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Is the 60 Minute Yoga Class Watering Down the Fullness of Yoga?

By Amy Ippoliti and Joey Gottlieb

 

Yoga is a constantly evolving field with many changes since the arrival of asana classes in the West. One of the most noticeable shifts in recent years has been the shortening of public yoga classes.

If you’ve been practicing yoga for more than 5 years, you were likely raised in the not-so-long-ago era of 90-minute classes, which was the standard duration in yoga classes across the world. (An interesting fact: the number “90” in 90 Monkeys stems back to this era, signifying the 90 minutes of a yoga class!).

Fast forward and the majority of classes these days are 60 minutes long, the conventional duration most people associate with yoga class.

In an increasingly busy and interconnected world, this shift makes a lot of sense, but what impact is it having on yoga as a whole, and more importantly, yoga students? Here are some of the pros and cons we’ve explored.

 

THE PROS

 

1. It Gets People On the Yoga Mat

These days with smartphones and everything else keeping us ultra busy, convincing someone brand-new to yoga to take a 90-minute class can be a challenging task. However, a 60-minute class seems much less intimidating. Even if students start with shorter classes, they have the same potential to become avid students of yoga and even teachers in the future.

2. A Little Bit of Yoga is Better Than None at All!

In an age where so many feel pressed for time, any amount of yoga is a good thing. Not only are shorter classes ideal for those who are struggling with their schedules, but also for those of us who might be recovering from injury or illness or acclimating to the physical demands of the practice. Shorter classes are a great way for people to build up their endurance and confidence before moving on to longer classes, workshops, or retreats.

3. Keeps Yoga Studios in Business

Yoga studios, sadly, aren’t always known for their longevity, but one great thing about 60-minute classes is that they keep studios in business. It’s amazing to see how many studios are bringing new students through their doors and into 60-minute classes.

Studios are one of the best things the yoga world has to offer because they build community. In order for studios to thrive in this day and age, they need to be able to accommodate their students needs, and offering shorter classes is part of that.

THE CONS

1. Asana First, Everything Else Later

In many parts of the world yoga has become a fad, a fitness trend with a fun lifestyle attached. The emphasis on athleticism, coupled with shorter class times, means that many teachers forfeit teaching other disciplines like yoga philosophy, breathing, or meditation in order to lead students through a satisfying asana practice within the 60-minute time constraint.

Asana has incredible value, but so do the other practices, particularly for those who are struggling with some of the pervasive issues in our society like anxiety, stress, and feelings of isolation. Emphasizing movement at the cost of the other disciplines de-values yoga as a holistic practice that can serve a wide range of students. Yoga is valuable because it is a practice, something that helps students foster self-inquiry and lifelong development, and not just an activity.

2. Less Yoga Time, Less Progress

After teaching classes that range from 60 to 90 minutes, and one thing we have observed is that students who have been taking longer classes tend to make more progress in their practice over time.

The difficulty with 60-minute classes is that there is not enough time to warm-up for advanced poses. Hour-long classes are great for well-rounded practices, but it’s just not enough time to develop the strength and range of motion that’s needed to start moving safely into more specific body parts and difficult asanas.

You’ve probably heard that mastery in any subject or art form takes 10,000 hours of practice and education. The average yoga student attends classes 3 times a week. When you do the math comparing how many hours that student acquires over time in 60 minute classes vs. 90 Minute classes it’s clear the 90 minute student will reach 10,000 hours in less than 10 years, while the 60 minute student will need another 3+ years to get there!

Not that anyone’s counting, but still…Imagine what you can accomplish overtime in your life and yoga practice with more time on the mat.

3. Yoga Teaching Standards are Taking a Hit

New teacher trainings are available every day, and these programs tend to produce teachers who are trained to teach to the 60-minute format, meaning they give much less (or no) alignment instruction or disciplines such as dharma talks and meditation.

These teachers can lead a satisfying 60-minute physical class, but the broader nectar of yoga remains elusive.

Sadly, students are having a tough time finding teachers who are able help them with injuries or give them a more educational, comprehensive practice experience.

So What Can be Done?

1. If you’re a studio that has switched entirely to 60 minute classes, consider putting in some 75 min classes in during the week and some 90 Minute classes on the weekends. You don’t need to take the 60 minute classes away, but sprinkle in some longer format classes.

2. Be sure to market these longer format classes in a way that celebrates the benefits and advantages to your students.

Those benefits are:

  • Allows you to warm up more fully so you can safely start exploring deeper range of motion and more advanced asanas
  • Gives you and your teacher the time for great tips on your posture and alignment
  • Allows you to learn life-enhancing yoga philosophy that can inspire you to live your best life
  • More time on the mat = more resilience, less stress, more flexibility, more freedom in your body, and more patience and kindness in your life!

Consider shooting a video to share with your community about why longer classes are beneficial with student interviews, and inspiring footage of students practicing and placing it on your website or blog.

We would love to hear from you – what are your thoughts on yoga class duration and the impact of 60 minute classes? Please share in the comments below!

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  • Jai Lynn

    I have been teaching for the past 10 years and my practice has evolved quite a bit. Over the last couple of years, my format has changed from that stated above to finding the balance. I teach a warm up for 10 minutes much like qigong and then move into a few more complicated standing poses, generally sun salutations and then back yoga sequences for another 10 minutes. Then into pranayama, sivasana, a little more movement, meditation and a short “getting out of meditation” sequence to end the class. 30 minutes asana, 5 minute pranayama, 10 minute sivasana, 5 minute asana, 5 minute meditation, 5 minute integration. I like this structure. I have found that it works well for people. But, I have lost people because they just want the asana. I find this challenging. It is difficult to reeducate our culture when the status quo is 50 minutes asana, 5 minutes sivasana, 5 minutes meditation (if that) I like what you are saying about longer classes but I have students that 60 minutes is too much for them as it is. I think no matter the time parameter that the balance and wholeness of yoga needs to be addressed. I am leading my first teacher training soon and my goal is to share that balance value with as many people as possible. Namaste ~ Jai Lynn ~ imi.earth ~ E-RYT

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