It's a question I’ve been mulling over during the last few months of lockdown. Perhaps you too have noticed that a lot of the online offers are shrinking in terms of length. It makes sense for the classes that are being given away for free, but it has got me thinking.
Are we going to kill off the 90 minute class for good? In person as well as in cyberspace? This could create a huge impact on the yoga and movement industry as a whole. Or is it that our attention spans are shrinking because of the overwhelm of information we are exposed to on a daily basis?
Let’s look at a bit of history......
When I first started teaching yoga back in 1998 the majority of classes were 2 hours. Yep, you heard that right, 2 hours. It was actually unthinkable to teach a class for a shorter period of time. There wasn’t a lot of yoga on offer at that time so you would go to a class maybe once a week. So it didn’t seem like a huge chunk of time to begin with. What was important is that the classes were thorough. Poses were examined, students were allowed to ask questions and if you were going through your ashtanga sequence it meant you always had time to work on your finishing poses and get a good long savasana. And savasana was always at least 10 minutes long.
I think the big change happened when more yoga studios started to open up. In order to maximise space and time a 2 hour class was not as profitable. It seemed almost overnight classes were shortened to 90 minutes. And I remember clearly thinking “how can anyone teach a whole yoga class in 90 minutes”. Oh that makes me laugh out loud right now!
Making enough time
For the most part the 90 minute class is a good time frame. It has been the standard over the last 10-15 years. There might have been hour long classes for beginners, but 90 minutes allows time for a meditation or pranayama, as well as a 10 minute savasana. And there is still time to get through a good sequence of movement or poses.
As yoga proliferated, more yoga teachers came along. More venues began to offer classes and so the Gym one hour class was born and has stuck for many of the bigger chains of fitness studios. As a teacher trainer I found a lot of students on my courses would complain that they only had an hour to teach if they worked in a gym and that most students would try to leave early anyway, skipping savasana.
I always found this disturbing. Not only the short time frame but also that students weren’t embracing the wonderful relaxation at the end of classes. In a hurry to be somewhere else? 5 minutes ahead of everyone else? Was their mind already there halfway through class? Did it, or does it mean that students aren’t really able to dive into their experience in the class if even an hour is too long to be present? Or, and perhaps more likely, maybe they were there for the “exercise” instead.
Are our attentions spans shrinking?
So let’s fast forward to the present day where our connection to teaching and practicing is almost exclusively online. I get it. We have enough time in front of a computer already and to commit to another 90 minutes for a class can feel like a lot for people. I see the benefits of having shorter offerings while this current situation has us grounded (or ungrounded, but at home). But also, is it a sign of the times? Are attention spans shrinking across the board? Can we still offer a full experience as teachers? Can we still receive that connection as students in such a short period? I honestly don’t know. But what does concern me is that once we go back to open studios and being in person with our students and teachers once again, will 90 minutes be perceived to be too long? Will people automatically gravitate to shorter classes because that is what they’ve become used to recently? Are we encouraging people to make even smaller commitments to their own practices?
Give yourself time to explore
For me personally, I still teach longer. If you know me, an hour and 45 minutes is golden. I still love the extra time to explore and give freedom. To have a longer savasana and take plenty of time in the warm up. It’s not a matter of “more is better”, but longer gives me “breathing space”. I don’t want to check the clock to see if I have to shorten something to get everyone out of the room on time. I really want to take people on a journey of themselves through movement, stillness, breath and awareness. Don’t we rush through plenty of other things in life?
I may end up being a dinosaur in the industry soon! But I think I’m okay with that. I don’t mind attending a class that’s only an hour of course and I’m not saying there is anything wrong with it. But at least let’s keep some of the classes to a longer time frame.
Let’s give ourselves even more spaciousness to exhale, relax and restore ourselves.
What length of class do you tend to gravitate towards?
With gratitude, Julie
p.s. I've just changed my live masterclass schedule. I'm now offering 75 min masterclasses every Wednesday and my "golden' 1 hour and 45 min masterclass will be available on the last Friday of every month. Learn more about my live masterclasses here.