Back to Back Yoga Classes

Wendy attends three of my Zoom yoga classes weekly. Currently the classes are spaced apart, with a rest day in between. Next year, I’m rearranging my class schedule—and she’ll end up taking two classes on consecutive days: Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.

“I might have to sleep in my yoga clothes:),” she wrote in email. “If you have any recommendations for participating in back to back classes, let me know.”

For beginners, I’d generally recommend a rest period between classes. But, for Wendy, a regular practitioner without major health issues, yoga classes on consecutive days are fine. After all, yoga ideally should be done daily.

Back to back classes might seem like yoga overload, but I can make a case for them.

Build stamina

Most asana classes demand some physical effort. Consecutive classes might feel tiring at first but, as poses become familiar, they require less effort. Repeating poses day after day, you build stamina and poses become easier.

The stamina required is not only physical, but also mental. Can you be fully engaged two days in a row? You must clear your schedule for a prolonged period. Otherwise you’ll be distracted and the classes will be a burden.

Getting accustomed to consecutive days of yoga is good prep for workshops. A typical weekend workshop runs from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon. Experienced practitioners don’t bat an eyelash at weeklong or even monthlong yoga “intensives.”

Pace yourself for optimal intensity

Would you do a pose differently knowing that you’d repeat it ten times? Or knowing that you’d take another class in less than 24 hours?

Although I mention the need for stamina, you must nevertheless look at the big picture. For example, if you have injury-prone knees, you probably shouldn’t go all out daily. Vary your poses (or your intensity) each day.

Smart pacing often requires restraint. I often tell my students, “Don’t give one-hundred percent of yourself to a pose.” Save a bit of yourself. Who knows what’s coming next? Give one-hundred percent of yourself only if running from a tiger or in other life-or-death situations.

Observe your energy at different times of day

How does morning versus evening yoga feel? Yoga before or after work?

Some people aren’t overly affected by circadian rhythms or work schedules. Others vary in energy or in mood at different times of day. Do you know which type you are?

If you have a medical condition, such as arthritis or migraine, consider what times of day are less likely to trigger flare-ups. If you choose a dicey time, you’re likely to miss classes.

Also consider BKS Iyengar’s recommendations. In Light on Yoga, he specifies the best times of day for yoga practice as either early morning or late evening:

In the morning, he writes, the body is stiff, while the mind is fresh, alert, and determined. (He adds that with practice, morning stiffness is conquered.)

In the evening, he continues, the body moves more freely. Yoga can alleviate fatigue and bring a sense of calm.

Enhance learning from frequent repetition

Several of my students, like Wendy, attend multiple weekly classes. They are setting themselves up for learning, simply by reinforcement. (Of course, those who practice on their own are also fueling their growth. Classes aren’t necessary, but can encourage commitment, motivation, and variety.)

Some subjects, such as yoga, benefit from frequent repetition. If multiple weekly classes aren’t feasible, attend workshops every so often. Note the general terminology for multi-day classes:

  • Workshop: generally runs from one to three days.
  • Intensive: generally runs from five to seven days.
  • Sadhana: generally runs from a week to a month.

My teacher Louie Ettling often leads a 40-day sadhana before the winter holidays. Daily early-morning yoga for 40 consecutive days! Although none are rank beginners, students vary in experience level. Louie told me that she’d see remarkable progress in everyone, most visibly in the less experienced. Do the math. If weekly students take 40 classes in nine months, the sadhana students take 40 classes in a month and a half!

By repeating a lesson soon after introduction—such as during Wendy’s back to back classes—you’re more likely to remember it. In yoga, this involves both conceptual learning and “muscle memory.”

Shake up your routine

I rarely practice yoga in the afternoon or evening. Sometimes, however, I’m forced to do so, perhaps at a workshop or if I gather the wherewithal to practice at night at home. I never regret it.

I might prefer morning yoga, but I probably should occasionally do evening yoga. Why? Evening yoga is not necessarily better or worse than morning yoga. But we creatures of habit must practice mental flexibility and be open minded enough to shake up our routines.

Note: I took these photos during my 2014 trip to India. My month-long study at RIMYI was cut short when BKS Iyengar passed away on August 20 at age 95. There, I had no say regarding my schedule of back to back classes.

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