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The question I wish I was asked more often as a Yoga instructor

What is the difference between individual sessions and group classes? Here are 14 of them.

  1. Price. Group classes are usually around $30 whereas private sessions vary between $60-$120 (more for corporate or special classes). There are some community and cheaper classes out there, memberships, and some instructors may offer scholarships or be able to do some agreements and exchanges of services, depending on your financial means. 

  2. Focus. Group classes usually have a theme like power or Vinyasa or flow or Yin. Private sessions can be oriented toward a personal goal like headstand or flexibility or mobility or pain reduction for a certain area of your body. 

  3. Pranayama. In a group class breathing exercises will usually stay to the minimum in order to keep everyone safe and require a minimum supervision including people suffering from anxiety or breathing problems. In a private session we can target a specific concern like relaxation and anxiety management or activation or energy release or any kind of progression

  4. Pace. In a group class it has to be slow enough so that everyone can follow up but fast enough that nobody is bored. In a private session we take it to your own pace. 

  5. Adjustments. An instructor has to watch between 10 and 30 people on average in a group class to make sure that nobody gets injured and meanwhile demonstrating has a very limited time to adjust everyone. You’re lucky if you were corrected more than once. In a private session you get the full attention of the instructor and you get a correction throughout the entire practice. 

  6. Duration. Group classes have a predetermined length that is usually between 50 and 70 minutes. Part of it has to include a warmup, a cool down and Savasana. You can discuss the length of the private session before booking with your instructor if you want something longer or shorter. 

  7. Location. Group classes usually happen in a studio or a gym, and sometime in open space areas like the beach. Private sessions can happen in a studio but they can also be given at home, in a smaller studio, in nature and they are more flexible and adaptable. 

  8. Demonstration. In a group class the instructor has no choice to demonstrate most of the pastors to make sure that everyone knows where we’re going. In a private session the instructor will demonstrate new pressures or exercises but will spend the rest of the time observing you and adjusting your body. 

  9. Accessories. In a group class the instructor would mention the use of accessories for the most common variation of the postures. In a private session the use of accessory will be highly customised to your own body and flexibility. 

  10. Meditation and guidance. Most group classes are focused on postures and do not contain a lot of meditation aspect. Some have themes, but most guidance are very general. In a private session we can focus on whatever you have difficulty with, especially if there are a specific situation in your life happening right now, mental health situations or emotional and energy management. 

  11. Inspiration. In a group class are you maybe tempted to look at other participants and see that some of them are advanced practitioner. You may get motivated, inspired, jealous, distracted, comforted. That may be a plus that motivates you to come back every week or that can be negative if that impacts your self-esteem or distract you from your own practice. If you book a group class with a group of friends, the peer pressure makes you accountable to come back every week and not skip a session. You may be encouraged to monitor progress between one another. 

  12. Energy. In a group class there is usually a group energy. You’re asked to share the steam breath, to inhale and exhale at the same time during the sequence. You may share an Om at the beginning or the end of the practice, And sometimes there presence, or should I say the peer pressure of being surrounded by people make you go a little longer. Well a group class will most likely be energising, a private sessions allow you to go deeper in your feelings, explore your vulnerable sides, and maybe connect more to life outside of your mat to your practice. 

  13. Frequency. The same group class will usually be repeated every week for at least a semester. You will find the same instructor and more often than not the same students week after week. You don’t have to attend weekly since a lot of studios offer drop in. You can usually decide a frequency of your private sessions were there several times a week, once a month or just whenever you need it. 

  14. Progress. For private sessions, if you have a specific goal in mind, your instructor will most likely focus on it and design exercises whether to do during the sessions or in between sessions and the progress will be much faster. However if you cannot afford regular private sessions and you do not practice at home, you will see more progress by coming every week and repeating postures until you become more familiar with them. Asanas require a lot of muscle memory on top of concentration. If you need to develop some strength or flexibility, repetition is key to progress. Complimenting went home stretching or any other exercise will also most likely result in a faster progress.

As a yoga teacher, I teach both and I will sometime recommend a combinaison for my students, depending on their needs and focus, their availability, their financial situation or the pace they want to make progress.

As a yoga students, I take both for all the reason above! I love getting inspiration from a group class and feel the buzz and energy from everyone sharing a Om at the begining and end of a class, but if I have difficulty with a specific posture (for me Shoulder Stand or Salamba Sarvangasana is definitely a killer - hello neck and shoulder pain! - and I can't do it without shoulder support that I often do not have in a group class!) - I will take a private class. I also took bunch of lesson to improve my Warrior 3 (Vira Badrasana III) or Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana) since they aren't frequently worked in groups.

On top of group class and individual sessions, I learn most through self practice (at home) and reading. Coming soon, reference book lists and how to structure a practice at home!

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