Thursday, December 30, 2010

What is All Levels Anyway?

Image: Lululemon Athletica
Yesterday, I checked out a really cool yoga studio in Nashville, TN. I'm here staying with my mom as she preps to donate stem cells to my uncle who is fighting a battle with leukemia (more on that later). When I told my mom I was going to a yoga class she said, "What if I wanted to come, too?" She's never done yoga before so of course I wanted to encourage her! The website said the class was open to "all levels," so I told her she should come along. Ultimately, she decided against it.

It was a good decision.

Of course, I knew that an all levels vinyasa class might be a bit much for my middle aged mom with no yoga experience... But this class was HARD! It would have been a disaster if my mom had come.

It made me wonder how often that happens... Someone totally new to the practice of yoga decides to go to a yoga studio just to see what it's all about. He chooses an all levels class because he doesn't know where he fits in. He unrolls his mat... and WHAM! The teacher leads them through inversions, arm balances, and super hard balance sequences with very little discussion of alignment or instruction on how to get in and out of the poses. This would make any beginner feel confused, frustrated, and like yoga is definitely NOT for him. If my first yoga experience had been like that, I would probably never have gone back!

I don't mean to pick on Nashville. I've noticed that all levels classes at studios in San Francisco and other places I've practiced could be just as hard. It seems to depend on what kind of yoga studio (all levels at an Ashtanga studio is probably a lot different than an Iyengar all levels class) and the students that show up (after all, teachers try to tailor their classes to the students who are there and if only advanced students show up it might be silly to teach a level 1 class).

I'd love to do a little informal research here... Please share: What's involved in an all levels class at your home studio (and be sure to tell us where your studios is!) Should studio owners make more of an effort to explain what all levels means at THEIR studio? Or is it OK to leave it open-ended and teach who shows up?

What do you think?