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All levels Yoga Class - myth or possible?

Before I begin - let me go ahead and admit my strong bias on this topic. 🙂

I strongly disagree with the “all-levels” distinction for yoga asana classes. First, we would NEVER consider an all-levels math class so why would we pretend that we can conduct a physical-based practice for ALL?!

What happens when folks don’t see themselves represented in the ALL?

What about when ALL means that we are hammering out 6 rounds of sun salutations within the first 7 minutes of class?

What about folks in wheelchairs who can’t access your 2nd floor studio space?

Still saying all-levels without elevator or ramp access?

And don’t get me started on Warrior 1 in Sun Salutation B as a warm up…

There’s nothing wrong with not being for everyone.

In fact, I highly recommend you NOT be for everyone - sounds exhausting.

We can get clear on who our classes are for, and what expectations we hold for folks walking in the room (key word: probably walking, unless you or the studio has removed some barriers to create space for folks with other methods of arrival).

Ok so now that that’s out of the way - let’s dive into a more balanced discussion.

Currently, I do teach 1-class that is labeled “All-Levels Vinyasa” and when there are new-to-me students (or a larger class) I will often begin with the following spiell/disclaimer:

“Hello Hello friends. If we haven’t met yet - my name is Grace, I use she/her pronouns. We are here for an hour, and this class is called All-Levels Vinyasa - which I honestly believe is kinda a joke. No one would show up for an all-levels math class so let’s not pretend that ALL can show up to an asana class. What I will do is teach to ALL that are here in this room. And while I do my best to see you all, I probably won’t offer every variation that is necessary. Please feel free to take what you need, even if that means taking a nap. Your full spectrum of experience is welcome here.”

I use my warm up space to watch my students and am always open to adapting my plan or ideas or ego.

I asked this same question to my YTT class a few years ago, and one of the student’s answers made me pause…

She said “Yes, all-levels are possible because you taught us _______ so I would feel comfortable letting someone lay down and just imagining the asanas while breathing.”

_______ = lots of kind words about her experience in my 200-hour program that made my heart swell and mind expand

And while this isn’t a shameless plug for my YTT ;)

It DOES speak to the power of the other limbs of Yoga.

  1. Yamas

  2. Niyamas

  3. Asana

  4. Pranayama

  5. Pratyahara

  6. Dharana

  7. Dhyana

  8. Samadhi

Yamas and Niyamas are more ethical considerations - which I will continue down the rabbit hole of exploration over the next 10-ish months. #spoiler

Asana is our physical practice and pranayama is our breath, which leaves 4-whole limbs that may be more accessible for this ALL.

Pratyahara is the practice of sense withdrawal, and should be mindful of trauma being in the room when employing some techniques and tools. Giving people choices is always the right move.

Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi are all related and I like to think about them like stairsteps.

Dharana is typically described as 1-pointed focus on an object, Dhyana as absorption with said object, and Samadhi as total bliss.

But here’s the thing - we can’t necessarily sit down and say we are going to practice Dhyana or Samadhi.

As teachers - we can’t guide our students to these states either.

We can set conditions, and practice - with nonattachment.

And maybe we climb this ladder.

And this can happen with anything - a mantra, a mudra, a yantra, a plant, a pet, a lover, a magical moment in time and space.

Example: I am watching a beautiful sunset on a pristine beach in Costa Rica. I can choose to either take lots of photos on my phone (guilty) or I can choose to be with that sunset. In this moment, I have no worries in my heart because I’ve been a pretty decent human throughout my day to both myself and others (Yamas + Niyamas). I do a bit of light movement and breathing to get my energy unstuck and my body in a good place to sit (asana + pranayama). I put my phone away and I could even put on noise canceling headphones if it’s a busy area (pratyahara). I put all my attention on the sunset (dharana). Over time - maybe - I start to lose awareness of everything else. It’s just me and that sunset and those colors and that transitional moment that if I dare look away I may miss (dhyana). In a moment - I lose the boundaries between myself and the sunset - between myself and the Universe - between myself and divine magic. In that moment, I feel full bliss and connection to the flow and all falls away (samadhi).

So is this full experience of YOGA available to all?

- yeah sure, probably!

AND - Fully recognizing that folks who don’t have their basic needs met - safety, love, and nourishment - may not actually have access to this ladder.

BUT - is this type of Yoga what is offered in a 60-minute All-levels Vinaysa class?

Yeah probably not!

So what do you think?

As my opinion was already fully formed :)

All-levels vinyasa - myth or possible?


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