Q: How often can I do yoga? Someone said I can do it every day, but is that too much?
A: That is a good question to ask, but the answer is a little complicated. Much of the answer depends on the type of yoga you do. For some people, yoga is a very light exercise regime that is about the same workout effort as a brisk walk. For others, the yoga they do is a very intense workout that leaves them feeling drained and potentially sore the next day. For many, the yoga they practice is a mix of these or falls somewhere in between.
Our body responds to exercise in different ways depending on the intensity. If we do a mild exercise, there is an immediate increase in heart rate and we expend a few calories; we activate muscles and enhance our proper posture by the natural cross training that yoga poses offer to our daily life. This type of mild exercise is something our body can do every day. When we do intense exercise, not only do we expend more calories, but we are likely to disrupt our muscle tissue. The disruption is microscopic and a natural part of what makes a muscle stronger, but it takes the body a few days to rebuild the muscle tissue.
What makes a yoga routine intense? The answer is that it is subjective. Depending on conditioning, what one person may feel as an intense workout, another person might define as light exercise.
I can remember long ago partaking of an intense yoga class of a style known as Ashtanga yoga. This style of yoga involves using a jumping form of sun salute and holds poses for lengthy periods between each round of jumping sun salute. My yoga conditioning at that time was good as I had been doing relatively advanced yoga for a couple of years. The Ashtanga class was offered on Thursday and Friday nights. The Thursday class was always incredible for me in that I felt strong, my endurance was great and I enjoyed the intense workout – one which left me bathed in sweat and completely exhausted. The Friday class was another matter. I always went into it with high hopes since Thursday was spectacular and I was always very disappointed in my ability, my strength, my endurance and the feeling I had at the end of the class.
What went wrong for me in that long ago class was that my body was not ready to have another intense workout within 24 hours of the last intense workout. Studies have shown that one of the most common reasons a person is injured during exercise is doing back to back intense workouts. What a body needs most after a strong workout (after of course getting a protein rich meal within an hour) is rest for at least 24 hours to 72 hours prior to having another intense workout session. This would mean that our intense workouts should not be done any closer than every other day, but better if there were more days off in between hard workouts. No more than 3 hard workouts per week or else we run a much greater risk of injury and also we reduce the body’s ability to respond properly to the exercise. Most people do best with just one or two intense workouts a week.
However, mild to moderate intensity workouts can be done daily. If your yoga is what you perceive to be an easy workout, then by all means do it every day. If you feel the yoga workout requires some effort but you do not feel exhausted or sore after this kind of workout then you can probably do it daily as long as you keep your protein nutrition level adequate for your needs (Using protein powders can help you get the protein you need quickly).
If you are like me in that long ago class and dripping with sweat while feeling totally wiped out. Do yourself a favor and choose a more gentle routine for a couple of days before working out that hard again. Your body and your sense of accomplishment will thank you.