I’ve recently become a very big fan of 60-minute and 75-minute yoga classes. And I don’t think I’m the only one. There are actually some newer studios here in Chicago that offer hour-long classes almost exclusively, and even the older, established studios seem to be offering more of these shorter classes. This has gotten me wondering — why are most yoga classes an hour and a half? Do they really need to be that long?
I suspect that 90 minutes is the length of a typical yoga class because the Ashtanga Primary Series is often done in about this amount of time. And most flow, vinyasa, and power yoga classes have at least some connection to Ashtanga. I guess the other reason to make classes this long is that it’s easier to justify the steep price of a yoga class these days, which usually ranges from $15-$20 for a single drop-in session.
In my experience, though, only a handful of teachers actually make good use of these 90-minute time slots. An efficient teacher can squeeze just as much into a 60-minute or 75-minute class as other teachers can get out of a longer time slot. In fact, when I do go to 90-minute classes these days, I often find that the teachers are more casual about starting class on time, and they tend to add lots of unnecessary filler. These longer classes also frequently have some sort of open practice time, where students get to jump around and play with handstand, forearm balance, etc. There can be a lot of benefit to this, especially if it encourages students to learn how to be more self-directed. Usually, though, this free time just turns into social time, with students chatting, gossiping, and flirting with each other. Certainly, yoga class can and should have a social aspect to it. But it shouldn’t be happy hour at the corner bar!
Obviously, if I really want efficiency in my daily yoga practice, the best thing would be to practice on my own. I do in fact practice by myself from time to time, and in the past I have even stopped going to classes altogether in order to focus on my home practice. But in general, I prefer going to a studio, because a group class can bring structure and discipline to my yoga practice. You can also learn a lot from a good teacher who has a keen eye and can give helpful adjustments. In a class setting, you also tend to try new things and challenge yourself in ways that you never would on your own. At least that’s how it is with me.
As my life gets busier (yes, I have a life outside yoga!), it is increasingly difficult for me to justify going to 90-minute classes. Taking into account the driving time, parking, showering, etc., a 90-minute yoga class can easily take up two-and-a-half hours of the day. Most people with jobs, kids, school, or other obligations, just can’t afford to be so indulgent multiple times a week.
This is where in 60-minute class is a godsend. Yeah, I know it’s only half an hour shorter than the 90-minute class. But sometimes this really makes a huge difference in whether or not I’m going to go to yoga on a given day.
It’s important to remember that shorter classes don’t necessarily mean short-changing yourself. After nearly a decade of practicing yoga, I’ve found that maintaining a regular practice is far more important than getting your butt kicked just once or twice a week. You’ll start to enjoy the mental and physical benefits of yoga when yoga becomes a way of life, rather than just a “weekend warrior” activity.
Of course, now that I’ve said my piece, I have to admit that I got thoroughly wrung out last night in an intense, 90-minute vinyasa class. And I loved every minute of it :)