Navigating through Yoga class offerings
Level 1, level 2, beginner , intermediate, advanced , Gentle and more .. How do you know what kind of yoga class should you take? Studios and teachers try very hard to put them in one of these categories but it is challenging to put ourselves in one of these boxes. I am offering an insight here from the observations as yoga teacher and practitioner who has taught and have practiced in various yoga studios here in the US.
First , it is Important to understand that even though Yoga is vast subject , most yoga studios focus on Asana( physical intensity) as their primarily way to label or categorize a class.
In my experience, yoga classes offered in the gym tend to be to be more physically challenging or athletic in nature as the clients who go to these gyms like a physically intense practice. There might be some yin and gentle practices to compliment the more vigorous workouts, they usually will be advertised as such.
Yoga classes offered in community centers , basement of someone house, a park, a hotel lobby, office space do not have a definitive structure. This depends entirely on the teacher leading that particular class. They vary anywhere from cardio intense workout style to well thought sequence building up to a particular pose to educating about a yoga philosophy to gentle stretches and meditation. So, it will be a hit or a miss unless you know that particular teacher well.
Yoga classes offered in spaces dedicated to mostly offer Yoga tend to have a bit of a structure. Generally , beginner or level 1 classes are accessible to a student who has no serious physical injuries . The teacher in the class are expected to explain all the poses in a clear , simpler ways which helps students build strength, gain flexibility, body and breath awareness. Level 2 or intermediate classes tend be more physically challenging, not all the poses are broken down and explained (teachers expects that the students know the basic poses) , also the more complex elements of the practice like engagement or relaxation of deeper muscles, bundhas and complicated transition between the poses are added. Level 3, advanced classes has more complex asansa and quicker transition between the poses are taught which requires immense concentration, focus and dedication to the practice.
Being said that, it is important to know that teachers have various levels of experiences, backgrounds and come from different linage of teachers which influences they way they teach. So, if you are new to this yoga language ( I do think it is a language of its own) and wondering where to start your yoga journey,
here are some beginner tips.
Ask questions, most studio owners and teachers are very happy to answer any of your questions. We really like people, that is why we became teachers.
Know your physical limitations, serious inquiries, surgeries, how physically active you are. Even if you have some constant pain, start with a gentle class. If that is too slow, you can also pick another level class.
Always , always spend some time in beginner, level 1 classes ,as you gain so much knowledge and also can familiarize with the yoga terminologies. Take beginner class even if you can spring into a handstand during your lunch break. This is the most valuable investment of your time as a yoga practitioner.
You might feel like you are doing lots of posses and breaking a good sweat in a level 2 class but it not sustainable if you have not learned the basics . You will feel constantly distracted by what others are doing and they are doing it skillfully which makes it harder to comprehend. You will doubt your progress and the comparison creeps in. It will eventually creep in but at least in a beginner class, you are in good company.
The beauty of a modern yoga studio practice is it offers variety but variety is not necessarily a good thing as beginner practitioner. Try out few teachers but try to stick to one or 2 teachers who you resonate with for a while. It helps you to have a consistency in your practice and the teacher will also get to know you and offer modifications and assistance you might need.
Finally, teachers have different styles . I tend to be a teacher who like to break down most poses in my class. 75% of my class is about asana , postures or movements and the rest of 25% is about pranayama, meditation, philosophy and chanting. That means, I pretty much give instructions and teach something the entire time you are in my class. You might find that educational and some might find it annoying. But as a teacher, I have found that to be beneficial as a practitioner and also a teacher. If that is your style, connect with me or find a teacher who you might resonate with . Yoga is a life changing practice, hope you find a teacher, studio and style you enjoy.