Many of us come to a yoga class with a goal in mind: to improve. Because of that, we give ourselves timelines as to when we should achieve that goal. Then, we ask ourselves and our yoga teachers how long it take to master yoga and what we should do. But maybe the question we should be asking is whether we can really become masters of yoga. And if we do have the chance, how long does it take to master yoga?
How Long Does It Take to Master Yoga?
No matter what your goal of practicing yoga is, there will never be one correct answer.
That is because many variables affect how yoga can improve your flexibility, help you lose weight, or how you can master yoga, or become a teacher.
The only thing that is correct in yoga, no matter your goal, is effort. So, you have to put in the effort to achieve what you want out of this practice.
As Kino McGregor, world-renowned yoga teacher and author would say, “Yoga is a path of effort.” Unfortunately, there is no timeline as to how many days or weeks you will master yoga.
In short, it’s all about the effort. There is really no definite answer. However, the more you practice yoga, the closer you are to your goal. So, if you practice asanas three times a week, you will improve faster than if you only practice once a week.
The same goes for other limbs of yoga, such as pranayama and meditation.
5 Ways to Improve Your Yoga Practice
As established above, you cannot master yoga and cannot timeline how long it will take you to practice yoga. But you can advance in your practice. Here are some ways you can do that.
Consistency Is Key
Consistency is key to improving whatever skill or technique. The same goes for yoga. You have to be consistent in your practice until it becomes a habit.
Practice yoga at least three times a week, and you will see improvement in your focus, flexibility, and strength. You may even realize your perspective in life is also improving.
Practice Even Outside Your Mat
Yoga is a way of life. It doesn’t start and end in and out of your mat and the yoga studio. The way you breathe throughout stressful situations in life is yoga. The way you focus on washing the dishes is yoga. When you are mindful of whatever you are doing in your life, you are doing yoga.
Go Beyond the Asanas
If you started yoga to increase your flexibility and strength and nail a handstand, that is great. But know that yoga is more than just the asanas.
If you want to improve in your practice, try different pranayamas (breathing exercises), meditation styles and practices, and different styles of yoga. Also, learn about yoga philosophies such as Yamas and Niyamas and live your life according to this philosophy.
There are so many workshops out there that will teach you more about yoga. Find the aspect of yoga that you love and join workshops that will teach you more about this aspect. Workshops can refine and improve your practice. They also allow you to meet like-minded yogis who may become your friends.
Accept Your Limitations
No matter how much you try to do a wheel pose, a handstand, and other yoga asanas, some of them just aren’t accessible to you because of your bone structure and other factors.
As for meditation, you don’t have to force yourself to visualize the object, the yoga instructor said in yoga class. If you can’t do it because your mind keeps on wandering, that’s fine. It’s normal for your mind to do that. So, you accept that’s how the mind works, and once you notice it’s wandering, you come back to the present moment.
Accepting your physical and mental limitations is an improvement. You are practicing non-attachment or aparigraha to the idea that your body and mind should do a specific task or pose. Acceptance and change in perspective is an improvement that you cannot visually measure in yoga.
How to Improve Your Asanas
You can see and feel improvement in yoga postures. That’s why it’s easy to master it. While yoga is more than just the asanas, improving in this aspect comes with a wide range of benefits.
Here are some tips on how you can enhance your yoga postures.
Ever heard your yoga teacher saying, “Root down”? Rooting down from the ground helps you to be stable in your asanas. Whatever is your foundation, feet in standing poses, hands in arm balances, sitting bones in seated poses, imagine you have roots gripping the ground.
This way, you become conscious of your foundation and be more stable.
Using props doesn’t mean you lack skills. On the contrary, using props can make some poses more challenging, which builds strength and flexibility and improves your yoga asana practice.
Props also help you access yoga asanas that may otherwise not be accessible to you because of your bone or joint structure if not for the use of props.
Experiment in yoga asana practice. Try different ways to get into yoga postures. Ask your yoga teacher to guide you in other sequences. Or look for another yoga instructor offering another style of yoga. Your regular practice may not be challenging for you once you consistently do it, so try new things.
Improve Your Pranayama Practice
Pranayama or breathing exercise is another essential aspect of yoga that you can control and measure. There are three stages to this limb of yoga.
3 Stages of Pranayama
Inhalation is as crucial as exhalation. It fills up your lungs and your whole body with oxygen. It is the first stage of pranayama, known as Puraka. You do this by breathing in through the nostrils.
In the stage of Puraka, you expand the lungs and stretch the intercostal muscles to make way for the diaphragm to come down. The force, depth, and duration of inhalation depend on your capacity.
Rechaka is the stage of exhalation in pranayama. It is voluntary and controlled. Depending on the type of pranayama you are practicing, the duration and force of the exhalation may be slow, deep, and long, or fast and forceful.
In the Rechaka phase, the duration should be adjusted so that the following Puraka is not hurried. You should not feel any “air hunger” during this stage.
Kumbhaka or breath retention is the stage of pranayama in which the practitioner voluntarily retains the breath. There are two types of breath retention: antara and bahya. Antara is when you keep the breath after you inhale, and bahya is when you retain the breath after the exhalation.
At the start of your yoga journey, most teachers will avoid teaching you pranayama, so you can focus on maintaining the inhales and the exhales. However, once you practice pranayama without straining, the teacher will let you advance by introducing Kumbhaka. This phase is when you start to advance your pranayama practice.
To practice Kumbhaka, you have to follow the 1-1-2 ratio. It means your Puraka and Kumbhaka are of the same length, and your exhale is twice as long. So, for example, you inhale for four seconds, retain the breath for four seconds, and exhale for eight seconds.
Kumbhaka should be gradually practiced, so the respiratory center or the lungs can stand the higher concentration of carbon dioxide in the body. It should also be practiced with the guidance of a qualified yoga teacher.
To improve your pranayama practice, you should practice different types of pranayama and Kumbhaka. But you should avoid breath retention if you are or have any of the following:
- Under 12 years old
- At least six months pregnant
- Cardiac issues
- Abdominal inflammation
Yoga is a practice that is endless and not linear. Because of this, we will never know when or if we can become yoga masters.