Here’s How Long You Should Hold a Yoga Pose, Says a 50-Year Expert

A doctor of rehabilitation who's a devout yogi himself reveals the timespan his research has shown delivers you the greatest bodily benefit.

Yoga for wellness

My introduction to yoga happened when I was in college. I suppose I’m hinting at my age a little when I share it was a video on VHS, led by Suzanne Deason—to this day, my favorite yoga instructor.

The video was entitled Yoga Conditioning for Weight Loss. Silly me: in my early twenties, I bought it because I expected (and hoped) the routine would lead me through exercises that would “fire up my metabolism” or some other aggressive fat-burn goal. Instead, it was a slow, gentle ashtanga routine that I found connected my mind with my breathing. It also opened my joints in the most relieving, restoring way and taught me to stop and focus on experiencing the physical sensations. (“Honor any feeling of restriction in your body,” was one of Deason’s directives—in other words, Don’t push. Definitely a new concept for such a motivation-oriented young rookie.)

So for sure this wasn’t the intensive cardio I pushed myself to do in most of my college-era workouts. But this yoga flow became a weekly commitment that my body needed to stretch, and that my mind and spirit relied on for calm, quiet, and re-centering. (And, yes, all this helps manage my tendency to lose focus, eat fast, or start munching when I’m simply craving relaxation.)

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In the 20-plus years since then…obviously at some point, the VHS had to go. Then a few years later, the DVD version I’d ardently located online got scratched. But by then, I’d come to know Deason’s entire flow well enough that I could take myself through it without the video.

Even for years before the pandemic, my yoga practice had become like going to church: I memorized it as well as I know my prayers. And for this small window of the week—often on Mondays, the weekday I try to be extra gentle on myself—this is my moment to pause just to demonstrate this thankful reverence for my wellness; to step away from the whirl of the world and remember that in the 45 minutes I’m engaged in this activity, the universe is taking care of a lot of the issues that I busy myself trying to fix all week.

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“How long should I hold a yoga pose?”

Certainly these days, more and more of us have embraced the makeshift workout at home. Suzanne Deason and I are friends on social media, and at one point I became certified to teach light yoga conditioning myself. Yet, I’ve never asked something I’d always kind of wondered: when I don’t have a teacher to guide me, how long should I actually hold each yoga pose?

Well, recently our team at The Healthy @Reader’s Digest spoke with one of the foremost global authorities on yoga and physical wellness. Dr. Loren Fishman, MD, B.Phil, is a 50-year yoga practitioner himself, as well as a New York City rehabilitation physician who has taught at Columbia University. Dr. Fishman created “the Fishman method” of yoga for osteoporosis, has authored 11 books, and has been an author of, or featured in, about 100 articles in academic or medical journals. So in short? Dr. Fishman has spent much of his career researching the effects of yoga on human health.

His wisdom in A Bone Health Doctor Just Listed the 12 Best Yoga Poses to Strengthen Bones is a can’t-miss. Of these 12 poses, Dr. Fishman has shared with us: “The poses should be done daily, and held for between 12 seconds (minimum) and 72 seconds (maximum).” If a minute and 12 seconds sounds like a long time to hold your balance in tree pose, Dr. Fishman advises that 30 seconds on each side “is a good goal.”

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Kristine Gasbarre
Krissy is the senior editor leading content for TheHealthy.com and “The Healthy” section of Reader’s Digest magazine. For two decades she has worked in digital media, books, and magazines and is a #1 New York Times and internationally bestselling ghostwriter. Her work has been featured in Reader’s Digest, People, the New York Times, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), Sirius/XM Oprah Radio, and more. With degrees in psychology and cultural media studies, she assisted with a clinical research project at the Cleveland Clinic and is a certified group fitness instructor, the owner of two irresistible rescued dogs, and the partner of a physician leader in healthcare quality who is also a stage IV lymphoma survivor.