If you’re starting a yoga practice, it can be difficult to gauge how long you should be practicing for. Long practices and short practices both have their place, of course, and should be valued just the same. For a long time, I thought that if I didn’t practice yoga for an hour to an hour and a half, that I hadn’t really practiced at all. As I got deeper into my practice, I realized just how wrong my thinking was, and how sometimes a short practice can be better for you than a long one.

If you’re just starting out with yoga (or even if you’re not), and asking yourself, “How long should a yoga practice be,” ask yourself the following questions first:

How much time do I have today?

I wish that every time I stepped on my mat that I had at least an hour to dedicate to my practice. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Life has a very annoying habit of getting in the way, and sometimes you just don’t have the time for a long, drawn out practice.

If you do, that’s great! Spend as much time as you have on your mat. But if you only have 15 minutes to yourself in a day, that’s ok, too. 15 minutes is 15 minutes. Move through a few asanas, take as much time as you’d like in meditation, and see the difference even a short practice can make in your day.

How is my body feeling?

Sometimes illness or general “I don’t feel great today” gets in the way of your practice. If you’re lying in bed running a fever, chances are high that you won’t be practicing yoga that day. That’s fine!

One of the big things that yoga teaches us is to listen to our bodies and what they are telling us. Our bodies are wise. Sometimes they’re wiser than us. Listen to your body and ask yourself how your body is feeling before starting your practice.

If you’re not too sure how your body is feeling, try practicing a little bit. You may find that it’s just what you needed, or you may get a few minutes in and realize that it’s doing you more harm than good that day. Be gentle and forgiving with yourself, and time your practice accordingly.

How is my mind feeling?

Just like your body, your mind knows what it does and doesn’t need. The mind is extremely powerful, and should be listened to.

The way your mind is feeling on a certain day can dictate what sort of practice you’ll do. If you’re not sure how you feel, start out in meditation. You may find that that’s all you need for the day, or it may lead you into a few asanas. Whatever you end up doing is just perfect for you on that day.

Just be gentle with yourself, listen to yourself, and the timing will follow.