Why Longer Formats for Yoga Offerings?

by | Aug 23, 2013 | Living Yoga | 0 comments

A recent study, Yoga In America­–2012, provided some interesting and eyebrow raising results for me.  The good news:  yoga and everything yoga related is increasing in popularity.  The unfortunate news: the true purpose of yoga may be getting lost.

Take a look at how much and where money is being spent, and the increase in spending since 2008.  This brings into question what is important to us!

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Also from the study:  44% of yogis prefer the more “traditional” 60-minute length class. (Quotation marks mine.)  Eyebrows raised here!  This is my 30th year of practicing yoga in some form, and I have practiced consistently in yoga studios since 1991.

The traditional class length has always been 90 minutes, not 60.

 It is very recent history that the 60-minute class came onto the scene in the studio setting, maybe only beginning around 2006.  The 60 minute live class became popular as yoga became more mainstream.  Classes were shortened to fit into the workout and exercise format.  Consider that aerobics, pilates, zumba and nia classes to name a few, are all 1 hr. in length.  It made yoga classes appealing to the masses who were taking fitness classes, and as yoga came into the gym and fitness center, they were offered in the same format as the other fitness classes.  Yoga studios soon followed suit.

60-minute classes are filled with benefits.  You will get exercise, build strength, flexibility, find more balance and experience a general sense of well being.  With a regular practice, you may begin to find that you’re navigating life’s challenges with more aplomb.

But I want to suggest that the 60 minute yoga experience is only the gateway drug.

I’ll be the first to say that I prefer teaching the 90-minute class, love teaching workshops & retreats, and adore the Immersion and Teacher Training courses that I teach; all longer formats for yoga instruction.  So I will be biased, but the bias is rooted in 30 years of experience, training, study and love of the practice.

Consider that there are three general types of yoga students:  the athlete, the engineer and the philosopher.  Most of us are a combination of the types, with maybe one being in the forefront of our awareness.  I first heard of these archetypes from Christina Sell, a great yogi and teacher based in Austin, TX.

In the longer format offerings, all types get to expand into the nuance of the practice. 

In longer formats you get to break out of the standing pose vinyasa, end with forward bends-type class, and explore a fuller syllabus of poses. There’s definitely more time for movement and for building toward advanced poses which makes the athlete, who values both skill and workout, very happy.

There is time to build understanding and awareness around alignment for the engineer types a.k.a. the yoga nerds.  You’ll see how everything in the body is connected.  For example, when your sacrum is in and up, the whole of your spine is supported and neck tension can fall away.  You’ll experience how strength pairs with an energy that extends out in the body for both great lightness and stability.  You’ll feel the same awe we can have when driving over the Bay bridge… be it the San Francisco or Chesapeake.

You’ll begin to understand the philosophy that informs our approach to teaching and makes the teachings come alive, even when you’re off the mat.  This is the part of the practice that cultivates a general sense of well being, a deeper connection with our inner workings, and the awareness that there is something greater than ourselves; the philosophers and seekers find answers in yoga’s longer format offerings.

Yoga means unity.

While historically practiced with teacher and solo student, in the west yoga has always been offered in a public class setting.  In classes with longer formats, you’ll find that friendships and a sense of community develop even when you weren’t looking for them, and simply because you are with like-hearted people.

In our closing of the year-long teacher training, one student remarked how different each of us were… by age, politics, backgrounds, and in how our lives have and are unfolding; yet we are connected in a way that has great meaning.  We have each other’s back, we have learned how to see each other with compassion, and with great kindness we have shared how each of us could grow.  As a result, we begin to see more how we are connected than how we are different.

In the retreat or weekend workshop setting, you will most definitely make a change in who you are, or better said, be more yourself.  You’ll find that instead of acting out of habit, which for me is typically an unexamined sense of self, you act out of more conscious awareness.  In a week or weekend of yoga, your practice will come together for you in a way that it hadn’t before.  You will meet people different from you, but at the same time, so much like you.

If you’re wanting more from your practice, think outside the 60 minute yoga experience box.

Here’s what you’ll gain:

  • You come to know yourself more deeply.  It’s not that you change, it’s that you become more yourself, because the stuff that isn’t serving you begins to fall away. Commit to some longer offerings this year and the concept will begin to have great meaning for you.
  • You learn and experience the full scope of yoga practices:  asana (postures), meditation and pranayama (breath practices).
  • You will develop the spiritual tools you need to handle life’s challenges.
  • You come to know people who are both very different from you on the outside, but very much the same as you on the inside.  We learn to get beyond the stuff of our personalities and see the depth in each other.
  • You’ll have time for creativity and for exploring more variety of poses in a longer format offering.
  • Not only will you get exercise, but having the time to align your body and feel what’s happening, brings great awareness to the body.  When we line up, energy flows freely, health comes to the body and we become nicer people.
  • Yoga means union.  It’s about unity with our bodies, but also with our spiritual self and with each other.  In longer formats, you have opportunity to grow these special relationships.

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As your awareness grows, you begin to see that all of life is the yoga.  Keep practicing.

The world needs more conscious beings on the planet.

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