‘How long should I hold a yoga pose for?’
This is such a common question that we get! There are so many different types of yoga out there and everyone seems to have differing opinions.
Honestly, there’s no right or wrong answer.
You should hold a yoga pose for what feels good and comfortable for you.
Having said that, let’s look at various types of yoga and see what their philosophies are and also other factors that determine how long you should hold a yoga pose for.
What determines how long you should hold a yoga pose for
Before we dive into types of yoga and their recommendations, there are a few factors that will determine how long you hold your yoga poses for.
With increased flexibility comes increased comfort in many yoga poses. When you have the flexibility to stay in the pose, you are able to go deeper into it and will therefore hold it longer than someone that struggles to even get into the pose.
For example, if you’re doing a seated forward bend and have the flexibility to lay your chest flat on your knees (yes, it is possible!) then you’re going to be more comfortable there than someone that struggles to reach their knees.
Either way though, hold the pose for what feels comfortable for you, on that particular day (yes, your flexibility will vary from day to day)
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If you are suffering, or have suffered, with injuries then you might not be able to hold some poses for very long, if at all.
For example, if you have wrist pain then you will struggle to hold a downward dog pose for very long. With injuries always ask your teacher for an alternative pose or just have a rest. If you’re practising at home, then please work with your body and listen to what is feeling good and what isn’t.
How much time do you have?
In an ideal world, we’d have all the time in the world to practice yoga. However, in our fast-paced life, we have to limit our practice at times. If you have 2 hours for yoga, you’re going to hold each pose for longer than if you only had 30 minutes. It’s important to remember that getting something done is better than not getting it done at all. You have only 30 minutes, then adapt your practice and don’t hold each pose for very long. It’s ok!
How are you feeling today?
We touched on this before but you won’t feel the same every day. There will be days where you don’t have the flexibility or you can’t steady the mind enough to hold each yoga pose for very long. That’s ok! Each day is different and each yoga session will be different. Just remember to do what feels good on that particular day!
What’s your goal for your yoga session?
Some yogis do practice a very similar yoga sequence every day and others mix it up. You might find that some days you want a calm restorative yoga practice and other days you want something that will make you sweat. Determine what you feel like for that session and hold your yoga poses accordingly.
Which pose are you doing?
Each pose is different and therefore the length of time that you hold that pose for will vary. For example, you probably won’t hold a headstand for as long as a forward bend. Or the crow pose as long as a seated spinal twist. Each pose is different, as is your level of confidence in each pose. Work within your limits but also don’t be afraid to challenge yourself!
Benefits of holding each pose for a long time
There are reasons why you would hold each pose for a longer period of time. Benefits include increased flexibility, lengthening of muscles, releasing other connective tissues (the tissues that hold everything together), relaxation on the mind and increasing your endurance.
How long do you hold yoga poses for in different yoga styles?
Every style of yoga has its own set of rules and philosophies. Let’s look at what they recommend and why.
Yin Yoga – 5 minutes
Most yoga styles focus on muscles (very broadly speaking), yin focuses on connective tissue, ligaments and joints. In order to have an effect on these tissues, the poses are held for a longer period time than most other yoga styles.
In Yin Yoga, each pose is usually held for at least 3-5 minutes but could be held for up to 20 minutes. Yin classes are usually longer and include only a handful of poses.
Hatha Yoga – 30 seconds – 2 minutes
Hatha yoga is a style of yoga where you work through poses, holding each pose, and incorporate breathing exercises. When compared to a flow style of yoga, each pose is held for a longer time. Typically in Hatha Yoga, you hold each pose for 30 seconds-2 minutes. This of course will vary depending on the class and the level of the students.
Restorative Yoga – 2-5 minutes
Restorative Yoga is a slower-paced style of yoga that focuses on relaxation and flexibility, therefore it is typical to hold each pose for 2-5 minutes.
Ashtanga yoga – 5 breaths per pose
Astanga Yoga tends to focus more on the number of breaths per pose, typically about 5 breaths but it depends on the pose. This means that you could be holding poses for about 45 seconds, give or take a bit.
Bikram Yoga – 10-60 seconds
Bikram Yoga is a set of 26 poses that are performed in a heated room at 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius), 40% humidity and a super grippy yoga mat. Each pose is held from 10-60 seconds, depending on the pose being performed.
Iyengar Yoga – 5-30 minutes
With Iyengar Yoga poses are held for a longer period of time but also use yoga props, like these cork blocks, to help you get into the pose and maintain it, whilst reducing your risk of injury. Typically Iyengar poses are held for 5-30 minutes each depending on the pose.
Vinyasa Yoga – 1-5 breaths
Vinyasa Yoga is a flow style yoga so you are constantly moving from one pose to another at a steady pace. This will obviously reduce the length of time you are in each pose. Typically poses in Vinyasa are held for 1-5 breaths. The aim of Vinyasa Yoga is to keep moving in order to keep your energy up and keep you focused.
So, how long do I hold yoga poses for?
As long as feels comfortable for you, on the day, depending on the pose that you’re doing. Sorry, we couldn’t be more specific but as you can see, each yoga style holds each pose for varying amounts of time.
Remember to always work within your limits and do what feels good for you!