How many times a week should I practice?

I get asked this question quite a lot by new students.  I tend to respond with a comment probably not heard by other teachers in yoga or in the fitness industry...
"Just start out one day a week, and see how you go!"
So many fitness centres recommend 3 -5 times a week, when you are starting out, but how many new students get all excited and try to achieve this and then end up giving up after a couple of months, because it just wasn't attainable to them? Perhaps you have been one of these students!
Compass Pose by Martine Ford of Spirit Yoga
So I generally recommend just one class a week for some time, and really enjoy that one class a week. Over time (it could be one month or two), slowly increase your class frequency (if you are enjoying it) until you are doing around three classes a week for optimal benefits. 
Eventually, you may find, as many others have, that you just can't live without your yoga fix, and you may find yourself practicing yoga, meditation or pranayama (breathwork) every single day. Why? Because you just love how you feel and you have noticed how your life has changed as a result of yoga! 
Many students come to yoga for the physical results, perhaps a health professional recommended yoga to ease their back or sciatic pain. Others want to get more flexible or ease stress in their lives. Yoga however may have other plans for you, and many students are surprised at how they are drawn back because of the other benefits to their life. They notice that they walk out after class feeling incredibly peaceful, powerful, or courageous. Sometimes a piece of philosophy really resonates with what is going on in their life and they have a 'light globe' moment of clarity and are instantly hooked.
I began regularly and happily moving my body from the age of four when I started training as a ballet dancer. Whilst I was raising my children I only exercised (mostly Body Sculpt & Body Balance) once a week. Yeah, that isn't a lot, but I continued to do that all my life until I had time to exercise more as the kids got older. There were plenty of other mums around me who went on a yo-yo program, of exercising 3 - 5 times a week for a couple of months and then giving up for several months. Of course there diet, health and fitness echoed this yo-yo effect which couldn't have had a good effect on them mentally or emotionally either. 
So once you feel the wonderful benefits in your life from your time spent on your yoga mat, then it  is time to step up, be accountable and take your yoga to another level, to... the 'home practice.' This doesn't have to be scary, just try to learn a little bit of a sequence every time you are in class, or throw together a few poses that you know. You don't have to do a whole class everytime you practice. In fact when you are starting out it is a good idea again to just take baby steps. 
You can also find numerous books and DVD's on many different yoga styles, meditations, pranayama (breath work) and yoga philosophy. You don't have to stick with the style you know, you may choose to branch out and check out another style of yoga, there are so many out there to venture into. So take a step today, whether that is increasing to a second class a week or starting a home practice, remember it is important to feel good about your decision so that you can regularly and consistently find some quality time for greater health and well-being. 
Article by Martine Ford