There is no competition in yoga. You don’t start at the bottom, and gradually make your way to the top. There is no magical pinnacle where you suddenly and forever become enlightened. You don’t get a prize for doing a handstand in the middle of the room. There IS a beginning, but there is no middle and hopefully, no end.
There are many different styles and levels of classes offered at yoga studios. You will see Level 1, all levels, level 2/3, etc. This might lead you to believe that you start at Level 1 and make your way gradually towards level 2/3, as if it is your final yoga destination. This is a huge misconception.
Some people will navigate their way from beginners classes up to the more advanced classes. There can be a lot of value in challenging the body and mastering postures that you thought were too difficult. But this doesn’t make you better or higher than people who like to attend mellow classes and have no desire to do more physically challenging classes. I talk to people who feel like they are lazy or “bad” at yoga because they want to stick with the slower paced classes that beginners often take. I have a core group of students in my Level 1 Hatha classes who have been with me for years. Their yoga practice evolves and deepens not because they can do lots of fancy-pants postures, but from religiously coming twice a week and creating a strong connection with breath and body.
I would say an “advanced” yoga practitioner is one who makes yoga practice an integral part of one’s life, not based on the difficulty of the classes one attends.
Classes must be labeled so people know what they are signing up for. Level 2 and level 3 are not better or higher than level 1. They are just harder. More challenging. Not better. That’s the only difference. Once you find the pace that works for you, there is no need to change. There is no hierarchy in yoga. We are all ultimately seeking that same feeling of peace, contentment and release that yoga brings us – we just have different ways of getting there.
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