When I began practicing yoga back in 1994, most classes were pretty long. You would find the occasional one-hour class, but most traditional yoga centers offered primarily 90 minute classes. More and more people are now doing yoga and shorter classes are on the rise, with some chains only exclusively one hour classes. I’ve even seen a studio advertising asana classes as short as 25 minutes!
Does it matter how long you practice for? Is a longer practice better?
In short, I don’t think so. What you want is consistency. Yoga is experential – you need to practice it to order to really learn it. One of my teachers, Larry Schultz, used to advocate for a minimum daily requirement for asana practice – within an hour of waking up, get your mat and do a minimum of 10 minutes of yoga (he preferred 3-5 Sun Salutation A’s and 3-5 Sun Salutation B’s). He believed that doing this 6 times a week was better and a one hour class once a week and I agree. Learn a short sequence you can do at home and be consistent.
No matter how long you practice for, try as best as you can to be fully present. Whenever you are on your mat, stayed focused on your practice. Last time Ben Thomas was at Nandi, he said that it was his duty to give all the students there his full attention and he required theirs in return. Set aside whatever tasks you need to complete or whatever burning issues you have on your plate and stay connected in body, breath and mind. Notice the effects each pose has on your body so you can fine tune your practice to support what you need that day.
And remember, be compassionate and patient. It takes time to develop strength, flexibility, proprioception, and awareness within the body (and mind) so be patient with yourself.
So, yes, do shorter practices if it means you practice more frequently. In the long run, having this consistency combined with mindfulness and patience will serve you well.
What do you give up with a shorter practice if anything?
Some yoga styles require a greater time commitment as these classes are designed to help take the body deeper, whether it’s to relax and unwind fully in a restorative sequence or to prepare the body to do extremely challenging poses which often require more opened joints. Furthermore, slower classes (which are often longer) can challenge the body in new ways – focusing on transitions using muscular engagement versus momentum. So longer classes and even workshops have their place and it’s worth considering adding these to your schedule every once in a while (or more often should your schedule permit).
The key is practice so get out there and make it happen.