Yoga is slowly becoming one of the most popular exercises among people nowadays because of its ability to increase a person’s flexibility, strength, and even aid in weight loss. It’s also a great way to release stress and helping you relax. Although other may consider yoga as their normal workout routine, many other yogis consider it to be so much more.
Yoga was believed to have been developed 5,000 years ago. It is a comprehensive system that mixes the physical, mental, and emotional well-being. The first known philosophical book of it was collected by an Indian sage, Pitanjali, who outlined the eight limbs of yoga. The yamas or the restraints, niyamas or the observances, asanas or postures, pranayama or the breathing, pratyahara or the withdrawal of senses, dharana or concentration, dhyani or meditation, and the samadhi or the enlightenment. The philosophical guidebook, known as the Yoga Sutra has been of great help in shaping the yoga that is practiced today.
People who practice yoga these days are currently on the third limb which is the asana. It focuses on postures and poses that are intended to cleanse the body and prepare it for long periods of intensive meditation.
Overall, yoga encourages people to let go of all the things you hold them down. It also helps people practice mindfulness through a series of asanas (poses) which in turn boost self-awareness and improve consciousness even in the moments when a person is not doing yoga.
Throughout the years, yoga has gone through a lot of changes and modifications. This led to the development of the different types of yoga such as the hatha yoga, vinyasa yoga, and Bikram yoga among others. It’s also important to know that like any other activities, yoga cannot be mastered overnight. Yogis have to go through different levels to achieve the perfect way to do yoga.
What are the Different Yoga Levels?
Yoga studios are not only known for the kind of yoga they teach. They are also known as to what level of yoga they offer. People who don’t really practice yoga may think that level 1 is for the beginners or those who are new when in fact, it’s not. Flexibility is doesn’t decide whether or not you’re ready to move on to the next level rather, it’s your knowledge, experience, and expertise of the yoga practice.
Newbies, no matter how flexible they are, must go through level 1 yoga classes and must work their way up. Before going through more complicated postures, they must be able to learn the basics such as the essential points of alignment of the most simple yoga poses. They must also learn how to incorporate proper breathing techniques as they meditate.
Let’s dig a little bit deeper to the different levels of yoga as well as the poses that are usually focused in each level:
Yoga Level 1 classes are usually where the fundamentals and basic yoga poses are introduced to a beginner yogi. This level mostly focuses on the proper alignment of the most basic yoga poses. Seasoned yoga practitioners who have moved on to the next level often go back to level 1 to work on the finer points of alignment of some advanced asanas. While the level 1 yoga class in perfect for beginner yogis; it’s also perfect for yogis who are currently recovering from an injury.
Moreover, level 1 yoga is the class where the instructors give the newbies an overview of what yoga really is. They may perform a specific pose and call it by its Sanskrit name as well as its English translation so as not to cause confusion in beginners. Pranayama or breathing techniques may also be taught in level 1 yoga classes.
Props and other materials for support may also be used in level 1 class to help beginner yogis to maintain their stability with each pose. Movements are also executed more slowly compared to the higher levels to give the students time to perform and grasp the idea of each pose.
Poses Taught in Level 1 Yoga:
- Downward Dog
- Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)
- Vrksasana (Tree Pose)
- Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior 1)
- Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)
- Balasana (Child’s Pose)
- Marjaryasana (Cat Pose)
- Savasana (Corpse Pose)
- Bridge Pose
Determining whether you’re ready to move on to the next level may be tricky. The basic requirement of moving on to the next level is at least a proper understanding of the alignments of basic asanas since these will be the foundation of more advanced postures taught in higher levels.
Once you’ve completed level 1, you’re now ready to move on to the next level – Level 2. To be able to completely execute the asanas that are taught in level 2 yoga class you need to be able to know how to twist, bend, and how to properly incorporate breathing to every pose. The main points that will be tested in a level 2 yoga class are flexibility, stamina, and balance.
In a level 2 yoga class, you should expect more advanced yoga poses to be taught. Inversions such as headstand and arm stand a few of the poses that will be taught. The asanas taught in level one may just serve as a transitional state – a preparation for another pose – and the instructors would expect the students to already know the essential points of alignment of each level 1 pose.
Unlike in level 1, the Sanskrit term of the poses are sometimes not translated to its English translation anymore. Furthermore, the instructors would only demonstrate poses that are not taught before and mostly would just walk around and assist and offer hands on adjustments to guide students to perfecting a pose. Though the flow of the poses in level 2 are done in a quicker pace than in level 1, it still maintains a pace where the yogis would still have time to work on each pose.
Level 2 yoga classes may also involve advanced breathing techniques such as Kumbhaka or breathing retention. These advanced pranayamas enable yoga practitioners to be aware of the surroundings. Mudras, chants, and bandhas may also be taught in level 2 yoga class.
Poses Taught in Level 2 Yoga:
- Padangusthasana (Big Toe Pose)
- Paripurna Navasana (Boat Pose)
- Camatkarasana (Wild Thing)
- Pincha Mayuranasa (Feathered Peacock Pose)
- Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose)
- Bakasana (Crane Pose)
Level 2 classes may require you to hold poses for much longer so that your practice may be enhanced. The key to accomplish level 2 yoga classes is patience. The class will prove to be demanding as the poses that are taught becomes advanced. Be patient and work your way up slowly.
A level 3 yoga class is usually taken by seasoned yoga practitioners who have a complete understanding of the philosophy of yoga. Arriving at this level may take a person many years. This level requires the practitioners to have an expertise in yoga knowledge. They should also an excellent degree of stamina and flexibility.
It’s also important that a level 3 yoga practitioners understand the workings of their body. They should understand their limits and should know when to stop since humility is the main focus of the level 3 yoga class.
A level 3 yoga class required the advanced yoga practitioner to completely let go of its surroundings and focus on the things that are happening within his/her own body. The poses you learned from the previous levels will be useful since the asanas that are taught in a level 3 yoga class are going to involve a lot of balancing and deep backbends.
Since it is the most advanced stage, the instructors won’t do any demonstrations since they are assuming that the students already know the poses. If it is a vinsaya class, you can expect the movement transitions to be very quick. The yoga practitioners are also expected to have built enough strength and flexibility to keep up with the poses.
Poses Taught in Level 3 Yoga:
- Tittibhasana (Firefly Pose)
- Kapotasana (King Pigeon Pose)
- Eka Pada Koundinyasana (Pose Dedicated to the Sage Koundinya II)
- Viparita Dandasana (Two-Legged Inverted Staff Pose)
- Padmasana (Lotus Pose)
- Bhujadipasana (Shoulder-Pressing Pose)
- Astavakrasana (Eight Angle Pose)
Choosing what class you belong in matters when practicing yoga. If you’re a newbie, you should start with level 1 class and work your way up. No matter how good you’ve become, there will always come a time when you will need to go back to level 1 classes in order to correct basic poses.
Yoga can do a lot of things to our body. Though it cannot cure diseases, yoga can greatly improve the inner workings of your body. It improves your awareness thereby allowing yogis to have a much better control of what we do to our body. Other benefits of yoga include:
- Reduced Stress
- Improved Flexibility
- Better Sleep
- Improved Cardiovascular Health
- Increased Strength
- Proper Body Alignment
You don’t need much to start practicing yoga. With just a mat and proper yoga attire, you’d be able to start doing yoga. Another wonderful thing about yoga is that you can do it anytime and almost everywhere – be it at a park, your house, or a vacant space in your workplace.
It’s also important to remember that the road to self-realization is not an easy one. Along the way, you will experience bumps but don’t let that stop you. Instead, use that to drive yourself to do better.