I get asked this question a lot – why don’t you distinguish your classes by level? Why don’t you teach a class specifically labeled advanced class? Why don’t you teach a beginner’s class? The short answer? People are capable of a whole hell of a lot more than they think.
When I first started my online studio I did in fact level classes, but what I found was unless it was breaking down the basics, I really had no idea how to level the class. The reason for this is because when I teach in person, I don’t teach any leveled classes. Before COVID I taught open level classes in places where, if you had some kind of association with the location, you could take the class (for example, I taught in colleges, apartment buildings, hotels, and banks – if you worked, lived, or attended any of these you were allowed to drop in on my class).
After years of teaching this way I learned something – people are capable of a whole hell of a lot more than they think. I remember the first time I really truly realized this was my very first year of teaching. I was teaching a class at Hunter College, and at the time had also been teaching leveled classes at a studio and beginner’s classes at Saint Joseph’s College in Brooklyn. I went to teach crow pose – an arm balance – that day with the intention of it being more of an introduction to the pose than thinking people might stick and nail it because at the time the students who attended my class at Hunter were still very new to yoga.
I had a brand new student that day who’s name was Mary (Mary if you’re reading this – HI!!). She had never done yoga before but had a good spirit about her and to my surprise followed the class like she had been doing yoga for years. Not only that, but this girl who had never stepped foot into a yoga class was one of the few who nailed her crow pose at the end of the class. The excitement and accomplishment she felt that day was overwhelming. That was the day I decided I would start teaching challenging poses to brand new yoga students.
I realized that day that just because someone was brand new to something, doesn’t mean that I, as their teacher, should ever rob them of the experience of trying something hard, and potentially succeeding at that challenging thing. Who am I to assume they can’t do it just because they’re brand new to yoga? I’ve taught people yoga who have been practicing for decades and they can’t do certain “advanced” poses, while I had just seen this total newbie nail an arm balance. It’s not my job to strip people of their chance to accomplish something amazing with their bodies, and after witnessing that I truly believe anyone can do these stronger more challenging poses if they’re set up well to do them.
Sure, sometimes flexibility is going to stop you in your tracks. Sure, sometimes you need to build more strength before you get the pose. But that doesn’t mean you can’t try something. I feel like if I were to level my classes, people who are new to yoga might feel like they can’t do the advanced class, and I don’t want any of my students to ever feel like they can’t do something in yoga. Especially if they haven’t even tried.
I say this all the time with side plank when I’m teaching people to try to lift their top leg. They nail the side plank and then I say “ok so don’t even think about it – just lift your top leg up!” Sometimes people fall right over, but sometimes people get to experience nailing a pose they never thought they’d get. Our minds and fear can play such a huge role in how we approach a challenging pose, and if you just try to do it without thinking, then sometimes you’ll get it. We can often be our own worst enemies in that way.
So, if you ever take one of my classes, in person, online, or on Zoom, you can expect a challenge because I really believe you can handle it. I truly think that even if you don’t get it that day, the fact that you tried it is going to create building blocks for you and your body and practice so that in the future you will nail the pose. I have no doubt in my mind about that because I’ve seen so many people who are new to yoga accomplish amazing things they didn’t think they’d be able to do. As I said at the beginning of this blog post, people are a whole hell of a lot stronger and more capable than they often think – they just need to stop overthinking, get over fears, and actually try the hard thing and they’ll realize their strength 💪
Till next time,
P.S. If you enjoyed this blog post and want more yoga tips to help you build a stronger, more flexible and dependable body, join my mailing list where I send out weekly tips like this. You can sign up here. Please also feel free to share this with anyone who you think might benefit from these tips!