13/12/15 - What are these levels all about?

You're thinking of mixing things up, trying a different class or style only to be confronted by the 'Suitable for Level 2/3 students' description. Eyes shift to the left side of the brain, images of yourself struggling in Chaturanga drift across your mind, doubt sets in and you think, "No, I don't think I'm ready for this class yet". Ohhh, the evil necessity of 'Level 1, 2, 3, 4 and 100' descriptions. 

I vividly recall the above happening to me, and putting off trying a harder class because, you know, who am I to think that I can cut it with the others? After months of delaying, I finally braved it, and yes, I stumbled and fumbled to clasp my hands, but no, I didn't sit there humiliated at my inability to do the new postures either. 

When I began teaching I realised that this level business is an extremely crude form of indicating the nature of the class, a glance description if you like that takes into consideration experience, overall health, and students' objectives, with the level simply stating 'more advanced postures will be included'. However, 'including' by no means is 'excluding' students.

Teachers can offer modifications for nearly every posture they teach by simply observing their students and doing this in a way that doesn't interrupt the flow of the class. When I see students struggling in a few postures, modifications are offered, however, as a student myself, I know what it's like to struggle in asana and having to practice self-responsibility. As such, I trust students to be ultimately responsible for matching the quality of their breathing to how far they move into a posture. 

Not being able to do postures doesn't necessarily mean you're in the wrong class, but can indicate that you're being pushed. I liken it to waking up one day and saying "Today, I will run 10K" despite only ever doing 5K. It takes time to build the pace, and in a yoga class it takes time to fire enough motor neurons to switch on the deeper dormant muscles that more challenging postures utilise which allows the whole body to adjust in a balanced fashion; this happens through steady practice of similar and complementary postures, as well as other physical activities. 

That said, if you leave a class feeling deflated and restless after being in child's pose for all but the sun salutes, then go to the level below and work on building the foundational strength but do not feel disheartened - it's a process of simply finding out what your boundaries are and whether these are actual or intellectual. As humans, we aspire and want to develop so simply view levels as a point of curiosity than an absolute rule. 

Practical points on Levels.

Generally speaking, the following points apply to Level 2/3 vinyasa-based classes:
  • Can hold downward facing dog with ease
  • Sun salutes and standing postures can be practised without breathlessness 
  • Unless an injury is present, shoulder stand can be practised safely
  • The alignment points of foundation postures such as downward dog, Trikonasana, Parsvakanasana, and Virabhadrasana are known.