When you go to an ashtanga yoga studio, you may notice that some classes are one hour long and others may be up to two hours long. But is it not a set sequence of poses? So it makes sense to wonder, how long does an ashtanga yoga class take, and in particular, how long does the ashtanga yoga primary series take?
The Full Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series takes on average 90 minutes to complete. There are shorter versions if you don’t have the time. Some studios offer a Half Primary class which may last 60 minutes. When practicing alone you can even do Ashtanga short form which can take 11 minutes.
And so even though Ashtanga yoga is a set series of postures, you can adapt the length of the practice depending on your energy levels and also how much time you actually have.
- How To Practice Ashtanga Yoga Without A Teacher (My 8 Tips)
- 10 Wonderful Benefits of Ashtanga Yoga
- Simple Tips For An Ashtanga Yoga Home Practice
Ashtanga yoga beginners are generally recommended to go to a Foundation class or a Beginner class. In some studios, the Half Primary series class is what is geared towards beginners.
Typical length of an Ashtanga yoga class
In an effort to make this article as helpful as possible I gave myself the opportunity to geek out.
So here’s what I did.
I checked out the available Ashtanga yoga classes on Youtube and made a note of their duration. But not only that. I have also made a note of how long each teacher guides the 4 main parts of an Ashtanga yoga class:
- Sun Salutations
- Standing Postures
- Seated Postures
- Closing Sequence
I have listed the led classes from the shortest to the longest. Click on each teacher’s name to follow the corresponding led class. All but one are free YouTube videos thanks to Purple Valley Ashtanga Yoga.
You may be wondering why there is such a great difference in the duration of led classes. Especially when considering that one class is 79 minutes long (just under one and a half hour) and the other is an incredible 122 minutes long. And yes, that is a long 2 hour and 2-minute practice!
Yes, each posture is held for 5 breaths in Ashtanga yoga, but the duration differs due to 4 main reasons:
This means how fast or how slow the teacher counts each breath. So, for example, Laruga Glaser has a faster count, while Ty Landrum has a slower count. And both are fine! It really does depend on your preference.
How many sun salutations
The Ashtanga yoga sequence starts Sun Salutation A and then Sun Salutation B. Most teachers choose to teach 5 Sun Salutation A and 3 Sun Salutations B. However, some may choose to teach a longer class and so they may opt for 5 and 5. For a beginner’s class, the teacher may teach 4 and 3 or even 3 and 2. It depends on the class, the students, and what the teacher is trying to focus on.
Explanations or not
This is another place many Ashtanga teachers differ. Some choose to teach a class with the traditional Sanskrit count and choose not to offer too many instructions. This makes the class shorter. The type of class is tailored to experienced practitioners who just want to be guided by the count. Other teachers, such as John Scott in his guided class offer many instructions both for getting in and out of each posture but also for how to stay in each posture. This takes up some time so as expected, this type of class will last longer.
Duration of savasana
The rule of thumb is to stay in savasana for around 10 minutes. I remember reading somewhere that you stay in savasana for 5 minutes for every 30 minutes you practice. It really does depend. I remember practicing with Sharath Jois in Mysore and as we lay down in savasana, a few breaths later he said: “ok, go home, take rest”. Some teachers like to teach a full guided relaxation. Others play soft music and burn incense sticks. Others just give the students time to breathe and softly get them out of savasana. If you are practicing alone, aim for a minimum of 5 minutes.
And so as you can see, Ashtanga yoga may be a set sequence of postures, however, this does not mean that takes a set time to practice. It really does depend on the teacher, the students, and the mood and energy levels of everyone present.
When practicing in an Ashtanga Mysore style setting, you may have noticed that some students seem to rush through their practice while others slowly make their way to Savasana. In this case, the duration of the practice depends on 3 factors:
- The duration of the breath (some people breathe faster than others)
- How much time it takes to get in and out of each posture.
- How many postures each practitioner practices.
Once upon a time, I was practicing in Mysore with Sharath Jois.
After just starting the standing sequence and a guy came to practice next to me. I got lost in my own practice and remember going into backbends as he got up to leave. Then I was trying to figure out if he practiced really fast or if I practiced really slow!
It was probably a combination of the two!
Ashtanga yoga full primary vs half primary class
If you are looking for a shorter version of Ashtanga yoga, then an option is to practice the Ashtanga yoga half primary series. This is great if you are short of time or are feeling a bit tired.
There are three ways of doing this.
- Practice till Navasana – This is what you will experience if you select a Half Primary Ashtanga Yoga class on Youtube. These classes generally last about one hour. Laruga Glaser has one as does Deepika Mehta. So these classes take you all the way up to Nasvasana, and then you move on to backbends.
- Pick and choose – This is another way you can practice the half series. In this case, you do all the sun salutations and standing poses. Then you select certain of the seated postures. This can depend on what you are working on. For example, if you are working on hamstring flexibility, you may choose to practice up until Janu Sirsasana C. Or if you want to practice key poses, you may choose to do Pashimatanasana, Purvotansana, Janu Sirsasana A, and then Marichiasana A and B, or A and C.
- Skip Vinyasas – This is an option which is especially there for beginners, or if you are feeling tired. Skipping vinyasas will shorten your practice considerably and will make it less dynamic. So either you skip all vinyasas, or even better, skip the vinyasa between each side. So, for example, you enter Janu Sirsasana A, do it on the right side and then just switch legs and do it on the left side. Then do a vinyasa and do Janu Sirsaana B, switch sides, and so on.
The above information can be used for those learning more about the practice and are trying to figure out how long to practice for.
I think this information is also very useful for newer Ashtanga yoga teachers who may want some extra guidance when teaching led classes. I know I needed this when I started teaching!