How Long Do I Hold A Yoga Pose?

The world of yoga can be intimidating, especially for newbies. There are dozens of specific, uniquely named poses, flows, and styles, which can be complicated in the beginning. Multiple questions usually arise, each involving a slightly different aspect of yoga, but one of the most common questions involves the duration of each pose. 

So, how long should you hold a yoga pose? Does it matter? Several factors go into answering this question, so continue reading to learn more!

Is There A Specific Amount Of Time To Hold A Yoga Pose?

No, for the most part, there isn’t a set amount of time you need to hold a yoga pose to reap the benefits of the practice. A few guidelines can help you determine the best timeframe you should hold the move for, but it isn’t an exact science. 

Generally, you should hold a yoga pose anywhere from a few seconds up to five minutes. Many yogis measure time in breaths:

  • Three breaths are considered a short hold time. 
  • Five breaths are considered a medium hold time. 
  • Eight or more breaths is considered a long hold time.

Breath times vary from person to person, so the duration of each hold can drastically differ from one person to the next. For example, some people have 6-second breaths, with 3-second inhales, and 3-second exhales. On the other hand, other folks have 10-second breaths, so their holds last longer. 

Which Hold Time Is Best?

The best hold time to practice throughout your yoga flow hinges on a few factors. Each option has its benefits, with short hold times and long hold times on each end of the spectrum. You can easily determine the best amount of time to hold each pose by evaluating your goals. 

Short Hold Times

Short hold times are excellent for warming up cold muscles and activating your mind. Active yoga poses and twists are a common way to go about this, as they focus your mind on muscle activation and preparing for an intense workout. 

Additionally, short hold times can give you an extra energy boost, making them an ideal option for a quick session to stimulate your sympathetic nervous system. This gives you a quick, easy, and natural way to increase your energy levels. 

Or, if you’re feeling sore, tired, or worn out, you can always opt for a shorter hold period to relieve your muscles. The limited hold period won’t challenge your muscle endurance, but you can still get in a workout while simultaneously challenging your flexibility and encouraging your muscles toward recovery. 

Long Hold Times

If your goals prioritize building strength, muscle endurance, superior muscle activation, and body awareness, or recovery and passive flexibility, longer hold times might be the better choice. Holding yoga poses for longer durations helps challenge your body, forcing it to work toward your fitness goals, whether you’re focusing on muscle endurance or active recovery. 

The specific duration of the hold hinges on additional factors, like the difficulty of the pose. For the most part, you should hold the pose anywhere from three to six ten-second breaths, which translates to 30- to 60-second holds. For maximum benefits, try to hold the challenging poses for about one minute. 

When combined with optimal technique and deep breathing, longer hold times translate to several benefits, including:

  • Excellent standalone workout – The longer hold period challenges you and raises your heart rate, allowing you to get in a great workout. 
  • Train balance – If you struggle with balance, challenging yourself to hold poses longer is a great way to improve your balance. 
  • Better strength and endurance – Long hold times target your overall endurance, as the pose becomes harder to maintain as your muscles fatigue. 
  • Superior technique and body awareness – Lengthened hold times help you better your technique by focusing on body awareness throughout the pose. The longer you hold each pose, the more muscle fibers are activated, translating to better muscle activation. 
  • Improved mobility – Remaining in an engaged pose for prolonged periods stretches the antagonistic muscles of the pose, allowing you to improve your flexibility and mobility while simultaneously targeting strength and endurance. 

How To Decide Hold Times In Yoga

Ultimately, the amount of time you hold a pose in your yoga flow is up to you. If you’re new to yoga, you may be unfamiliar with your body and its capabilities. Or, maybe you’re trying a new flow and are unsure of how long to hold each pose. 

Either way, here are a few aspects to consider.

Physical And Mental Wellbeing

Pay attention to how you feel, both physically and mentally. We, as humans, aren’t built to go-go-go nonstop, so it’s crucial to remain attentive to what your body is telling you. Before you start your session, as yourself, “How am I feeling?” 

Take note of your physical state – how your body feels and if you notice muscle soreness, pain, or joint discomfort. Perhaps you’re feeling particularly sore or tired from other factors in your life or a challenging workout the previous day but still want to exercise today. 

Remember, not every workout needs to be an absolute sweat-fest, with intense muscle burning and prolonged holds. If you’re feeling worn out, take a step back and focus on recovery. Challenging your muscles to the point of overexertion can set you back, so prioritize your overall well-being and focus on a slower, recovery-based flow. 

If you’re feeling mentally drained, consider prioritizing recovery as well. Many folks find it beneficial to focus on their physical health on days their mental health takes a toll. Movement is good for your mind. Even if you don’t feel up to an intense yoga flow, consider moving through a slower-paced session.

Fitness Level

Your fitness level is an essential aspect to consider when deciding the best hold time. Yoga beginners generally struggle to hold poses for more extended periods of time, especially if you have no background in something similar. While gymnasts or dancers may find yoga poses particularly easy, folks unfamiliar with these types of exercise tend to find them challenging. 

This is entirely okay – we all start somewhere! If you’re new to yoga, start with short holds, even if it’s only a few seconds. It might seem like it takes a long time to achieve long, drawn-out holds, but remember, practice is essential for progress. Keep practicing, and soon enough, you’ll be crushing your goals. 

Pose Difficulty

The difficulty of the pose goes hand in hand with your fitness level. Experienced yogis tend to gravitate toward difficult poses to challenge their fitness. However, those same poses may seem entirely unapproachable to beginners. 

If you’re new to yoga, start with entry-level poses. Once you master those, incorporate new, more challenging poses, slowly building your yoga portfolio. Additionally, remember to listen to your body throughout the poses – pay attention to how you feel and stop if you think you’re overexerting yourself. 

Your Age

As our bodies age, holding yoga poses may become more difficult. Although folks that keep up with their mobility and strength over the years may not notice a major shift in difficulty, it’s a common problem. Folks who haven’t kept up with these areas may find certain poses taxing and difficult. 

If you’re starting to prioritize your health, no matter what age you’re at, remember to start slow. Use assistance (like a sturdy chair) for extra balance until you build enough strength to do it on your own. It might take a while, but with practice and diligence, you’ll get there!

Type Of Yoga

The type and style of yoga you practice also impact the hold time. Certain types of yoga, like vinyasa or restorative, require longer hold times to reap the pose’s benefits. For example, a vinyasa class generally involves flowing between postures, sometimes only allowing one pose to be held at a time. 

On the other hand, in other types of yoga, like Hatha Yoga, you might hold the same pose for much longer.