Yoga videos: Beginner? Advanced? How can I tell?

If you read the description for most yoga classes, it will read something along the lines of, “A vinyasa flow session suitable for all levels. Come ready to sweat!”  From a marketing standpoint, this makes complete sense.  A class suitable for yogis of all levels means a class that is open to everybody. Higher attendance, higher profit. But is that the only reason why they’re doing it? Sure, Warrior 3 is a difficult pose, and there is no doubt that headstands are not accessible to everybody.  Often an instructor will demonstrate a posture or variation that a yogi does not consider in his or her practice. So the question becomes whether or not classes that include these poses are really suitable for all levels.

The answer is yes, these classes really are suitable for all levels of yogis, and this is due to at least two things: 1) variations; and 2) yoga ideology, as I interpret it.

Variations of poses can be done for a few reasons. Previous injuries, soreness, a desire to avoid a certain tension, or maybe a decision to a more “chill” session can all be reasons why people choose to do a less intense variation of a posture, or to avoid going into an extended variation. Conversely, a yogi may do an extended variation of a posture for increased difficulty. Maybe a yogi will decide that today, instead of doing headstand he will try to do a handstand. Generally, you will not do an extended variation of a posture unless you are familiar with it, and have gotten to the point where you can be considered advanced enough to attempt it. But how can you be content with yourself if you don’t try new things, to push limits, or explore? Yoga should be FUN, which brings me to my second point.

Yoga ideology – a huge aspect of this for me is having fun. If I want to try an extended variation of a posture, why shouldn’t I? No regrets, right? Maybe I will try an extended posture and end up falling over. Nobody will laugh at me. In all likelihood I will just laugh at myself – but I’ll be glad to that I tried it. I’ll continue to try it, and maybe one day I’ll get it. On the other hand, yoga encourages acceptance of yourself. Maybe you don’t want to go into a handstand because you’re content with doing a shoulder stand – and that’s okay! Nobody is forcing you to do anything. The option is there – but it isn’t required.

So what level are my videos considered? In truth, they really are for all levels. Some of the progressions can be considered difficult, but the most difficult part of the sessions is having the will power and endurance to push through the postures and series. Through focusing on breathing and control of your body, the session culminates in appreciation of what you were able to accomplish. Feelings of inadequacy are placed aside. Am I advanced? Am I a beginner? These are ambiguous terms. Ultimately you classify yourself, and nothing else matters.

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