If you’re looking to get on track this year with an exercise routine, you should definitely consider yoga.
I’ve covered the pros and cons of yoga in detail, but the short version is: There are a lot more pros than cons!
Still, just knowing something is good for you doesn’t necessarily motivate you. In my experience, seeing results is the best form of motivation around.
So what results can you expect after your first month of regular yoga practice?
While yoga is an excellent workout, don’t expect major weight loss during your first month if you’re not making big changes to your eating habits. The biggest benefits are, without a doubt, drastically increased flexibility and mobility, and an improved mental state.
I spoke with a handful of yoga teachers, personal trainers, and regular folks about what you should expect if you commit to regular yoga practice for 30 days.
Let’s take a look!
Can yoga help you lose weight and get lean?
But your practice alone, especially just one month’s worth, won’t be enough on its own.
After all, “Weight loss is heavily dependent on what (your) nutrition looks like as 80% of our body composition is made in the kitchen,” according to Amanda Webster, a certified yoga instructor.
In other words, yoga won’t make you magically drop pounds from your midsection unless you pair it with a diet that includes the proper calories for weight loss, along with a good macronutrient balance for health and nutrition.
Assuming you do everything right (good commitment to exercise and proper nutrition), you can safely lose about 1-2 pounds per week for a total of around 5 pounds in your first month.
How to lose weight is a bigger topic than we can cover fully here, but the basic gist is to eat fewer calories than you burn in a day.
Expect to burn anywhere from 180-460 calories during an hourlong yoga class depending on the intensity of the workout (restorative yoga vs power yoga and everything in between).
To learn more about determining your maintenance calories each day, setting a daily calorie goal, and determining your weight loss target, check out my guide to how much weight to lose.
Muscle Gain & Strength
You can get exceptionally strong over time doing yoga, and while it won’t get you “jacked” on its own, your muscles will likely grow as you progress in your practice.
Not to mention, you’ll develop outrageous core strength and muscle stamina.
But what can you expect after your first month of a few classes per week?
Amanda Webster says “You likely won’t see a difference in muscle size in the first 30 days, but if you are doing full practices of about an hour 3-4 times a week, you will start to see muscle tone.”
Tim Bigknee, a personal trainer, agrees. “Yoga is a strength-building exercise, which means that you’re likely to see a significant improvement in strength if you’re regularly completing a yoga practice,” he says.
“The truth is that this conditioning workout allows you to see visible improvement within just a few weeks. You have to consistently push yourself in each session, but the results are rewarding. ”
Wellness coach and yoga instructor Alexandra Ellis writes that “With a great instructor, you’ll learn proper mechanics to help strengthen your upper and lower body and can expect to see improvements in the muscle tone of your shoulders and legs.”
For the best strength results, push for progressive overload.
In lifting weights, that means lifting more weight for more reps over time.
In yoga, it translates to holding more advanced poses, for longer, with better form.
Flexibility, Mobility & Joint or Back Pain
The flexibility and mobility gains are one of the major benefits of doing yoga vs other forms of exercise.
If you’re tight and want to limber up or want to make your body more pliable as you age, yoga is definitely the way to go.
Can you see major progress in regard to flexibility in just one month of yoga practice?
Definitely! In fact, this is probably what you’ll notice the most within your first 30 days.
Tim Bigknee writes: “With consistent effort you can see improvements in flexibility in just a few days of your yoga journey.”
“Our muscles have significant muscle memory which means that with regular stretching both joint pain and flexibility should be improved. Those who are unable to touch their toes at the beginning of the month should notice an improvement after 30 days, if not less.”
Alexandra Ellis adds that your first month of yoga will be extremely challenging if you’re tight from sitting at a desk all day, but the rewards will be worth it:
“The long-held stretches typical in yoga help to relax muscles and fascia. … If you’ve been struggling with lower back pain or neck tension and headaches, yoga is a beneficial way to bring relief to these areas.”
“If your muscles are tight and inflexible due to immobility, 30 days is absolutely enough to notice yourself going deeper into poses. I have seen students gain inches with their forward folds in that amount of time,” writes instructor Amanda Webster.
Group fitness and yoga instructor Jessica Cerato puts it this way:
“After a few weeks that pose you really struggled with on your first day will come with greater ease. As you move your body, circulation will improve and inflammation in your joints will decrease allowing you to go deeper into poses and develop more muscle.
“You will be able to bend more deeply and reach higher when doing everyday tasks.”
Mind and Mood
Unlike running, lifting weights, or cranking out calories on the elliptical, yoga trains your mind in addition to your body.
Expect to spend time working on breath control, mind-body connection, meditation, and mindfulness in your classes.
Will you actually feel different after your first 30 days of practicing yoga?
“Research reveals that regular practice can help to reduce anxiety and stress while increasing positive feelings and self-awareness,” writes trainer Tim Bigknee.
Alexandra Ellis adds that you might find yourself unwinding and sleeping better after just a few practices.
“The focus on deep breathing and relaxation at the end of every class will also help your nervous system to unwind from the stress of your day, which will also help you sleep better.
“Sleep is so critical to brain health, cognitive function, healing and more, so if you’re sleeping better, you’ll be feeling better overall!”
Amanda Webster says the psychological benefits of yoga are almost immediate.
“You are more conscious of your body, thus you tend to notice when you are tensing your shoulders or your jaw and you relax it. You are more likely to resort to breathing or being mindful when faced with conflict, as Yoga also teaches you to welcome discomfort and reflect on how to best settle into it and work through it.”
Instructor Jessica Cerato says you’ll notice an immediately increased sense of awareness, and will be better able to clear your mind and focus.
What other people are saying about their one-month yoga results
Here are a few odds and ends and notes from the other people I spoke with about their yoga experiences.
Yoga teacher Salila Sukumaran had become sedentary and hadn’t practiced yoga in years.
Then, after an intensive 300-hour teacher training (multiple practices per day), she noticed (in her own words):
- Noticeable gain in muscle definition and strength
- Noticeable gain in posture correction, my bones stacked better
- Noticeable improvement in stamina to hold poses longer, to go on hard treks.
- No more back pain from hunching over a laptop.
- Noticeable improvement in lung capacity, the ability to breathe in, hold and exhale.
- Improved sleep
- Improved hunger
- Deeper meditations
- Seeing beauty in all
- Better proprioception, I am usually clumsy and knock into things, get bruised etc.
- I am naturally stiff and flat footed, I was able to bend deeper and stay balanced after a month of daily yoga.
Roger Southam, 57, took up yoga to improve his mobility for golf. The results blew away his expectations.
“Over the first month found that I was more supple, lost excess weight and had gained a waist for the first time in my life! I feel fitter, more active and have increased energy. I thought I had good energy before but the difference is fantastic.”
Brianna Fitzgerald tried her hand at a 30-day yoga challenge (practice every day for a month) and found:
“I noticed differences such as increased strength, energy, metabolism, and weight loss. My spine was stronger and so was my core. My flexibility increased little by little each day,” she writes.
“I could see a difference in my arms, calves, and my core. By the 30th day, I was able to complete my practice with less effort.”
Sherrell Moore-Tucker, a yoga and meditation teacher, cautions you might be sore after your first month if you’re new to yoga and exercise in general. But the good news is…
Beginners may experience… “Increase in bowel elimination from twists, forward folds and spinal extensions,” she writes.
(That’s better poopin’ in plain English.)
In your first month of dedicated yoga practice (meaning, at least a handful of sessions per week with good effort and intensity), expect to experience:
- Serious improvement in flexibility, and potentially less back and joint pain
- A better sense of mindfulness, lower stress levels, and potentially better sleep at night
Over time, you may build muscle, lose weight, or both (with the proper diet) and deepen your practice in a number of ways.
But those first couple of sessions can do wonders for reducing stiffness in your body and helping you reach a more meditative state.
What did I miss? What did you learn or experience after your first 30 days of trying yoga?