Managing Your Time in a Yoga Class
Figuring out how to time your yoga class can be the first big hurdle a new yoga teacher faces. When I think back to the first few yoga classes I taught in the studio, I remember two fears sticking out in my mind:
That I would run out of postures in my sequence before the class time was up;
That I would run out of time in class and not finish my sequence.
These two opposing scenarios are the typical worries when it comes to teaching a yoga class. I will say from experience that in my case, scenario number one has only happened to me one time, early in my teaching. While scenario two is far more common.
Time management and understanding the time allotment for each part of your yoga sequence is an important part of teaching, and it’s also something that comes naturally with experience. In this post we’ll discuss our favorite methods for “chunking” a yoga class in order to have time for everything you want to do.
Let's start by discussing the fear of running out of postures.
Put simply: If you are familiar with the yoga practice, you will never run out of things to do.
In Dharma Mittra’s Master Yoga Chart there are 908 asanas described and this is just a portion of the total number of postures that are commonly incorporated in modern yoga practices. This means that in your standard 60 minute yoga class, you couldn’t get close to all of the movements that exist. The key is to be familiar with the asanas so that you can incorporate new postures into your class if you find yourself with extra time on your hands.
Of course, you would never be expected to know every yoga pose in the world. Instead, work on slowly building your memory bank of poses over time. For the first few classes you teach, perhaps you over-prepare by planning out alternative postures you might add into your flow, or poses you can go to if you end up with extra time. After a while, this won’t be something you need to prepare in advanced.
Things to be mindful of:
How the poses link together
How the poses benefit the students
The safety of the order of poses
Our sequencing guide goes in-depth about why you would place poses in a certain part of your practice.
Another good tool at your disposal, if you find yourself with too much time, is repeating sequences or elongating the time held in each pose. In a vinyasa flow class, it’s common to repeat a series of flowing postures. Additionally, if you have the time, you can elongate the time the students are held in each pose. The last, important tip, is to give students a longer Savasana. Our current yoga studio recommends 10 minutes minimum for Savasana!
Too many poses, too little time.
The more common issue we run into in our teaching is having more poses than we have time for. In this case, there are a number of smart strategies you can deploy to ensure you get to the poses you want to get to.
#1. Understand the basic timing of each “chunk” of your sequence. At Yoga Humans, we suggest sequencing using mini-flows or chunks. This means that instead of thinking about your class as an unfolding progressions of 50+ postures, think about your sequence in short chunks of 10-ish poses. In our sequencing guide, we break down each of these sections of class and how much time each section takes.
Excerpt from the Yoga Humans Sequencing Guide:
If you know that you want to spend 10 minutes on your opening, 10 minutes on your warm-up, and 20 minutes in your main sequence, then you can plan your poses accordingly. Having a good, basic understanding of the time you wish to devote to each section will help you stay accountable to that timing.
#2. Understand your priority. If you are developing a peak pose sequence, for example. (A sequence where all the postures build up to one advanced posture.) Then you’ll absolutely want to make sure you have time to get to that peak pose. Don’t try to cram so much in before you arrive at that peak pose that you risk not getting to it at all.
#3. Do a practice run. If you’re teaching regularly, it’s not always possible to do your yoga class on your own before you teach it, but it only ever helps! If you have a sense of the flow on your own, you’ll be able to understand which pieces of class you need to move through more quickly, and which places you can take your time in. Keep in mind that it’s generally quicker to practice on your own than when you are teaching. We estimate that a flow you can do on your own takes at least 1.5x - 2.5x more in class, so account for it taking more time when you’re teaching live.
Don’t overdo it. No need to plan way more material than you’ll have time to fit in! Especially if you need to balance out each side of the body. You don’t want to spend all your class time on one side and not have the time to get to the other side.
Have a way to track time. Having a phone or a watch around your mat that you can easily check allows you to track your time as you move through practice. Another strategy is to time your yoga playlist, so that by the time you get to a certain song on the playlist, you know where in your flow you should be. If you’re not there by the time the song comes on, you’ll know you need to speed up or slow down.
Feel free to skip things. You’re the only one who knows what was in the sequence you planned! Your students won’t be upset if you don’t teach everything on your to-do list. If you notice class is taking more time than you planned, leave a few things out!
Try not to shortchange your rest. Try not to cram so much up-front in your yoga class that you don’t have adequate time for the cool-down. We recommend at least 15 minutes for the cool-down. This time is necessary for your students bodies to fully benefit from their practice.
The more you teach, the more you’ll understand your own pace of teaching and how long a class takes. The key is to be fluid with your strategy and forgiving if things don’t go your way. If your goal is to teach a wonderful class for your students, then you’ll do that no matter how the timing shakes out.