The 10 Best Ways To Measure Your Yoga Progress

It usually is the case that when we learn some new skill, we want to see quick progress. That is what sparks our motivation and helps us to stay the course. The same is true of yoga progress for beginners.

So, how do we measure our yoga progress? Is progress in yoga something we can measure? What are the benefits of monitoring our personal practice, especially at the start?

This post will address these questions by looking at 10 different ways to measure your yoga progress. These include monitoring your physical mobility, strength, stamina, stability, alignment, and balance, as well as less tangible concepts including your mental and emotional well-being, and mind-body connection. Additionally, we will look at the practice of journaling, and the necessity of seeking a supportive community.

Jump ahead to:

Key Takeaways

  • Measure Progress Holistically: Tracking progress in yoga goes beyond physical flexibility; it includes mental and emotional well-being, breath control, and more.
  • Regular Journaling Matters: Maintaining a yoga journal helps monitor your journey, fostering self-awareness, and motivation.
  • Community and Guidance Support Growth: Seek feedback from instructors and join yoga communities for motivation, support, and accountability

Physical Flexibility and Mobility

In the West, our entry point into yoga is often through the physical practice called Asanas. These are the yoga poses we do on our brand new non-toxic yoga mat. Many people begin with the goal of improving flexibility and mobility and yoga is a great way to do so.

1. Asana Development

Almost every beginner will feel like a buffoon on the mat. Yoga asanas have a way of bringing you out of your comfort zone, especially all those twists, inversions, and arm balances! You will be putting your body into positions it may have never experienced before. What your yoga instructor might refer to as basic poses could feel quite insurmountable at first.

However, with regular practice, you will slowly develop the muscular strength and flexibility needed to make different poses more accessible to you.

Some beginner poses worth tracking include:
– Plank Pose
– Downward Dog
– Warrior 2
– Forward Fold
– Supine or Seated Twists
– Bridge Pose
– Child’s Pose

These are foundational poses for building strength and flexibility and therefore improve overall mobility. All can be modified as required with props.

Your first downward dog will be tough. Your 20th will feel much more doable. Make a note of that. 

2. Increased Range of Motion

By engaging in targeted flexibility tests or regular stretches outside of your yoga practice, you can gauge your increased range of motion.

These advancements not only contribute to better performance in other fitness-related activities but also reduce the risk of injuries, highlighting the profound connection between yoga and physical well-being.

YouTube hosts a variety of videos to test your range of motion. Try out PhysioTutors after talking with your trusted medical professional first.

Strength and Stamina

A popular secondary goal in yoga is building strength and stamina. There are a few ways to monitor this on and off the mat.

3. Muscle Strength

Many yoga postures enhance muscle strength. Poses like Downward-facing  Dog, Plank, and Warrior series engage multiple muscle groups, promoting gradual muscle strength development.

Sequences like Sun Salutations can also be effective in building muscle tone. With regular or daily practice you’ll start to notice that pushing back into Downward Dog (which uses strength from core, back, shoulder, and arm muscles) will get smoother. You’ll be able to hold Plank a little longer and a little steadier. Your Warrior 2 will be a little more stable.

Increased muscle strength from yoga extends beyond the mat, improving daily life activities like lifting, posture, and balance. It aids in preventing injuries and supporting joint health. Climbing up and down stairs will feel better on your knees. Better posture will reduce the risk of herniated discs.

4. Endurance and Breath Control

Endurance and breath control are central to yoga’s essence. Pranayama practices, such as Kapalabhati and Ujjayi, enhance lung capacity and oxygen utilization, resulting in improved stamina.

Monitoring breath patterns during yoga sessions is crucial for maintaining mindfulness and ensuring proper technique. Practitioners learn to use breath as a gauge, promoting inner calm and better performance both on and off the mat.

Balance and Stability

Balance and stability are fundamental elements in yoga asana practice. These qualities enhance concentration, coordination, and proprioception (your awareness of where your body is in space).

In yoga, when we think of balance, our mind tends to jump towards the practice of a more intermediate student gracefully holding crow pose without breaking a sweat. In reality, balance and stability are far more nuanced than being able to do advanced poses. As a beginner practitioner, you’ll be able to notice improvements in both fairly quickly, on and off the mat.

5. Standing Poses for Balance

Standing poses like Tree Pose (Vrikshasana) and Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III) challenge balance by requiring a steady foundation and focus. At first, it is highly likely that you’ll use props such as blocks or a wall to help with balance. With practice, you’ll notice less reliance on these as your focus, strength, and body awareness develop.

Off the mat, you might notice feeling steadier in walking, running, or whatever area of your life that requires some kind of balance and stability. For me, I noticed an improvement in my surfing and paddle boarding.

6. Core Strength for Stability

A robust core not only enhances stability but also supports spine health and overall progress. It contributes to better posture, balance in standing poses and inversions, and greater confidence in more challenging poses, underlining its significance in a well-rounded yoga practice.

A strong core is the cornerstone of stability in yoga. It forms the bridge between upper and lower body strength. Core-strengthening poses like Boat Pose (Navasana) and Plank (Phalakasana) target these muscles. Both of these can be quite challenging at first, so take it slow, be kind to yourself, and modify as you need.

You don’t need straight legs in your first boat pose. You don’t even need to lift your feet off the floor. Over time, you’ll be able to lift your feet up and eventually straighten your legs without rounding your lower back.

Plank Pose can be supported with your knees resting on the mat, or even by first doing a forearm plank which many find to be easier at first.

Off the mat, you might notice the effects of yoga progress in your core strength when performing mundane daily activities like sitting down or standing up, getting out of bed, and climbing stairs.

3 tips (keeping a journal, monitoring physical and mental changes, and joining a supportive community) are given to help track your yoga progress at home, suitable for yoga beginners.

Mental and Emotional Well-being

The mental benefits of yoga have long been researched and documented. Whether you are practicing solo at home or in a group setting, you’ll constantly be guided to focus on the present moment.

The benefits of this for your mental health are numerous, and include the much sought-after stress reduction and emotional resilience. Though less tangible than aspects like flexibility and strength, progress in these areas can be measured on and off the mat.

7. Stress Reduction

Yoga is a powerful tool for stress reduction and anxiety management. Through mindful movement and deep breathing, it activates the relaxation response, reducing cortisol levels (the stress hormone).

Consistent yoga practice also enhances mental clarity by calming the mind’s chatter. As you focus more on the breath and then the movement, you become really present in the moment and not on all the what ifs and should haves. This clarity seeps into daily life, making better decisions and finding creative solutions.

Measuring reduced stress can be achieved through self-assessment by monitoring factors like sleep quality, mood, and physical tension both before and after each practice. A reduction in these stress-related symptoms signifies progress and that you have already come a long way, but be prepared not to expect too much too soon. This is a lifelong practice.

8. Emotional Resilience

For me, this has perhaps been one of the most important things to have come out of consistent practice.

A regular practice of yoga will certainly uncover a range of emotions for a lot of people. By being present with the feelings that emerge while on the mat holding a challenging pose, yoga fosters emotional resilience and self-awareness, allowing you to adapt to life’s challenges off the mat. It encourages emotional self-awareness by inviting introspection and self-reflection.

Techniques like journaling and practices like meditation (which usually comes at the end of a well-rounded yoga class) provide a platform to explore what comes up for you during practice.

You might find yourself no longer engaging in petty dramas or salacious gossip, or taking a few deep breaths before responding (not reacting) to a rude colleague or condescending boss.

When difficult emotions do emerge on the mat, remember to focus on the breath and not the pose. This will help restore stability and steadiness in the mind and body – this is the essence of yoga. 

Breath Awareness

Breath awareness is the cornerstone of yoga practice, as it is the bridge between the mind and body. Understanding the importance of breath awareness in yoga is key to unlocking its transformative potential.

9. Noticing and Deepening the Breath

Controlled and rhythmic breathing signifies progress in yoga. It indicates increased awareness, a calm mind, and the ability to navigate challenges on and off the mat. The breath becomes a tool for managing stress, enhancing focus, and achieving a deeper state of yoga practice.

Yoga practitioners are usually guided to breathe through the nose, as this stimulates the rest-and-digest response. On the mat, pay attention to your breath. If you’re feeling out of breath or have started huffing and puffing through the mouth, pull back, take a rest, and return when your breathing has normalized.

Developing the ability to notice changes in your breathing on the mat (and off) is a sign of yoga progress. 

To deepen breath awareness, begin by simply observing the natural breath. Gradually introduce techniques like Ujjayi breath, a controlled, audible breath, which calms the mind and prolongs breath cycles.

Additionally, practice pranayama, such as Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing), to balance energy channels.

Journaling and Self-Reflection

Journaling is a potent tool for tracking yoga progress. It serves as a personal record of your own practice, allowing you to reflect on your experiences, insights, and achievements.

10. Maintaining a Yoga Journal

In a yoga journal, you can document your daily practice, noting the asanas attempted, duration, and any challenges faced. Record your emotional and mental states before and after practice, documenting changes in stress levels, mood, or mental clarity.

Regular self-reflection through journaling fosters self-awareness and mindfulness. It helps identify patterns, celebrate achievements, and set new goals. Over time, the journal becomes a valuable source of motivation, guiding your ongoing progress in yoga.

Include details like specific poses, variations attempted, and any breakthroughs in flexibility or strength. Note your breathing patterns and any pranayama techniques practiced. Reflect on your intentions and goals for each session.

BONUS TIP:  Seeking Guidance and Feedback

To maximize the benefits of yoga, actively seeking feedback from instructors and peers can be transformative. Ask specific questions that you may have noted in your journal, attend workshops with your favorite teachers, and engage in open communication in person or online.

Joining a yoga community fosters motivation, support, and accountability, especially if you don’t have a yoga studio near you and have to practice at home. Practicing with like-minded individuals encourages consistent progress.

Feel free to join my happy little corner of Facebook, Beginners’ Yoga Community – Support and Tips, where we provide brief informative tutorials and motivational tips, and I go live weekly to address questions in the group. We’d love to welcome you there.

FAQs about Yoga Progress

What are the best ways to measure physical progress in yoga?

Physical progress can be measured through improved flexibility, increased strength, better balance in poses, enhanced range of motion, and noticeable changes in body alignment. These are difficult to see at first, so taking before and after photos of specific poses at monthly or half-yearly intervals will help.

How can I track my mental progress in yoga?

Mental progress is evident in reduced stress, increased mental clarity, enhanced focus, better emotional resilience, and a deeper mind-body connection. A common joke in the yoga community goes along the lines of “You’ll notice any yoga progression when visiting family!”

What is the role of breath awareness in measuring yoga progress?

Breath awareness is crucial for monitoring progress as it reflects improved control, mindfulness, and inner calm during yoga practice. However, off the mat you might observe yourself reacting more calmly and breathing deeper in stressful situations like an argument, dealing with difficult people, or being stuck in traffic.

How does maintaining a yoga journal help in tracking yoga progress?

Aside from keeping you accountable to a regular practice, a yoga journal records asanas practiced, emotional states, and goals, facilitating self-reflection, goal setting, and identification of patterns and achievements. It also fosters curiosity by providing a space to jot down questions you want to research more about.

Why is seeking guidance and community important for progress in yoga?

Guidance from instructors and support from a yoga community offer valuable feedback, motivation, and accountability, enhancing your yoga journey and overall progress. Going it alone requires a lot of discipline. This will wane at some point, so having a group there to keep you on course is essential.