Photo Courtesy of NASA
Yoga Poses – How long?
If you research how long to hold your Yoga Poses, you will be met with a myriad of answers which leaves you with no alternative but to make your own decision. What then? How do you determine how long to hold a pose other than counting seconds or “until it gets too painful”?
Many decades ago I asked this same question. Some people gave answers like “number of seconds” or “number of breaths”. After much frustration regarding this issue I created my own system that has served me happily and successfully for a very long time.
Everyone has their own motivations and reasons for practicing Yoga but there is one common denominator for all of us. It is our breath. I Practice a Yoga routine that takes approximately 15 to 30 minutes, depending on my mood and energy level. It incorporates many of the commonly known Hatha Yoga asanas and works on most of my muscles and joints in a relatively gentle manner.
How can it take 15 or 30 minutes, you ask. It is because of the breathing system I created for myself which is very satisfying and also takes the boredom away from counting out 10, 20, or 60 seconds. It is also self-adjusting depending upon my mental and physical condition while doing my routine.
Some people already count breaths, but how do you know how many to count? This is where my system comes in – and it is very simple.
If you are not familiar with Fibonacci numbers (Fnumber) they are the sequence 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89 . . . and so on, where each number is the sum of the previous two numbers. This sequence of numbers is quite famous because it lies at the heart of much natural phenomenon including seashells, sunflowers, the human body and even galaxies in outer space.
What I really like about incorporating this number sequence into my Yoga routine is that it makes me feel like I’m doing something that is an integral part of the workings of the cosmos itself. Whether that is true or not, is not the point. It’s all about how I feel!
Here is the simplicity of it. Yoga is all about stretching and breathing. This is about the breathing part. Despite the body’s tendency to breathe faster under physical exertion, I try to keep my breathing slow and steady. My average breath lasts between 4 and 6 seconds. This will vary for everyone depending upon your physical condition.
Before you try this, you must memorize the Fibonacci numbers up to 55 because these are the ones you will be using during your routine.
When you start each pose, just breath slowly, regularly and mentally count your breaths as you hold the pose. This will keep your awareness focused on your breathing rather than the random mental thoughts that distract from a great Yoga experience. It will also let you know when to end this particular pose.
Here’s how it works: Never stop your pose until you have reached an Fnumber of breaths. Most of the time, for me, that would be 5, 8, 13 or 21. The most common one, for me, is 13. This translates to approximately 40-45 seconds.
When you reach an Fnumber, then make a decision: “do I want to go to the next number?” If the answer is “NO” then stop and go to the next pose. If the answer is “Yes” then hold your pose and keep counting breaths until you reach the next Fnumber and mentally repeat the decision whether to continue. But, don’t stop until you reach the number. If you decide to go from 13 to 21, don’t stop before you reach 21.
That’s the system! It’s very simple
Here is my experience. After you have done this for a while, you will know from experience how long you can hold a pose. It is different for each one, because some are more difficult than others. Some, I can only hold for 5 breaths and others I can do for 21 or even 34 breaths.
Sometimes if I am very tired and I just want to relax my body for sleep, I will go into the routine knowing that I will only hold each pose for 5 breaths. This will usually cause me to quickly fall asleep when I go to bed. Other times when I am full of energy, I will push it as much as I can and even hold some of the poses for 55 breaths.
If you are new to yoga, some poses may only be held for 2 or 3 breaths because the muscle pain is too much to carry on and that is just fine. Time and practice take care of everything.
I do not, and have never, gone to group yoga classes. For me, Yoga is a very personal experience and I do it alone in my own special space in my home. Yoga classes are great for many people; they’re just not for me.
Remember, Yoga is a personal experience and you have your own reasons for doing it. Customize the experience for yourself and your life will be better for it.
Hopefully this system will help cultivate the appreciation and gratitude that leads you to a happy and peaceful life.
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