How Long Should You Hold Hatha Yoga Poses?

hatha yoga posesBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP

Many practitioners practice Hatha Yoga poses, but often wonder how long each pose should be held. During the process of holding Yoga poses (asanas), there is actually no definitive amount of time that should be applied to each move. The asana should be held as long as it is comfortable and does not cause any pain or discomfort. In addition, it should be quite easy to breathe deeply and fully while holding each Yoga pose.

 

There is a misconception that pain should be felt during these Hatha Yoga poses. However, it is best for the person, who is practicing, to only hold them as long as there is no pain, and they are fully comfortable. As long as your body is comfortable, the asana can be held for minutes at a time. In fact, for restorative purposes, it is recommended to hold the poses for intervals of 60 seconds, while deep breathing is practiced. Deep breathing helps open up the ribs and helps stretch the spine.

Another way to determine how long to hold the position is to breathe in and out, up to five times during the process of holding an asana, but only if the position can be held without discomfort. Remember, the main focus is to be able to accomplish the pose while maintaining a comfortable position. Understanding safety during physical Yoga practice is vital to accomplishing these asanas, without causing any damage to the body. It is crucial to understand that practicing Hatha Yoga poses is not a race, and taking the time to do the asana correctly is much more important than holding a pose for any amount of time.

 

There are some Hatha Yoga poses that are not meant to be done for minutes at a time. It is not always true that holding a pose for an extended amount of time is better. For example, the Peacock Pose (Mayurasana), the Eagle Pose (Garudasana), and the Crow Pose (Kakasana), are asanas that might not be executed for very long time, due to their ability to cause internal or external strain.

All of the meditative poses, however, can be held for longer periods of time, without any complications. For these types of postures, it is actually beneficial to retain the asana without needing to take a break. These poses include the Easy Pose (Sukhasana), the Corpse Pose (Shavasana), and the Thunderbolt Pose (Vajrasana). Asanas are meant to strengthen the mind and spirit, while toning the body, in a safe progressive manner.

 

There are many types of Hatha Yoga, which have many different objectives and purposes. A Hatha flow class is paced similar to Vinyasa. These classes inhale into one pose and exhale into another. Restorative and Iyengar are Hatha sub-styles that hold asanas longer for many reasons such as building awareness, strength, and flexibility. Yin style classes hold postures for one to five minutes depending on the lesson plan. Yin teachers often state that their style is not part of the Hatha family.

Nevertheless, there are a variety of reasons why timing differs, including the fact that classes and Hatha Yoga poses today are under strict time constraints. A lunchtime class, during the week, is likely to have strict time limits. This creates a busy atmosphere, makes Vinyasa classes popular, and tends to shorten holding time throughout a lunchtime class. Getting back to: “How long should you hold a yoga pose?” It’s clear this is a large subject, but we know it depends on the style, teacher, time constraints, and objective of our practice.

 

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