Our summer schedule includes mostly “all-levels” classes. Truly speaking, is there any other type of yoga class?
We come to yoga with varying levels of abilities, including:
· Level of fitness, strength and flexibility, stability and openness - physical ability
· Level of kinesthetic awareness - ability to sense our bodies
· Level of attention and mental focus - ability to listen to and follow verbal instruction
· Level of awareness and receptivity - ability to implement the instruction in our bodies
· Level of self-awareness - ability to be sensitive to oneself and aware of one’s potential on any given day, including the ability to gauge, and then the willingness to respect and work within our limitations
· Level of knowledge of the form of the asanas - ability to move in and out of the postures.
· Level of knowledge of alignment-based technique - ability to work in and refine our actions in the postures.
· Level of memory - ability to remember and what we’ve learned.
And the list goes on. Each is the result of a particular combination of many different contributing factors that shift for each of us over time and depending on what else is going on inside and around us. For example, I may be very focused usually but today I’m distracted because of a situation in my work. I may be flexible usually, but feeling stiff and achy lately because of a seasonal imbalance, etc., etc., etc.
It’s important to acknowledge the complexity of what we bring to the mat and of what we are asked to do in the progressive, alignment-based practice.
Step by step we develop all of these competencies in yoga, deepening our inquiry and refining our practice over time.
As students, knowing our strengths and weaknesses we learn where to place our efforts.
Equally important is self-acceptance, giving ourselves permission to be where we are. From here lies the possibility of accepting the challenge and approaching the subject with curiosity and even enthusiasm for the never-ending opportunity for growth and learning that practice affords us.
Teachers can learn to recognize and appreciate the where each student is at and become sensitive to their aptitude on these different levels. We can then choose how to frame our interactions based on this understanding.
In this way, we teach the bodies and minds that are in front of us, right here and now, guiding each one to their next step along the path, and offering useful and appropriate direction along the way.