Lately I have been considering the timing of yoga classes. Specifically I have been asking:
Is 75 minutes too long for a yoga class?
Are we just too busy to take 60 minutes or more for ourselves?
Where did the concept for longer classes come from?
What is the benefit of 75 minute session?
AND Is any class less than 60 minutes’ worth attending?
I have been facilitating 75 minute yoga classes since I gained my yoga instructor certificate back in 2010. Over the years I have changed my classes and run 60 minute sessions and in fact I currently facilitate a Restorative class on a Monday night that goes for one hour.
Repetitively I have considered changing all my yoga classes to 60 minutes or even shorter, particularly when I see other yoga classes popping up all around our local area offering classes that are advertised for 45 minutes. At times when I have low numbers I consider that the longer times are prohibitive for our busy mindset. I also wonder if my classes are too costly for the local demographic but given that the 45 minute classes are advertised at $10 and I am still charging $13.50 per class (when you purchase 10 classes) I figure my prices are probably way too low for 60 – 75 minute classes.
With these thoughts constantly going through my head, I decided I need to do some meditation, and some research on the benefits of longer classes and why did I start teaching classes for 75 minutes. Mostly I want to ensure that I am not regurgitating someone else’s belief system and if I am do my own beliefs and values align with that way of thinking still.
Here is what I discovered about the timing of group yoga practices.
Origins of Yoga PracticesHistorically if we look at some of the more traditional yoga practices such as Ashtanga Yoga which was founded in the 1940’s we see that practices are designed for a 90 minute session.
The Ashtanga Primary Series which often begins with a sun salutation is made up of repetitive sequences that may take up to 90 minutes to complete. Of course I am not trained in Ashtanga yoga but from my research it seems this would be the most logically explanation to begin answering my why are traditional classes over 60 minutes in length.
Even the Bikram yoga, founded in 1970 offers 90 minute classes that follow a specific sequence of yoga asana.
Other traditional yoga styles such as Iyengar Yoga and even the more modern form of restorative yoga tend to have longer options of classes lasting anywhere form 75 minutes up to 2 hours.
A move to shorter classesIt seems that with the introduction of yoga to the Western world we have truly begun to adapt and modify our practices to suit our lifestyles.
Our lives are certainly far busier than they were 20 years ago and we seem to be more at the mercy of technology which makes being busy easy. I have to wonder if this has been the reason for a move to shorter classes.
Good business people move with the times and I guess it makes logical business sense that yoga studios and yoga business owners would meet the demand of busy consumers and provide services that support that demand. If numbers are dwindling in longer classes then why not offer shorter classes at times people are more likely to get too. For example in the cities 45 minute lunch yoga classes are available in plentiful numbers. Even I found myself recently offering a 45 minute mum’s and bub’s class to cater for the busy mum juggling babies and older kids. Mind you this was more a sanity choice than a business choice – some of them little ones cannot stretch their little attention spans out past 30 minutes let alone pushing them for 75 minutes. Oh and the sanity is as much for mum as for me (insert cringe worthy grin here).
Shorter classes also mean cheaper fees – well at least I would think so. Many of the shorter classes I have seen advertised are often $10 or under to attend. Being a business owner I am not sure how they meet costs unless of course that is the pay off – shorter classes could result in rooms full of busy people and this cannot be a bad thing because at least those busy people are making that 45 minutes dedicated just for themselves.
But what about the benefits of 75 minute classes?
Mastering the Asana but what about the RestIn encouraging busy people to get onto the mat shorter classes might certainly win but I would be interested in knowing how well rounded the practiced in a shorter practice is.
Definitely studies have shown 12 minutes of consistent mindfulness practice even over short periods of time are highly beneficial for changing neural pathways but can a short yoga asana class equate to 12 minutes of mindfulness?
Yoga has this wonderful ability at fostering mindfulness and leading us into practices of deeper self-inquiry and self-appreciation. Surely one would think that a longer practice would increase the opportunity for re-patterning and resetting the cellular memory?
Of course I am open to hear form someone who might regularly attend these shorter classes to determine their motivation and intention for classes. It might well be that someone attending the 75 minute class only comes for a physical activity and the self-enquiry part be damned.
What about the favourite bits - Active Relaxation and Meditation
Now surely if one was going to attend a regular yoga class there would be an expectation of a meditation or active relaxation at the end? I know whenever I have left out a full 15 minutes of active relaxation at the end of a class I feel like I am ripping my clients off. This could just be my own projection here because I absolutely LOVE the bit at the end where we do nothing – no movement, no brain work, just pure relaxation.
In fact if we look at the historic reasoning how the yoga asana came about it was to enhance the effectiveness of mediation. The original Guru’s of yoga would sit for hours at a time in meditation only to find that the body began to seize up. Yoga Asana was designed to complement the long periods of sitting and what they found was a more enhanced meditation. In my head I see a physical practice vital for the creation of space in the mind through mediation.
This makes me now wonder if a shorter class includes all the yummy bits of a yoga practice like pranayama and meditation. I guess I might need to explore this topical a little bit further as I seem to have developed more questions than answers. One thing is for sure at the moment I prefer my offerings of 60 – 75 minute yoga classes, for myself and for clients.
In that time I feel I am able to experience and offer a well-rounded practice where yoga can be fully appreciated and explored. How do you feel about it? I would love to hear.