Patanjali quotes on ‘asana’ (Yoga Pose) as, “Sthira sukham asanam“, which means, “That which is steady and which is comfortable is asana”. As well as the real yoga pose begins when you want to get out of it. Here, both the lines may sound contradictory, it does make absolute sense when we can understand them.
Yoga aims to grow our physical and mental limitations and the real growth happens only beyond the comfort level. As a result, daily practice of holding a yoga pose beyond our comfort level will eventually turn that difficult or uncomfortable level into a comfort level.
Yoga always challenges all your abilities of flexibility, strength, balance, and focus. So, you being able to hold a specific pose for a long time means you are practicing all your key elements and transcending your physical as well as mental capabilities.
How Long Should One Hold Each Yoga Pose?
Generally, you should hold a yoga pose for a set of 3 to 5 long and deep breaths in and out and for just a little longer than what you find comfortable.
Thus, eventually, this count should be increased with consistent practice, keeping in mind to grow the mental and physical limitations as well as not over-exerting our body to injury or fatigue.
3 Durations of Breath Counts for Holding a Yoga Pose
At the same time, different yoga poses have different holding times according to their requirement, and if you immensely force your body to hold a pose more than your body’s capability, then the consequences could be very dire.
Holding time for a mountain pose could be more but for Sirasana could be less as it challenges your body and mind more than the former one. So, here are 3 types of holding time that, generally, plays role in all yoga:
- A short hold time is about 3 breaths
- A medium hold time is about 5 breaths
- A long hold time is 8+ breaths
As the holding time is in breath, it is sure to vary from person to person. For some, 1 cycle of intake and exhale of breath could go up to 30 seconds while for others it could go up to 10 seconds.
So, there is no hard and fast rule in yoga for holding a specific pose. Moreover, all these holding time has their own significance in their own aspects.
Significance of The Duration (Breaths Count) For Holding a Yoga Pose
Here are the benefits and advantages of why one should select a particular duration or count of breath while holding their yoga poses.
1. Short and Medium holding time (3 – 5 Breaths)
Short holding time could give you enough time for a quick yet complete workout and there is more significance while holding for a short time:
- Warm-up and adequate muscle activation
- Endurance is comparatively less so even when you have some bodily pain you can continue your yoga
- Quick energy boast
- Quick mind-calming sessions
- Keeps your flexibility in check
2. Long Holding time (more than 8 breaths)
Long holding time could go up to a minute or two. For restorative yoga, this holding time is necessary and for you to get the results this is necessary. Similarly, there are ample benefits for holding a yoga pose for a long duration.
- Builds strength and endurance
- Improves your ability to balance
- Improves confidence and mental calmness
- Increases bodily awareness and awareness towards one’s breathe
- Makes your body much flexible and strong
Holding time for a recovery-focused element
Yoga focused on relieving tension and passively stretching your body, requires you to hold on to a certain pose for a longer duration. This principle is mostly applicable in terms of restorative yoga, where you are required to hold a pose for 1 to 5 minutes.
However, you need to keep in mind that this process of holding a pose comes with practice. You cannot expect to do a certain pose for the first time and hold it for more than 5 breathes as your body will start shaking and might not be able to hold the stretch resulting in damage of ligament, tendon, or cartilage.
Nonetheless, once you start doing yoga regularly and once you start increasing your holding time, the following benefits are sure to follow:
- Relieve Muscle Soreness
- Relives Tension
- Pain Relief
- Recovery Quicker From Other Workouts
- Improves Flexibility
Various Factors Determining the Duration of Holding a Yoga Pose
1. The level of your fitness
If you have been doing yoga you can slowly increase the rate of 1 breath a day but if you are a beginner 3-breathe is good and enough.
2. Your age
Making a mindset of “age is just a number” is good but we need to take into consideration that with age it is very natural for our ligaments to lose much elasticity. So as you age beyond 40 years, forcing yourself to hold a yoga pose could cause more harm than good.
3. How hard is the pose
Some poses are quite easy to hold for a long time, while some could be quite challenging. So, holding the difficult pose for 3 – breathe is quite enough at times.
4. Your Mental State
If you are not in a calm state of mind, it’s very certain that holding a pose for too long could be an uphill battle. Therefore, it’s very important to understand your body and mind before forcing a task.
5. Any Injury or Any Recovery Phase
If you had any injury and if you are recovering from a certain injury or disease it’s better to hold your yoga pose for a short time as you might end up hurting yourself more.
In the end, yoga is traditionally about going in a flow rather than quick movements or using massive force, so it’s better to listen to your body and slowly increase your holding time through your daily endeavors.