One of the toughest "sells" I have as a studio owner is convincing yoga students, many of whom have a very regular and growing practice, to invest their time in a workshop at the studio. Yoga workshops seem to have a perception problem, and it's probably time we addressed it, for everyone's good.
Why should you consider attending a yoga workshop? Here are just a few of the reasons I love them, and suspect that you might too.
Length and structure. Yoga workshops are NOT 2-hour yoga classes. A lot of workshop apprehension comes from the idea that you're basically signing up for a really long yoga class. And if you're a student who thinks that an hour class is perfect, or "I can barely make it through my regular-length class," then why on earth would you sign up for something twice as long? But yoga workshops (at least those we offer at Valley Vinyasa) are structured completely differently from a yoga class. Yes, there is practice, but there is also LOTS of time devoted to explanation, demonstration, questions, and discussion, so in the end you probably end up "doing" yoga about the same amount of time as you would in a regular class.
Focus. Most of our workshops focus in on a specific set of postures (balancing, inversions,
arm balances, etc). In a regular yoga class, you might get the chance to work on these specific postures for 5 minutes, maybe 10, out of the entire class, and even if you come to class regularly, you could go weeks between (for example) headstands. How do you grow in your practice of this pose when you only "see" it for 5-10 minutes every couple of weeks? Workshops are the answer. In every instance, I've taken the in-depth learning I've gained from a workshop and immensely increased my satisfaction with my regular yoga practice. Most workshop students report the same.
Questions. Workshops are specifically designed to invite and encourage questions, and then follow-up questions, and follow-ups to the follow-ups. Of course you can ask questions in a regular yoga class, and many students do, but it's trickier because of time limitations and the fact that this (headstand/arm balance/back bend) is just one of many postures the teacher has planned, and if he stops everything to break it down, we won't get through the class. In a workshop, the instructor's goal is to answer all of your questions using words and demonstrations until you feel equipped to move into the posture more comfortably.
Approaches. In a yoga class, if the teacher has a difficult posture planned, undoubtedly she
spends time leading up to it with other postures to prepare the body (and mind) for the "peak" pose. But given the structure of a regular class, she's likely to only be able to get you into the posture using one approach or set of instructions or props. In a workshop, though, she pulls out every trick, tip, and approach she knows with the understanding that different entries or "helps" in a posture work for different people. I've seen more workshop students than I could count who absolutely "could not" do a headstand or a side crow until the second or even third go-around, when a specific arm position or set of props was introduced that made it not only possible, but enjoyable!
Fun. Teachers love to teach workshops and have a lot of fun preparing for them, investing hours going back over notes, studying other teachers, and putting together just the right sequence of preparatory poses for the day. The fun they have getting ready for your workshop comes through in their excitement level and enthusiasm for sharing what they've discovered, and you can't help but have a good time. Workshops are designed to build community and friendship among students and teacher through the process of diving deeply into something that interests them both, encouraging each other along the way, laughing together when they don't quite "get it," and sharing the experience of achieving something you didn't think was possible, whether that something is an inversion or just a sense of gratitude for what you gave your body on that day.