, if you feel any pain, you must immediately stop. Consult a medical professional if the pain persists after you’ve exited the pose.
It’s common to feel light-headed and dizzy when you first start yoga. This is primarily due to the yogic breathing technique. If you ever feel dizzy when posing, immediately exit the pose and sit with your head between your knees until the sensation subsides. Doing this will prevent you from falling and injuring yourself.
If you’re ever in doubt about how long to hold a yoga pose, consult your teacher and ask them for advice. A good teacher will also be able to spot if you’re having difficulty during a pose and will ask you to stop or modify to something more manageable.
Listen to your body and exit a pose if something feels “off” start easy and increase your pose time once you feel more comfortable. This way, you’ll be a posing pro before you know it!