How to Develop a Sustainable Yoga Practice

A bended woman touching her feet with her arms on a yoga mat.Sep 1, 2023

By: Caroline Young, MS, RD, LD, RYT

Yoga is everywhere.

In most major cities, there is a yoga studio on what seems like every corner, and it is hard to find a small town without one these days. And since COVID, online yoga communities and teachers have grown like wildfire. Search “yoga” on Instagram and you will find endless posts of people moving their bodies into every yoga pose imaginable.

As a yoga teacher for over a decade now, it excites me that yoga only continues to grow in popularity. At the same time, I run into so many people who think they don’t have what it takes to develop a regular yoga practice. Whether it’s they don’t have time, physical flexibility or the “right” body, something gets in the way. If you can relate, I’d like to clear some things up because yoga is possible for everyone. Please consult with your doctor before starting any physical yoga practice.

What is yoga and why is it good for us?

Yoga is an ancient practice that began more than 5,000 years ago in India. In short, it began as a spiritual development practice to unite body, mind and spirit, and enhance self-awareness. Although poses are what we typically think of when we think of yoga, they are only one aspect of yoga. In fact, they are one eighth of yoga! There are seven other aspects, or “limbs”, of yoga, that go along with the physical practice. Some of them are breathing techniques, meditation, ethical living with the external world and personal practices to improve our relationships to ourselves.

One of the reasons I love yoga is because it can benefit us on multiple levels. Physically, yoga can help with improving balance, aiding digestion, lowering blood pressure and heart rate, quitting smoking, connecting more to our bodies, relieving back and neck pain, relieving headaches, managing arthritis and build muscular strength. Mentally and emotionally, yoga can help with improving sleep, confidence and concentration, and managing stress, anxiety and depression.

How do I create a practice I can sustain?

A yoga practice can look completely different from one person to the next – it is a personal practice meant to enhance and enrich our lives. In my opinion, there is no one right or wrong way to practice yoga. Here are some tips keep in mind:

For physical yoga

1. Choose the type of physical practice(s) that works for you and your body

This can take some time to discover if you are starting out for the first time with yoga. There is a yoga practice for all body types and sizes, and you do not have to be flexible to start!

There are several general types and traditions of yoga practices:

  • Hatha yoga: basic, typically slower moving practice
  • Vinyasa yoga: a flowing practice, matching breath to movement
  • Bikram or hot yoga: heated, more intense type of practice
  • Ashtanga or power yoga: strengthening practice that typically moves quicker than others
  • Yin yoga: floor practice, focused on stretching the body in longer held postures
  • Restorative yoga: relaxing floor practice, using props like pillows and blocks
  • Gentle yoga: slower and gentler version of Hatha and Vinyasa practicesThe type of practice you choose will likely change as your preferences and body naturally change.

You can try combining different types of practices which complement each other, such as a restorative practice alternating with a power practice. And keep in mind that some or all types of yoga practices may be contraindicated in certain medical situations. Please consult with your doctor before starting any physical yoga practice.

2. Make sure your body is fueled properly

Like any other physical activity, maintaining a regular physical yoga practice requires adequate nourishment beforehand and afterwards. Shoot for a snack 30 minutes to two hours before your practice – my favorite pre-yoga snack is a banana, which is a simple carbohydrate for quick digestible energy, paired with a spoonful of peanut butter for sustained energy. Afterwards, try to have a snack within about 30-45 minutes, combining any carbohydrate source with a protein source for energy replenishment and muscle recovery. If it’s mealtime shortly after your practice, go for a balance of food groups, including grains (like noodles or a bagel), protein (like chopped peanuts or yogurt), fat (like olive oil or peanut butter), veggies (like snap peas or sliced cucumber) or fruit (like mango or strawberries), and a source of dairy (like a glass of milk or a cheese stick).

3. Decide if you prefer a home practice or an in-studio practice

Now that it has become safer to practice in studios again since the pandemic started, we have the choice of staying at home for our practices or venturing out to a studio. I find the best way to figure this out is to explore and try both options, if possible. Sometimes, a hybrid situation – combining home practice with in-studio practice – can also feel right.

For home practices, there are an abundance of low-cost or free guided options, from teachers offering real-time classes to others offering recorded practices on YouTube and phone apps to do when it works for your schedule. Try some out and see what works for you.

For in-studio practices, a quick online search will help you see what your community offers. Most studios have their pricing and schedules on their websites, and some studios and teachers will offer donation-based classes. Once you visit a studio, notice how you feel there, if the types of classes they offer match your abilities and preferences, and if it’s a place you want to visit on a regular basis, or not.

4. Schedule your practice and commit to it

Treat it like any other appointment or date on your calendar. Your physical yoga practice can be one to seven days a week -- five minutes, 30 minutes, 60 minutes or whatever feels good and fits into your schedule. From my experience with myself, my clients and students, starting small is usually the most effective way to start. Some yoga is better than no yoga!

What keeps me committed to my physical yoga practice is the relaxation it provides for me, both physically and mentally. Your “why” may be different than mine and that’s OK. Once you find your yoga groove, your biggest personal benefit will likely become clear. Keep coming back to that benefit, whenever you forget why you practice, to help you stay committed.

Non-physical yoga

Practice breathing techniques

From simply noticing the inhale and the exhale to more complex breath practices, practicing breath techniques is another way to practice yoga. Often, teachers will integrate breath work into physical classes, but they can also be taught and practiced entirely on their own. Similar to physical home practices, you can find guided breath practices online.

Practice meditation

There are what seems like a million types of meditation to choose from, including mindfulness meditation, chakra meditation, mantra meditation and loving kindness meditation. Most forms of meditation require a relatively quiet space and a comfortable posture (whether you are sitting or lying), a focused attention (depending on the meditation, it may be breath, a word or an object) and a nonjudgmental approach to thoughts and distractions. An easy place to start is an app – my fave is Calm.

Practice non-violence towards yourself and others

As I mentioned, one of the eight limbs of yoga includes ethical principles, and more specifically, non-violence. Broadly, this means taking care of ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally, and practicing kindness and compassion towards ourselves and others. Take some time to reflect on what non-violence means more specifically in your life.

Practice gratitude and acceptance

And another one of the eight limbs of yoga includes personal practices like finding contentment within ourselves, instead of constantly reaching for external sources or waiting for certain events to happen to feel better. In my opinion, the best place to start here is developing a daily gratitude list, to help you remember what is good in your life right now.

Whether you decide to try a non-physical yoga practice, physical one or a combination of the two, it’s all yoga. Your practice is allowed to ebb and flow and to change as you change, both physically and otherwise. If we circle back to why yoga even exists in the first place, we can remember it is always meant to help us find a greater sense of ease and peace within our skin and our lives.

Caroline L. Young, MS, RD, LD, RYT, is a nutrition coach, yoga teacher and freelance journalist. Caroline is owner and founder of Whole Self Nutrition (WSN), LLC, which provides online nutrition therapy and coaching for people struggling with disordered eating, eating disorders, or chronic dieting, and people who want to develop healthier relationships to food, body and exercise. Within WSN, Caroline provides online public and private online yoga groups, and media services including writing and webinars. WSN's mission is to help people feel at ease in their skin and empowered around food, and live in alignment with their values.


  1. “Yoga: What You Need to Know.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Aug. 2023,
  2. “Yoga for Health: Medlineplus Medical Encyclopedia.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 11 Aug. 2022,
  3. MyPlate, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Accessed 8 Feb. 2024.
  4. “Meditation and Mindfulness: What You Need to Know.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 2022,

Our Recent News

Everithing about peanut

Discover more news