Category Archives: Vinyasa Yoga

Do you really need a long practice (Part II)?

When I was in a yin teacher training with Sarah Powers, she recalled how Paul Grilley first started teaching yin yoga.  He was running classes that were over two hours long and wondered why he wasn’t getting a lot of students.  Who has the time?  Who makes the time?  Eventually classes became shorter and yin took off.  I always share this story in our teacher-training program because it highlights the fact that yoga needs to adapt to the needs to the student and most students don’t have 120 minutes to practice on a given day.

But think about it.  Two hours to immerse yourself in slow and methodical journey inwards in order to unwind seems like a true luxury.  Nowadays, if you want a two-hour or longer practice, you need to do back-to-back practices or take a workshop.   For most people, this is too great a time commitment and for yoga studios, there just are not enough students to fill the class.

In fact, the opposite is happening, as there is a growing trend of one-hour yoga classes and some shorter than that. As I wrote in my last blog, some studios are offering even shorter classes by either removing warm up periods or parts of sequences or the savasana at the end to cool down and reflect. You can only do so much in a one-hour class, especially if you want to include advanced poses that require more preparation.  These classes and studios always rubbed me as the wrong way to do it and I resisted.

But then I thought, “we’ve always offered one-hour classes at lunchtime.” But they were fixed sequences – a modified primary series from the Ashtanga school and a Spiritual Warrior from Jivamukti.  Both of these sequences have been practiced and tested for many years and they make sense.

I resisted adding more one-hour classes because I thought tradition dictated that both students and teachers needed more time to get the full effects of an asana practice.

And yet, in my personal practice, I didn’t always practice for 90 minutes or even 60 minute.  Most days I hit the mat early in the morning and sometimes I’ll practice a longer sequence and sometimes a shorter one (depending upon how my body feels, whether I was teaching that day, what time I started and how packed my day would be).  I would see how much time I have and then I would mentally construct a practice that made sense – whether that is 30 minutes or two hours.

So the issue wasn’t the length of the practice (although over time a 75 minute session allows for a more complete practice for intermediate and advanced students).  The issue is in the construction of the practice for whatever time was available and to make sure its well thought through and complete.

So, we are now creating classes for our community with the goal that every 60-minute offering includes all of the components of a longer class – no shortcuts allowed (be it adding high heat to emulate a warmed-up body, racing through the sequence to cram a lot of poses in or skipping savasana).  Each class is a complete practice with some moving at a faster pace for more advanced students and some with a more measured pace and fewer postures.

As noted in my previous blog, I believe it is more important to be consistent and practice more often with shorter sequences versus coming once a week to a longer one. Regardless of whether you prefer shorter or longer classes, any time on your mat is a good thing.


First Yoga Lesson

My first introduction to yoga was 50 years ago. It was not the enlightening experience you might expect, though it was quite revealing.  I came across a Yoga paperback. The guy in the front cover was really good shape. It was difficult for a skinny wimp of a teenager like myself to believe that these static poses could take me part way towards the next Spiderman, but in my adolescent years I was willing to give anything a shot.  

Naively I decide to go all in. What to wear? From the pictures it seems I should be wearing something that looks like a giant diaper. We didn’t have any white towels at home, so I took our largest bath towel, it was blue with a large kingfisher print. I fashioned something close to the pictures in the book. Actually it looks more like I have strapped a flock of unwilling seabirds loosely around my middle.  It doesn’t feel particularly secure either but no problem, I have the house to myself.

Stripped down to the bare essentials I prepare for my first pose

“It is possible to enter Vīrabhadrāsana using vinyasas starting from either Adho Mukha Śvānāsana or from Tāḍāsana.”

Wait what?  I thumb through to the index to look up 4 words in sanskrit to figure out where I am going to start. Got it  Tāḍāsana  means stand up.  It sounds simple enough but check out Wikipedia for 3-4 pages on how yogis stand up at the front of their mat. It’s not as straightforward as it sounds.


Continuing from the book with Warrior I:

  1. The arms are stretched up, palm touching.

  2. Inhaling spread the legs sideways by jumping or stepping, creating a gap of ⅔ body height.

⅔ of body height.  Is that important? What is ⅔ of 5ft 8 inches?  Clutching the paperback in my teeth I reach for my slide rule and tape measure.

  1. Exhaling turn the trunk facing to the left while rotating the left foot 90° so it faces forward and the right foot so it points slightly to the right.

The left foot has to be precisely 90°, “where is my set square”.  The right foot slightly right? What does that mean?  15°, 25°  I have a protractor. I could use that if the instructions were clearer. Why were the instruction so precise for the left foot and all sloppy for the right?

  1. Bend the left knee till the thigh is parallel to the floor, avoid extending the bent knee past the ankle and keeping the other leg straight.

Balancing Dad’s spirit level on my left thigh I start to feel warrior one. But I am still not clear on the other leg, should it be straight or not. There are two ways to read instruction 4.

There are 10 more instruction to complete the pose and the clue is buried in them “the knee is locked.”

Side note never lock your knee out in any pose, whatever the book says.

Continuing – Looking up seems important too but how then to read the rest of the instructions.  I build a simple device. In the days before selfie sticks, it’s a spatula and some well positioned duck tape. Now I can have the book in front of me by holding the spatula between my teeth. I resume my warrior I reading the further instructions while in the pose. As I reach up with my hands my kingfisher diaper feels like it is trying to escape. One false move and I am in trouble, but I persevere with the pose.  We have net curtains at the windows and everyone is out.

Semi-naked in the middle of our lounge , spirit level balanced on one thigh, slide rule in hand and tape measure extended across the floor and spatula clutched between my teeth I look up and pause for “1 to 4 breaths.” Well is it 1 or is it 4 there is a big difference.  I take a deep breath anticipating enlightenment.

The door bursts open, Mum and Dad rush in. They are back unexpectedly early as mum is not feeling well. I freeze and look over in horror. With a gentle thunk the kingfishers successfully make their bid for freedom.

I did not practice yoga for a few years after that.

The book is, I suspect, long gone and until google offers “search from images in your mind” I doubt I can find it as I have no idea of the title or author.  

Today of course there are plenty of online resources to explain the poses. The instructions I used above were actually from Wikipedia. The collective wisdom of the crowd came up with that version of Warrior I.

There are lots of approaches out there.   For the doctoral candidate with a minor in geometry how about the Yoga Journal style

“Raise your arms perpendicular to the floor (and parallel to each other), and reach actively through the little-finger sides of the hands toward the ceiling. Firm your scapulas against your back and draw them down toward the coccyx”  – Yoga

My first lesson was simple – Learning Yoga from a book is hard, very hard. Actually I think it’s impossible.

Like so many other things you can’t learn Yoga by reading about it.  There are too many small adjustments and correction that just make written descriptions impossible to remember, follow or appreciate. Most of these refinements make no sense until you have been working on the basics of the pose for a while anyway. Instructions talk of 90 degree angles with an authority that would humble a guru.  Only advanced yogis get to 90 degrees in most poses.  The rest of us are somewhere on the way towards 45 degrees and happy right there. In complete contradiction other instructions are sloppy, “turn your back foot in slightly” . Why does one foot matter and not the other? What is important?  And that fundamental question “Am I doing it right?”  only an instructor can tell you these things because everyone is different and every pose is unique to them.

The knowledge passed down for 5,000 years has stood the test of time. Learn from an instructor, one that you like and resonate with, and use books for reference. Nothing has changed in 5,000 years though the western world is trying hard to do that with science and marketing.  Not everything new is an improvement.  That said I do appreciate 21st century yoga clothing. After my first experience with Yoga, to this day,  I have not taken as much as my shirt off in a yoga class.

– Clive Beavis, Vinyasa Yoga Instructor

First Steps on Own Yoga Journey

249412_228001943892550_6046183_nWhen talking with our teachers about how they began their yoga journey, they all were clearly inspired and intrigued by their very first yoga class. They were hooked from the get-go, regardless of when and where they started or the style of the class, and quickly returned for another lesson. In fact, time was irrelevant in the decision to become a teacher. While some had been students for many years and others decided after their first lesson, all saw teaching as a natural next step in their journey so they could be of service to others.

However, all of our teachers consider themselves first and foremost students, no matter how long they have been teaching.  Our teachers practice consistently, whether at home or at Nandi, and embrace the tenet of “practice what you teach and teach what you practice.”  Furthermore, almost all have taken additional trainings to expand their skills and knowledge and plan on taking more.


Most importantly, these teachers hope to spread their passion for yoga to others. They never know who is going to show up for their classes and maybe as teachers, they can light that spark to inspire others to begin their own yoga journey.

– Nicole Bryne, Vinyasa and Yin Yoga Instructor


Nandi Yoga in Partnership with Lululemon: This Summer Solstice Gets Even Better with International Yoga Day in the Peninsula

Grab your mat and join the celebration for the first-ever International Day of Yoga in the Peninsula on June 21st. You can come for one class or join for the entire time:


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June is filled with lots of fun ways to celebrate – Doughnut Day, Hug Your Cat Day, Best Friends Day, and even, National Chocolate Ice Cream Day, but this one will be a worldwide phenomenon. Save-the-date and join us! Follow-up on latest event news from Facebook  and Twitter at Nandi Yoga. Follow us on #IDY and #NandiYoga for up-to-date conversations and shared posts. We have more exciting details to follow in the next few weeks!


– Wendy Klein, Founder of Nandi Yoga