Fitness

Real Talk: Is 20 Minutes Of Yoga Enough For A Good Workout?

Here’s what experts say.

Is 20 minutes of yoga a day enough in order to reap the benefits? Experts weigh in.
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Even though it feels really good to roll out a mat and luxuriate in a lengthy stretch, committing to an hour of yoga isn’t always feasible. Heck, you might not even have time for a half hour, which can leave you wondering if 20 minutes of yoga is enough in order to still reap the fitness modality’s many benefits.

The verdict? In many cases, 20 minutes of yoga is plenty, says Tess Ball, a yoga instructor, fitness studio owner, and founder of Shift: Movement Accountability Club. If your goal is to reconnect with your body, de-stress after a meeting, or simply fit more movement into your day, 20 minutes on the mat is really all you need, Ball tells Bustle.

When it comes to yoga, it isn’t so much about how long you practice but how often, adds yoga teacher Anja Brierley Lange. “Having a regular practice is better than nothing at all,” she says. If all you have is 20 minutes, don’t let it hold you back from doing a downward dog or two. “If you enjoy the movement part or breathing practices, you can just [do a little at a time],” she says. That might mean 20 minutes of yoga in the morning, at night, or after lunch — whenever the mood strikes.

If you’re looking for a vigorous yoga workout, however, you’d be better off with a longer session. “For those folks, 20 minutes is probably not enough,” Ball tells Bustle. You’ll likely need 45 minutes to an hour to truly break a sweat. That said, here’s what you can expect from a quick 20 if that’s all the time you have.

What Does 20 Minutes Of Yoga Do?

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Give yourself about 20 minutes to bend, stretch, and breathe, and you’ll likely notice a big difference in how you feel. “Just 15 minutes of diaphragmatic breathing, a core tenet of yoga, has the potential to reduce cortisol, improve mental performance, and reduce stress,” Ball says. A 20-minute yoga session can also reset your posture, which is a great perk if you sit or stand for hours on end at work, they add. “The physical practice of yoga moves nearly every muscle and joint in directions they don't usually move,” Ball says, so it’s bound to feel good.

Just 20 minutes of yoga can also improve your flexibility, strength, and balance, says Winter Harvey, a certified yoga teacher and owner of Crown Point Journeys. “This can be achieved through a variety of yoga poses, such as downward-facing dog, warrior, and tree pose,” she tells Bustle. “These poses can stretch and strengthen various muscle groups, helping to improve overall physical function.”

Doing yoga on a regular basis — even if it’s just for 20 minutes — can also have a positive impact on your joints. “Many yoga poses involve gentle, controlled movements that help to keep the joints lubricated and mobile,” Harvey says. So it’s a win for your body’s mobility overall.

Beyond the physical benefits, showing up on your mat for those 20 minutes sends a pretty sweet message to your brain. “It can help to reduce stress and anxiety and promote a sense of well-being,” says Harvey. It’s also an ideal way to give yourself some “me” time. “Regularly practicing yoga, even in short 20-minute sessions, reinforces the idea that you're worthy of taking time for yourself and that your body matters,” Ball says. “Over time, that builds confidence, self-worth, and self-trust.”

How To Make The Most Out Of A 20-Minute Yoga Session

You can do a lot in just 20 minutes. Harvey recommends either focusing on a few key poses that’ll target an area that feels tight or going for a general full-body flow. For the latter, she suggests warming up with a few neck rolls, shoulder rolls, and wrist stretches, followed by moves like a heart-opening camel or cobra pose, before finishing with a seated forward bend or child’s pose. When you’re done, “take a few minutes to sit in silence and connect with your breath,” she suggests. It just might feel like you did an hour-long class, even though it was over in a flash.

Studies referenced:

Deepeshwar, S. (2018). Effect of Yoga Based Lifestyle Intervention on Patients With Knee Osteoarthritis: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Front Psychiatry. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00180.

Garcia, MG. (2021). Impact of 10-Min Daily Yoga Exercises on Physical and Mental Discomfort of Home-Office Workers. Hum Factors. doi: 10.1177/00187208211045766.

Ma, X. (2017). The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults. Front Psychol. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00874.

Shohani, M. (2018). The Effect of Yoga on Stress, Anxiety, and Depression in Women. Int J Prev Med. doi: 10.4103/ijpvm.IJPVM_242_16.

Sources:

Tess Ball, yoga instructor, fitness studio owner, founder of Shift: Movement Accountability Club

Anja Brierley Lange, yoga teacher, Ayurvedic practitioner

Winter Harvey, 1,000-hour yoga alliance-certified yoga teacher, owner of Crown Point Journeys