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What are the levels in Yoga?

The concept of level is very widespread in yoga. Whether it's the level of an asana (posture) class or a person's spiritual level, you'll hear it everywhere. So what are these levels? Do they really exist?

Beginner vs. advanced?

A yoga class cannot be considered a beginner's class just because the asanas are simple, we work on alignment and take the time to feel and slow down.

The variety of postures, whether they are fast or slow, or wether the body is flexible or not, our age and the number of years of practice, are not criteria for level either.

Yet this is exactly what is implied by the media, and sometimes by the teachers themselves. Some students come to think that a course with accessible variations would not be enough for them, considering themselves to be at a more advanced level.

What's wrong with that?

The thing is that this concept of levels is based on an approach to yoga as an activity with physical objectives. It perceives the practice as a sport, a gym or a performance with steps to climb. What a paradox!

What a paradox, when Yoga not only offers an introspective, contemplative approach, but also goes beyond the idea of levels, a mental concept that does not reflect reality.

This approach to practice often leads students to prioritise the 'accomplishment of postures' over the relevance of alignment, listening to their body, the real meditative potential of the posture and questioning whether the body is really ready to explore this asana. The benefits seem positive, because in the moment you can feel proud of yourself and experience various sensations of pleasure, but in reality the potential of the practice is reduced to fleeting, superficial effects that may even be harmful to the body in the long term.

The intention is not to create ephemeral pleasure and a source of pride by pushing and forcing your body to bend to your will, but to explore its potential for inner balance, to step back and explore yourself in depth.

In what context might the use of the term level be relevant?

The term "level" can be useful in a number of contexts, bearing in mind that Yoga is a meditative, introspective and energetic practice.

Firstly, to respond to a potential student's search for simplicity. If you're looking for a particularly gentle practice because you'd like to learn to slow down, or if you're sensitive enough to prefer something simple, meditative, or if your body is suffering from pain following surgery or pathologies, or limitations due to a sedentary lifestyle over a number of years, sessions for beginners will enable you to be more sure of their accessibility, then for the sake of communication and in order to specialise the session to these expectations, the term level may be useful.

As an anecdote, I give several gentle yoga classes during the week, and these sessions are just as popular with long-standing practitioners who have gone through tonic and physically demanding approaches and are now interested in inner balance, meditation, mindfulness and gentleness, as they are with people who are new to postural practice and/or meditation.

Indeed, we soon realise that even with a body that can do lots of postures and flow them up quickly, inner calm and our deep understanding of ourselves on a daily basis are not necessarily more present.

So, by using the term 'beginner' and 'intermediate' for the Yoga with Awareness and Letting Go sessions, I'm allowing you to know that there will be an emphasis on exploring the asanas, which may be more demanding than in gentle yoga, while respecting each individual's body and remaining rooted in reconnecting with oneself and exploring new perspectives.

The second context offers a more technical point of view. Because technically, the body may or may not be ready to do an asana. Sometimes you'll have to invoke the courage not to enter a posture, particularly if your body or your teacher observe that it would be more harmful than beneficial at the time. Depending on whether you have a tense neck, shoulder prostheses, kyphosis or a rounded back, you won't just throw yourself into any asana. This requires listening and also the expertise of a teacher.

The good news is that no matter how many asanas the body can explore, the benefits are not limited or defined to that. The transformative nature of the practice lies in the potential for introspection and letting go that the very existence of the session allows.

Marie Mazeau professeure de Yoga Paris méditation douceur Lifexploratrice

Marie Mazeau, Lifexploratrice, certified full-time Yoga teacher in Paris, specialising in gentle, joyful, educational and meditative sessions online, for individuals, associations, companies and studios.



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