A discussion came up on a LinkedIn group for Yoga Teachers and Instructors. The question was:

How do you deal with having a mixed group of people in one class? Having a pre-natel, beginner, intermediate and an older person maybe in the same class…..

The gist of the responses revolved around the idea of teaching more advanced poses in stages, so the “beginners” can get the first easier steps, and the more “advanced” students can go through to harder stages. Then “Mina” said that in India there was no such things as “Level I” yoga, “Level II” yoga, and so on. I picked up on that train of thought and shared the following.

I am posting here my reply so you too may read it.

I agree with the approaches already suggested… such as starting each asana in its simplest form, and then adding steps toward its more challenging form.

And yet I like what Mina has shared. It brings the following to mind… which I would like to share with you:
In my own practice and sharing of yoga I don’t outright subscribe to the idea of “beginner” yoga, and “advanced” yoga (or Level I, II, III, etc.) in relation to the asanas that are taught. For instance, much of the main yoga routine I tend to practice has the same basic asanas I started out with 20+ years ago! I am sure much of it is what might be classed as “Level I” asanas.

For me it is not the asana itself that is of primary importance. Yoga, in my experience, is a state of consciousness. Therefore whatever the asana–even the day-to-day ones like washing the dishes–I am engaged in is essentially an act of putting into practice a very particular state of conscious. Interestingly, that state of consciousness cannot easily be classified into “levels”, if at all.

Something as “basic” as Tadasana can be approached in a yogic way (extraordinary), or in some other way (ordinary). So for me it is more about “advanced” (highly refined and penetrating or awakened) states of consciousness, as opposed to “advanced” asanas. A person can take any asana and practice it in a very deep state of yogic awareness, or in a very mundane state of awareness… even half asleep if that’s where they are at. If practicing it half asleep, the asana takes on the quality of being a “beginner” or “basic” asana. If practiced with wakefulness, presence, and unity of body-mind-spirit (Yoga) it takes on the quality of being a highly advanced asana. All the while the actual physical posture could be something as simple as Tadasana or a basic forward bends, or stretching the hands above the head.

It is in this way a very “ordinary” (basic, uncomplicated, “easy” to physically do) asana is transformed into a gateway to the “extraordinary”. It is my observation that it is easy for yoga practitioners to trap themselves into seeking out “extraordinary” poses and other physical feats, and yet end up with a very “ordinary” or mundane experience (in terms of its impact on their state of Being both in the moment of practicing it, and throughout waking and sleeping life).

Of course I am aware that as a yoga teacher I must utilise appropriate (life-giving) ways to incorporate people of many different states of consciousness and different states of physical condition into the average yoga class. For this reason my approach to conveying Yoga to students is a combination of utilising asanas of varying degrees of difficulty (challenge)–splitting an asana up into stages as Diane pointed out–whilst also constantly introducing, and reintroducing, and reintroducing the student to an “approach” which is Yogic in nature. I won’t diverge into explaining that here, yet I trust my point is meaningful enough.With heart,