Q&A with Tom: Optimal Time to Hold Yoga Pose?

I am currently working my through the “Feeling your way through the Lines” webinar. It’s great. I am a yin yoga teacher and am trying to find if there is any research to support the 5-10 minute time frame of being in a yin pose / shape (to target the deep fascia?) – can you direct me to any info on optimal times for a yin yoga pose? Thanks. 


You would have to read contemporary yoga science books to see if such research has been done. I know nothing about 5-10 min specifically – I was taught yoga back in the 70’s when Iyengar recommended 3 minutes.

But I would pose three factors:

1) Individual variation: There isn’t a number that works for everyone. For some, the physiological changes may be done in a shorter time, for others it might be rewarding and delicious to hold the pose for a half hour.

2) Myotatic reflex release: When you first stretch a muscle, its own stretch reflex tries to re-contract the muscle back to its original length – the same effect is on display when the doctor hits your knee with a rubber hammer. If you maintain the stretch, the reflex gives up after a time and the muscle lengthens. Again, that time varies with the person, but mostly with the training. After you have been in a pose for a bit, there’s an ‘Ah!’ feeling as the body relaxes into the pose. That moment will come sooner for the trained yogi, and will take longer for the neophyte. You do not begin to stretch the deep fascia within the muscle until this relaxation occurs, suggesting that new students should hold the pose longer – say, 3 minutes from the ‘Ah’.

3) Move within poses: The ability of the tissue to plastically / visco-elastically deform will depend on local hydration of the specific tissue – IOW, not how much water you drink, but how ‘wet’ is the specific fascia you are challenging to stretch. By not going into your ultimate stretch position, i.e. by only going 75% of your stretch capacity, you may look like the stiffest person in the room in terms of the form of the asana, but you will be able to move within the pose, rather than holding still for the full 10 min. While there may be some value in disciplining yourself to stay still, your body will thank you for the extra hydration gained by moving around within the pose.


–Tom Myers