Research: This Is How Often You Should Practice Yoga To Reap the Body Acceptance Benefits

A University of Minnesota researcher explains how just a little yoga is helping enthusiasts transform their body images in massive ways.

If it’s already part of your routine, you’re probably aware of a few impressive physical benefits of yoga, like loosening tight muscles, opening your joints, strengthening your core, and more. At the end of a yoga session, you also probably feel greater peace (three cheers for that calmer heart rate)—but research also suggests practicing yoga with a certain frequency can yield a body image-enhancing effect.

Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, MPH, a professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, led a longitudinal study that asked research participants about their yoga practice—as well as the frequency of it. The result was that some reported feeling mental “satisfaction” toward their body image, including when their body shape remained stable.

The Healthy @Reader’s Digest spoke with Dr. Neumark-Sztainer about her research. Turns out, her findings revealed just the start of what a yoga practice can really do to possibly love yourself more.

30 minutes of yoga each week can make a difference—and here’s what matters most

Within her research through Project EAT (a body of research examining weight-related challenges among diverse young people), Dr. Neumark-Sztainer specifically focused on the mental benefits an individual would have with a regular yoga practice. Her discovery: Those who practiced yoga for an average of at least 30 minutes each week saw benefits.

The professor notes that this type of research can be challenging to quantify, but after evaluating over 1,600 participants, she found that a 30-minute weekly practice can mentally make a difference. Plus, “those who practiced more [experienced] more benefits.”

Here was the most powerful factor, Dr. Neumark-Sztainer says: “If you want to see change, it needs to be a regular practice.” It’s the consistency that seems to catalyze that healthy reset.

Yoga stretches you beyond physical exercise

There are a handful of studies that link practicing yoga and reduced stress levels, but a 2021 study published in Stress Health reported how practicing yoga at least once a week for 12 weeks can make a significant difference.

In the study, participants practiced yoga—which included meditation, breathing exercises, postures, relaxation—for 90 to 115 minutes per session. (Longer times happened earlier in the 12-week study, followed by a half hour of teaching in theory and philosophy.) After, participants reported an improvement in their perceived stress and stress activity.

Separately, NYU School of Medicine found practicing yoga to be more effective than other methods of managing stress and anxiety.

Yoga improves mental clarity and focus

A typical part of yoga practice, meditation can improve brain health with sharper clarity and focus. A 2019 review in Brain Plasticity reported how a frequent yoga practice slows down age-related and neurodegenerative declines.

Harvard Health notes how magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans have even shown how a yoga practice creates new neurological activity, even changing brain structure and improving cognitive skills such as learning and memory.

Yoga benefits physical health and quality life

Along with mental benefits, there are a variety of ways frequently practicing yoga has been linked to improved physical health from a myriad of markers. Studies show how yoga practice can enhance muscular strength, flexibility, respiratory and cardiovascular function, sleep, and can even promote recovery from and treatment of addiction.

Yoga increases body image satisfaction

Just showing up to the mat, then moving through a yoga flow, is proof of how much you love yourself, even on days it might feel hard to do so. 

Ready to also reap the benefits of yoga? If you’re looking to get started with a yoga practice but need to start small, try any of these: 

Sources
Yoga Journal: Get to Know the 8 Limbs of Yoga
Medically reviewed by Latoya Julce RN, BSN, on November 17, 2023

Kiersten Hickman
Kiersten Hickman is a journalist and content strategist with a main focus on nutrition, health, and wellness coverage. She holds an MA in Journalism from DePaul University and a Nutrition Science certificate from Stanford Medicine. Her work has been featured in publications including Taste of Home, Reader's Digest, Bustle, Buzzfeed, INSIDER, MSN, Eat This, Not That!, and more.