How long should you hold a yoga pose?

by Melissa West on June 10, 2013

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Today’s question comes to us from Doug from Facebook

How-Long-Should-I-hold-a-Yoga-Pose-with-Melissa-Westand he wants to know, How long should you hold a pose? In my home practice I hold poses for 4-6 breaths. In classes that I attend it’s usually less than this. In this video  you are recommending up to 10 breaths.

Thank you for a great question Doug. To a certain extent it depends on the style of yoga you are taking. Certain styles of yoga have longer holds in yoga poses and certain styles of yoga have shorter holds. Vinyasa yoga for example flows from one pose to another with breath so there are little or no holds in the poses.

In the style of hatha yoga I teach there are longer holds in the poses. There are a number of reasons for this.

A number of years ago now I learned from Lucas Rockwood, a yoga teacher that in order to develop flexibility you must hold a yoga pose for at least two to five minutes. Holding yoga poses any less than 2-5 minutes simply demonstrates your existing flexibility. I really took this to heart and started increasing the hold times in my yoga practice- we are interested in developing flexibility, strength, endurance, and balance, aren’t we? We’re not simply here to simply demonstrate our existing flexibility, strength, endurance and balance – and so longer holds to me are super important to increasing our overall flexibility, strength, endurance and balance.

Secondly, I trained in a style that combines yoga and psychology, specifically with Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy. If you are whipping through the poses then you don’t have enough time to develop awareness within each pose and ask yourself, “What’s happening now?” with your breath, body, thoughts, emotions, energy and spirit. Spending time in poses allows you to open the doors of awareness to come to know yourself, your body, your thoughts and your emotions.

In my yoga videos I generally hold the yoga poses for about 10-12 breaths. This morning as I write up this blog post, that clocks in at 1:44 seconds. So, perhaps I should be holding my postures longer in our yoga classes. Generally I do this for time management – on video we try to keep our videos just under the hour mark to keep the video quality high and also to fit in my entire lesson plan.. In your own practice at home you can have the luxury to hold your poses for 30 breaths (which is what I do) which will put you at around the 3 minute mark per pose.


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