Are you unsure about how long to hold yoga poses?
On average, yoga practitioners hold poses from a few breaths to 30 seconds. Sometimes they hold poses for considerably longer for strength-building, stretching, and restorative purposes. How long you hold yoga poses depends on your level of experience and skill, your goals, the difficulty of a pose, and also the style of yoga you do.
Check out our beginners guide below to find out more about which factors determine how long to hold a yoga pose.
Why do you need to hold yoga poses?
Pose duration is a big topic in the yoga world. Depending on who you ask, you will get as many different answers and ideas.
Some teachers say that the longer you hold a pose, the more benefits you’ll get from it. More strength, more flexibility, more balance, more endurance, more resilience, more mindfulness, more patience – to name just the key ones.
The truth is, there’s no correct answer because every person has different aspirations, needs, and physical abilities. It all depends on you and what your body can handle.
Therefore it’s not so much about the ideal length of time you hold a yoga pose, but what is right for you.
Experience and skill level are key factors in determining how long you can hold a yoga pose.
How long to yoga poses for beginners
If you are a genuine beginner, then your strength and/or flexibility are likely limited. That will improve soon by doing yoga, but in the meantime, take it slowly. Don’t overextend yourself early on, as you may get yourself an injury or develop a dislike of yoga.
Always keep within your abilities. Yoga should feel good and not cause pain!
So, start small. Keep the length of yoga poses to just a few breaths; no more than 2-3 breaths to start off with. With easier poses, you might extend that a little bit. A breath consists of breathing in and out deeply.
How long to hold yoga poses poses for intermediate yoga practitioners
Once you are an intermediate yoga practitioner, your strength and flexibility will be much improved.
You can start to extend the holds of different poses to a few more breaths, 3-5 breaths. Even 10 breaths will become possible, depending on the pose or Yoga style you are trying to perfect.
You can start playing around the edges and test each pose to see whether you can extend it a little further. Take the time to do this, be mindful of your body and keep breathing calmly.
Still, it is necessary to stay within your limits. Get to know your body and how far you can go.
How long to hold yoga poses for advanced yogis
When you are an advanced yoga practitioner, your body is much stronger and suppler and you will be able to hold individual poses for extended periods of time if desired.
Holding a yoga pose for minutes at a time will become possible and will be a conscious decision as part of developing a yoga practice.
At this point, you know your body and mind well, and the risk of injury is low.
Many people do not think about personal goals in yoga. But it’s a good idea to think about them. Do you want to become stronger and more flexible? Reduce stress and anxiety? Improve mental resilience and focus?
Your personal goals will have a strong influence both on the style of yoga you will want to do, and as a result, the duration of holds of individual yoga poses.
For strength and flexibility: you need to focus on extending the holds of key poses, or choose a fast-paced, more strenuous yoga style such as Vinyasa Yoga.
For stress reduction and relaxation: you will extend relaxing poses of choice (such as Savasana or corpse pose) to many minutes to gain maximum benefit.
To improve mental resilience and focus: choose a yoga style that offers a range of poses held at 3-5 breaths each, enhanced with meditation before and/or after practice.
For injury rehabilitation: make sure that the postures are suitable for rehabilitation purposes before holding them for any extended period of time, or with too much force.
Yoga poses are not created equal
Some yoga poses are easy for most whereas others are much more difficult. Many of the more difficult yoga poses take years of practice to perfect. There is a big difference between doing a headstand and Savana (corpse pose)!
Irrespective of your level of experience it’s important for you to know what kind of poses you’re attempting and how difficult they will be. That will then decide how long you can hold that pose.
Yoga pose modifications and use of props
In many cases, you can extend the hold of yoga poses by adopting modifications or using props – for example, blocks, pillows, or straps.
In this way, many yoga poses become accessible to less experienced practitioners, and as a result, they can hold extended for longer.
Check out our article on avoiding yoga mistakes which gives you simple tricks on how to achieve some common yoga poses with simple modifications and props.
When attempting more difficult yoga poses, it often pays out to talk to a trained yoga teacher. They will know what to do, including perfecting other yoga poses first for added strength and flexibility, or using props.
Factors to take into account
- Existing strength and flexibility – make an honest assessment of your own capabilities.
- Body shape and weight – a person who is rounder will find certain poses more difficult to achieve and hold. However, most will be possible with modifications or props (see below)
- Age – some poses become much more difficult to perform with growing age, although many will stay within our reach. But a hand- or headstand for example may be out of our reach
- Existing limitations or injuries – you will need to take extra care. Take advice from a trained yoga teacher and consider using props when appropriate.
You may be surprised at the number of different yoga styles out there – in fact, it can be quite confusing. But yoga style has a significant influence on the duration of holds of individual yoga poses.
Faster yoga styles
Some yoga styles tend to be faster than others. This will shorten the duration of how long you will hold each pose. They include styles such as Vinyasa Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga (a more structured version of Vinyasa Yoga), as well as Bikram, Hot and Power Yoga. These forms of yoga will move comparatively swiftly from one pose to the next, limiting your ability to lengthen any of them.
If you are a yoga beginner, be careful in joining any of these yoga classes as they can quickly take you beyond your abilities. Start slowly and take breaks if and when required.
Slower yoga styles
Slower yoga styles include Hatha and Iyengar Yoga. These yoga styles focus on the slow and structured development of individual yoga poses, using modifications and props.
You can take time to develop and hold individual poses at your own pace.
Any slow yoga or gentle yoga classes will also progress much more slowly – including slow Vinyasa Yoga classes. This will give students time to get into and hold individual yoga poses for longer periods of time.
Lastly, yoga styles such as Yin or Restorative Yoga intentionally extend the holds of yoga poses to achieve stretching to a deeper tissue level, or develop deep relaxation and meditation.
In these instances, yoga poses may be held for many minutes.
The role of mindfulness and breathing
Holding yoga poses is closely connected to mindfulness and the breath.
By focusing the body and mind on the present moment, we can engage deeply with a pose and how it feels. This helps us find the physical and mental strength to extend the hold of a pose.
Practising mindfulness through yoga strengthens us also in other aspects of our lives where focus and awareness is required.
Breathing is an essential part of practicing yoga, too. Deep breathing, in and out, brings oxygen to and energizes the entire body. It also helps us relax so that we can persist in different poses a bit longer each time.
Overall, the question of how long to hold a yoga pose is a very personal one. It depends on factors such as experience and skill level, your personal goals, the difficulty of individual yoga poses and also the yoga style you engage in.
If you are a yoga beginner, you can’t go much wrong with choosing a Hatha, Iyengar, slow or gentle yoga class – they are generally designed for beginners and have the right pace.
Don’t hesitate to inform your yoga teacher about any limitations you may have – they will be able to give you instruction when and where to be careful, and what props you could use to make your life easier.