The labeling of yoga classes by name (dynamic, hatha, vinyasa, etc) and level is a relatively recent addition to the yoga landscape, aiming to give more information to students about what kind of experience they should expect. In general, some type of naming convention works well to differentiate one class from another, especially when it is a word that is easily understood among the yoga community (eg. restorative, vinyasa, Iyengar). Even for someone new to yoga, they can at least call the studio or look online to build a clearer picture of what they may be getting themselves into. It is with the introduction of numbers to approximate the level of difficulty, however, that confusion tends to arise.
For one thing, what is difficult for one body is not for another. We all have different body types, constitutions and practice abilities based on many variables that make it difficult to create an objective view of a class ‘level’. Then there are differences between studios and their notions of what makes a class beginner, intermediate or advanced; in fact, even within one studio there may be a great disparity between classes that carry the same label. Finally, the 3-level rating system does not exist solely in London, but rather, is used on several continents that continue to push the boundaries of the physical practice. In a city like London where there are many transplants from North America, Australia and Asia, for example, the numerical system is that it can be misleading.
Today I had this type of misleading experience. I headed to a class at the Life Centre, Notting HillÂ (I vow to next week begin to venture further afield once new nanny settles in), and chose the class based on two pieces of information: 1.5 hour practice, level 2-3.
The teacher, Catriona Brokenshire, was friendly, relaxed and quirky, leading us through a long, perhaps half hour warm up that was interestingly woven together complete with some subtle backbending, twisting and balances. What followed was approximately five minutes of sun salutations, a handful of more static standing postures, leading to three to five seated postures as the cool down commenced. All in all, it was a gentle class that may have been delightful for a someone seeking level 1-2 class; however, as a level 2-3 class I left feeling like I had a severe itch that needed scratching.
Some people say that regardless of what you think you want, you always get what you need. If that is the case, perhaps this was the universe’s way of telling me to slow down and relax into the moment (which admittedly, has been rather full-on for the past month); to let go of my personal practice to be in the arch of the yoga challenge. However, for someone with limited time and opportunity to practice, it can be frustrating and disappointing to not have a fulfilling in-class experience. This is part of the challenge of the yoga challenge; to take it in, make note of the class and how I respond to it, communicate it as objectively as possible while still honoring my subjective experience…and let it go…