YOGA ABILITY LEVELS
As observed at Ashtanga Yoga School Bellingham
Level 1- All levels
Level 2-Some experience is helpful. Physically demanding. Stamina required.
Level 3-Experienced ashtanga yoga practitioners with excellent stamina and physical ability.
Level 4-Advanced practitioners with ability to progress beyond the primary series
Level 5-Advanced practitioners and teachers with abilities up through the majority of the second series
Mysore | All Levels: Practice of yoga within the Krishnamacharya lineage done individually in a group setting with an instructor
Led Primary | level 3: Primary Series of Ashtanga Yoga as taught by Sri K Pattabhi Jois
traditional sanskrit count only
done just like David Garrigues in this video: https://davidgarrigues.com/shop/a-guide-to-primary-series
Led 1/2 Primary | level 2-3: The Primary Series of Ashtanga Yoga with either:
some elements of the seated postures left out
closing postures omitted
count sped up to finish earlier
a few second series postures thrown in for good measure
DIFFICULTY LEVELS EXPLANATION
Note: This is a basic overview and generalization of asana difficulty. No one other than yourself can decide how far to push your body. Some postures are taken very simply without much effort by some, and others are taken with great difficulty. There is so much variation. Please consult your doctor when it comes to how much yoga you can take.
Level 0: This is a class without much physical exertion, typically asana classes at this level are for people with disabilities such as being bound to a wheelchair or reliant upon a walker. Level 0 classes typically involve breathing, discussion (conference) on yamas, niyamas, and philosphy, as well as discussions of yoga sequencing specific for an individual. On the Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion this class is a 11-12 or “fairly light”.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) is in Surya Namaskara and would be considered a Level 1 or 2 posture depending on application in this scale.
Uthitta Hasta Padangustasana is part of the standing sequence of Ashtanga Yoga and would be considered a Level 2 posture in this scale.
Level 1: This is a class for beginners. These classes will involve basic classical as well as adapted postures of the primary and intermediate series of Ashtanga Yoga and common asana taught in the Krishnamacharya lineage as well as in sacred texts such as the Siva Samhita and Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Level 1 classes are typically more educational and informative, with plenty of time to transition between postures. On the Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion this class is a 13-14 or “somewhat hard”.
Bakasana is a posture done in a sequence in the primary series and the second series. It would be considered a Level 3 posture in this scale.
Level 2: This is a class for students with a developing practice. Typically level 2 classes will involve quick transitions and as much as one full hour of continuous motion. Classes with a level 1-2 designation offer students a choice to take things to the higher or lower level by individually selecting when and how to push your limits. Level 2 postures include all standing postures of Ashtanga Yoga and Surya Namaskara A&B done without props. Level 2 can best be defined as “progressing towards intermediate”, while Level 1-2 could be defined as a class designed for those either transitioning from Level 1 to Level 2 or who can attend the class as a beginner who has the ability to exercise constraint. On the Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion this class is a 14-15 or “hard”.
Level 3: This is a class for intermediate students. Level 3 is exemplified by the Primary Series of Ashtanga Yoga, with up to 2 hours of challenging and continuous movement. Students without a developed practice should shy away from or attend with caution any class with a Level 3 designation. Classes labeled “level 2-3” are classes with advanced postures that students may avoid. On the Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion this class is a 14-15 or “very hard”.
Level 4: This is an advanced level class by most students standards. Level 4 is the first half of the second series. This is for students who have been practicing every day for over 5 years and who are in very good condition with minimal or no injuries. Any class marked Level 4 should be avoided entirely by beginners, and should be undertaken with great care by all.
Level 5: This is an advanced level class such as the 2nd or 3rd series of Ashtanga Yoga and is for advanced practitioners only. Students without a deep understanding of asana take great risk by attempting any posture that is categorized by Level 5. Practitioners who have level 5 asana in their regimen do so with great respect. In many traditions of Ashtanga Yoga no posture that would be considered “Level 5” is given by anyone other than an advanced level authorized or certified Ashtanga Yoga teacher, or their students.
Kapotasana is part of the first set of postures of the Intermediate/2nd series of Ashtanga Yoga, and would be considered a Level 4 posture in this scale.
For reference, here are two other scales of yoga difficulty at two renowned yoga schools which we concur with in their respective sphere’s of study. Take note that Ashtanga Yoga is invariably more advanced physically than most types of yoga, and this scale is highly subjective. We have tried to make sense of this here but each student should take great care when attending classes at a new studio as the scale may be different from place to place. Keep in mind that because we are an Ashtanga Yoga studio, our system is going to be more in line with that of Ashtanga Yoga Center and the renowned Tim Miller!
Ashtanga Yoga Center, Carlsbad, CA
Intro to Ashtanga – level 1
Foundations of yoga philosophy, breathing and Basic Postures
Intro to First Series – level 2/3
Exploration of all standing postures of the Primary series and various seated postures of the series
First Series – level 3
Entire beginning series of Ashtanga Yoga
Intro to 2nd Series – level 4
Exploration of 1st half of Second series
Second Series – level 5
Entire Intermediate series
Mysore – mixed levels
Independent practice with instructor, hands on guidance and attention to special needs
Improvisation – level 2/3 4/5
Vinyasa-flow based on the principles of Ashtanga Yoga
Here are some basic guidelines to help you find the right level:
A level 1 class will be introductory. Instructors should explain thoroughly how to get in and out of each pose and should explain the proper alignment for each pose (if this isn’t your experience at a studio, we recommend you try other studios until you find one that teaches proper alignment in beginning level classes). Introductory classes will also move more slowly than a higher level class and should offer you lots of modifications in each pose to fit your fitness level. If you can comfortably walk at a brisk pace for 30 minutes or more you should be fine in a level 1 class.
A level 2 class will generally be more aerobic, especially if it is a flow (vinyasa) class. If you find yourself in a class that feels too challenging or over your head, you are always welcome to rest or modify the poses to fit your fitness level (your teacher should remind you of this). A level 2 class will also probably begin to incorporate more advanced poses such as inversions (headstand, handstand, forearm stand) and backbends. Once again, you can always modify or choose not to do a pose if you feel uncomfortable.
A level 3 class will be advanced. There will probably be very little instruction on proper alignment as the teacher will likely assume that students know and understand the correct position for each pose. If it is a vinyasa or flow class, it will likely move very quickly. While the aerobic component of a higher level class is probably equivalent to a few-mile jog, there is also a lot of strength work in these classes. To make sure you stay safe and healthy, it’s important to make sure you have the strength and flexibility to do a pose properly. Beware that a level 3 flow or vinyasa class can get very sweaty!