Yoga Expert: Which Level is Right for me?
When choosing which level of yoga class to register for, it’s important not to listen to your ego. Instead, consider what you would like to gain from the class and how in tune you are with your body. A good foundation in basic postures and alignment is essential. You can always gain new insight from taking a Level 1 class, no matter how fit or flexible you are, or how many years you have been doing yoga.
It’s a common mistake to assume that a Level 1 class is just for novices or physically inactive people and a Level 2 or 3 class for the more physically able. It’s much more complicated than that – some people attend Level 1 classes for years, whether or not they are ‘flexible’.
There is much value to be gained in working on foundational postures. It’s not about flexibility, it’s about your knowledge and experience of yoga. Yoga means learning and practicing the essential points of alignment, knowledge of the breath and a connectedness to the body.
All classes, no matter the level, will place an emphasis on using the breath and working mindfully with the body in order to tap into working with the subtleties of the mind. All levels of yoga will lead you towards a state of centered calm, and allow you to reap the physical and mental rewards of yoga.
Level 1 classes guide you slowly through many basic yoga poses. While suitable for beginners, they can also be for those working with an injury. Even many advanced students return again and again to a Level 1 class to work on the finer points of alignment in basic postures. Focus is on safety and alignment, and on making the beginner more comfortable and familiar with common yoga postures. Modifications will be given to make each pose accessible to different body types.
When will you be ready to advance to Level 2?
It’s a bit tricky to provide benchmarks to know if you are ready to move on to a Level 2 class. At the very least you must have a solid understanding of key points of alignment in Level 1 poses. Another pre-requisite is knowing how to bend forward, how to twist, how to move between postures, and on understanding the basic mechanics of breathing and linking the movement and poses to the breath.
Level 2 classes assume a working knowledge of yoga. The class might proceed a little bit quicker than a Level 1 class, but time will still be spent working on each pose. Your stamina (as well as your flexibility) will be tested as you might hold postures that require sustained muscle support as well as concentration.
Be patient in a Level 2 class, and listen to your teacher. The body takes time to change, and you don’t want to risk injury by expecting too much, too soon. You will likely encounter all sorts of internal dialogue bouncing around in your head. This is normal. Try not to become attached to what you expect your practice to look like, and instead accept it for what it is.
Are you ready to advance to Level 3? To make this transition, you need an ability to feel the workings of your body, adapting and responding to its relative tightness and openness.
An advanced practitioner, crucially, understands when not to push it. Each day on the mat is different, and a Level 3 practitioner listens, responds and adapts to their own internal energy.
If you think you’ve arrived at the pinnacle of your yoga practice with a Level 3 class, you may be disappointed. Humility is one of the greatest lessons a Level 3 practitioner learns. Level 3 yoga classes are more demanding in both physical, as well as mental aspects. Familiarity and comfort in basic poses and with your own body are a prerequisite.
Level 3 classes demand total focus on what is happening in your body and your mind. Distracting yourself by rearranging your ponytail, or examining the state of your pedicure is not an option.
In closing, choose your class wisely. Do not let your ego lead you to a class that your body is not ready for. You can find as much joy simply sitting in meditation or in moving slowly and mindfully through basic postures as there is in practicing more advanced postures. Yoga is always a journey, not a destination. Let go of doing more and practice doing what your body needs today. This is yoga.
~Note: much of the above is excerpted from an article by Genny Wilkinson-Priest~
" I had the best self care I could've had. It's the best way I can imagine starting my week! Thank you, Monika, for making me lighter, so that I could breathe. "
- Jamie W.