Yoga Class Levels at Yoga Now
It’s always a tough thing to categorise yoga classes because our practice is not easily pidgeon-holed. So much has to do with how the practitioner perceives themselves and yoga teaches us that our own evaluation of ourselves is often not to be trusted! Yoga is for the mind, after all. As our invocation begins “Yogena cittasya” – we salute sage Patanjali who gave us the science of yoga to purify our mind and consciousness.
“An asana is in reality more a mental endeavour than a mere physical posture. It requires definitive mental contributions. In an Iyengar yoga class, a student learns the asana in a manner whereby he/she starts confronting, objectifying and reading his/her own mind”. (Certification and Assessment Guidelines July 2020)
We have decided to classify our classes as they do in our mother institute in Pune, RIMYI. Beginners; Intermediate; Advanced; Pranayama (and General).
Beginners classes are very much based on learning correct and precise action. Understanding individual asanas with specific reference to the external configuration. Asanas will be demonstrated and the Sanskrit names of the asanas taught. These classes will usually start with standing poses as most body parts are more accessible in this family. Inversions (sirsasana and sarvangasana) will be taught.
These classes will therefore be suitable mostly for those in their first 3 or 4 years of Iyengar yoga but it is quite OK to want to stay at this stage and go on attending for as long as you want.
After 3/4/5 years you may want to graduate from the plane of physicality to the plane of sensitivity. The more challenging poses require this deeper understanding of what is happening in a particular asana, the subjective feeling, and how other parts of the body respond somatically to particular actions. Asanas will be held for a longer duration and breath will be introduced as a tool to focus the mind.
More challenging asanas will be introduced, but not compulsory, and alternatives will be given. This will include variations in the inverted asanas. The emphasis is on practicing sensitively, curiously and with more understanding. Some asanas will be demonstrated but not all of them.
You should be familiar with many of the Sanskrit names of the asanas and be doing some home practice. You should also be familiar with the common use of equipment – for example, how to use the wall for support. Once again you can stay at this stage for as long as you wish.
These classes are for students who have a regular practice at home, who have fallen in love with the subject and, as such, know the names of most of the asanas being taught (apart from when new ones are introduced). Again, it has to be emphasized that these classes are not about doing complicated and difficult asanas. Although some of these will be taught, alternatives will be given. It will be expected that students know the basic actions and direction of the asanas and are moving to a higher level of heightened sensitivity and perceptivity of the relationships between the body parts, the mind and the breath.
For Intermediate and Advanced students, these classes teach Pranayama practice. Awareness of the breath develops through asana practice and once we have a good understanding of asana, our own body and our own breath, we can begin to explore the relationship between body, mind and breath through pranayama. Pranayama is the 4th limb of the Ashtanga (8 limbs of yoga).
These classes are for all levels of student to practice together. Alternatives will be shown where needed, to accommodate different levels within the class but some awareness of how to practice safely for yourself is required.