346.7 yoga hours.*
We normally round that up to 350 and give anyone who’s achieved it a special hat.**
In your heart, you know that 346.7 hours is not true.
You might wish that there were a specific, solid number to look forward to, but you know I can’t answer your question with an absolute.
You know what I’m going to say before I say it — two words so heavily and firmly on the fence that it’s a wonder that fence is still standing:
We Get It – Being Good At Yoga Matters… Sort Of.
You’ve probably seen images and videos of yoga practitioners performing challenging yoga poses like headstand variations, bakasana, tittibhasana, and astavakrasana. It might feel like being able to maintain those poses is the goal of yoga.
And if that’s your goal, that’s fine.
But your goal also may be to become more flexible. More mindful. More relaxed. Or, you indeed wish to achieve self-realization.
The aim of your yoga practice is up to you. And you’re also the judge of when you’ve arrived there.
Still, getting good at yoga matters because it can be helpful to have a goal, as long as it doesn’t impede your progress. Just be aware that achieving concentration or emotional balance can be more difficult when you’re worrying if you’re harmonizing the right way or wondering if you’re letting go of anxiety correctly.
Keep Your Goals, But Let Go Of Expectations.
While one of the ways DYWM allows you to filter classes is by experience level – beginner, intermediate, and advanced — this is not intended to be a hierarchy.
Beginners needn’t feel pressure to “progress to intermediate.” Those with some experience don’t need to “do advanced classes.” The categories are there to help you find classes that suit your ability level right now. As you advance, you may be ready for more challenging technical material, and so we make sure it’s there for you if and when you’re ready.
But your aims for doing yoga are personal to you. Plus, your approach to classes affects how much you get out of the practice more than the level itself. Following the instruction carefully in a beginner class can prove more beneficial than going through an advanced class without focus or attention.
So, whatever level classes are comfortable for you, aim for the stars, and keep your feet on the ground. Keep breathing.
On a side note, if you’re thinking about becoming an instructor, then you’ll need a certain level of understanding, vocabulary, discipline, and ability. But again, your goals and your reasons are yours alone. Just don’t get hung up on them to the extent that they get in the way of a beautiful practice.
Why “It Depends?”
Like peeling an onion, the question “How long does it take to get good at yoga?” hides more insightful and useful questions within.
Your honest answers, which you needn’t share with anyone but yourself, will change your approach to practicing yoga.
- What’s your definition of how long?
- What is good?
- And what does yoga mean to you?
Pondering your subjective answers to these questions will help you more than a 346.7–hour countdown to yoga mastery. They will personalize and customize your approach to yoga so that you can feel more benefits, improve your experience, and truly enjoy the process.
Luckily, we can also give you some more concrete answers to the question ”how long does it take to get good at yoga?
1. How Long?
A few different factors affect how long you need to practice yoga to notice improvements that make you smile.
Duration is probably the most obvious meaning of “how long.” You want to know how many days, weeks, months, or years make you a bonafide yogi.
However, developing your ability takes time. This might be months or years as you practice and improve the various components, including strength, flexibility, and mindfulness.
Ultimately, duration on its own doesn't mean much without frequent, focused, and consistent practice. Excellent guidance and support from experienced yoga teachers also make a big difference.
How often you practice yoga is going to affect how quickly you learn the poses and improve your ability to achieve them in a way that is beneficial for your body and mind.
You should do yoga on a schedule that suits you, but it’s typically more effective to practice yoga for 10 minutes three times a week than for a couple of hours once a month.
Frequency can help you build up a yoga habit. It can also help you make quicker incremental improvements to your postures and in turn, your sensations, breathing quality, and awareness of your body. Part of that awareness will be noting even the smallest changes in your body, the ones that Fiji calls “millimeter miracles.”
Intensity Or Focus
By focus, I mean how present and intentional you are during your practice.
Are you simply standing or are you mindfully rooting your feet on the ground? Are you stretching or reaching?
Whether you’ve dedicated an hour to yoga on Friday evenings or you’ve carved out ten minutes at your desk between calls, the profundity present in your yoga practice will influence the depth of your experience and its benefits.
Focus also means finding a balance between eliminating distractions and learning not to be pulled by them. We can’t control every aspect of our environment — nor should we attempt to — but turning the TV or notifications off during your yoga practice might help you get more out of your sessions.
You can try following a course or a yoga challenge series so that you follow a marked path. Although it’s nice to let go and do yoga or any other activity when you “feel like it,” some structure and regularity in your practice will allow you to get “better” faster.
Whether you’re learning to drive, play a musical instrument, or perform a tricky yoga balance pose, the regularity of your practice can increase the benefits.
Here’s a fun idea on how you can test and witness the fruits of consistency. Do a recorded yoga class, whether it’s on our website or elsewhere, that you find a bit challenging. Go back to that class once or twice a month. Note how long it takes before things that seemed impossible – like holding an asana for a long time or the asana itself – become second nature.
How long it takes to achieve something also depends on whether you have support. Practicing with a book might be less effective than having a moving, talking teacher in front of you.
A community of like-minded yogis or people that share the same aspirations as you can offer vital encouragement to keep returning to the mat and practicing.
2. When Do I Get Good, Though?
Trust me when I say that it will be beneficial to your practice to loosen your grip on the concept of “good yoga” in place of “effective yoga.”
Performing yoga effectively might mean being intentional about yoga, which is to say staying true to your goals and being aware of your body. This means not restricting your breathing or pushing your body beyond its limits, which could cause injury and prevent you from deepening your yoga practice for a while.
While an advanced yoga practitioner in crow pose might be more impressive-looking than a beginner in downward-facing dog, yoga isn’t just about the pose. It’s a lifestyle and a means to an end: harmony, awareness, and spiritual fulfillment.
Accept Falling (Out of Poses)
When I was learning how to hold a handstand, my yoga instructor noted:
“You collapse very gracefully.”
I gathered up my limbs and spinal column and tried again.
Collapsing and trying again doesn’t make you bad at yoga. Neither does falling asleep during savasana or wobbling when you perform tree pose.
Stand in a class of people in tree pose and all of them will be a bit different.
Stand in a forest and look at the trees, all rooted to the ground and striving upward. Sometimes they sway. Sometimes they fall. Which of them is not a good tree.
Being good at yoga means doing your best to understand what yoga is and, through it, improving your physical and mental wellbeing. If that touches the lives of those around you, so much the better.
3. Yoga Will Guide You
Yoga is a spiritual discipline made up of various practices that promote mental and physical balance, harmony, self-awareness (or realization), and stillness.
It’s possible to focus on the meditative aspects of yoga. Or, you could perform yoga for its benefits to your physical health and stress relief.
So – being good at yoga depends on your goals and what yoga means to you.
But perhaps, you’ll find that your goal will change as you grow in your journey. You may start out hoping to do a handstand in a year, but along the way, find another purpose: being present and engaged.
Whatever the case, here are just a few of the many aspects yoga encompasses:
- Flexibility: Yoga is excellent for improving flexibility, which can help people avoid pain and injury.
- Strength: Yoga strengthens the body, including parts you hadn’t noticed you have before.
- Weight loss: Yoga can help people lose or maintain weight through expending energy. However, its real effect in weight loss is indirect: it helps people manage their stress, mood, emotions, and physical wellbeing. Also, people who are more aware of their bodies are less likely to put unhealthy things into them.
- The poses look cool: Being cool doesn’t make you good at yoga, but don’t let that stop you.
- Focus, meditation, and mindfulness: Yoga’s meditative aspects nurture greater focus and mindfulness that can help you in all of life’s arenas.
- Fulfillment: Fulfillment is everyone's ultimate goal, regardless of whether it’s articulated or not. But as it's a rather obscure, personal concept the size of a planet, it's better to focus on the little steps that move you toward this bigger purpose.
Journeys and Destinations
Has your bliss been ruined by your ankles aching in lotus pose? Lotus without variations is everything from uncomfortable to physically unattainable for many. But that doesn’t mean that you’re doing yoga wrong or that you’re bad at it.
There’s someone out there right now who’s been sitting in the lotus position for hours, but their thoughts are overwhelmed by to-do lists.
They’re not “bad” at yoga, either.
So, how long does it take to get good at yoga?
It takes time to get into asanas that require certain flexibility or strength. But it also takes time to create a quiet space in your mind.
Everyone learns and advances differently. We all have different journeys and (at least seemingly) different destinations.
The one thing we have in common? We’re all here, discovering the ways in which yoga can help us travel and arrive.
Being And Becoming
Most people are their own most vigilant observers, criticizing their progress and posturing, in yoga and in life. So perhaps “becoming good at yoga” is a distraction we should remove so we can truly enjoy “being.”
Stay in your body and be aware of how you feel. Feeling the ground under your feet is more important to your practice and fulfillment than wondering whether you’re “good” at yoga.
Wearing a special hat for performing 350 yoga hours? That’s not yoga.
*Yoga hours are like normal hours, but more flexible and more fun.
**There is no special hat. You already have everything you need to deepen your yoga experience.