All Levels, All Good, All Bull-Sh*t!

First off, I’m trying to get over my potty mouth from having written the title of this week’s blog. Yikes, sorry about that… not very yoga-like! However, the truth of the matter is; there is no such thing as an all levels, all good, yoga class. One only has to think of the many different ages, body types, and medical challenges that individuals come to yoga class with to understand all levels, all good is a fallacy.

Heni and I were just discussing how ludicrous it is for an aging beginner yoga student to be practicing a led Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Primary Series. Rarely do yoga teachers accommodate appropriately for seniors even in less intense styles of yoga, let alone the gymnastics performed in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. The disparity between beginner yoga students’ abilities cannot be overstated.

Commonly yoga studios run on the premise of stuffing as many practitioners through the door as possible to make money. Instructors are not taught how to accommodate individual issues that come along with the wide variety of participants in yoga classes. Sure some students will thrive, especially former dancers, gymnasts, and experienced yogis, but what about the patient coming from a doctor’s referral to a yoga studio? Is it really going to be all levels, all good? I beg to differ.

It’s not hard to see how so many articles have been written on injuries occurring in yoga classes. Some of the stories in the William Broad book ‘The Science of Yoga’ reveal a shocking lack of standard of care for yoga participants. Mixing beginners with experienced yogis in a flow class void of individual instruction is like non-swimmers being tossed in to the deep end of a swimming pool while everyone else around them knows how to swim.

As you know marketing often supersedes reasoning so it is attractive to describe yoga classes as all levels, all good. This casts the largest fishing net into the ocean of yoga aspirants in order to fill classes for profit. From the perspective of the beginner student this creates a false sense of security and masks the unfortunate reality of the situation.

This deception leaves students new to yoga vulnerable in a way that would not be tolerated in other disciplines. Think about training for any other sport or activity. There is always a graduated and systematic approach enabling participants to enjoy exercise in any ethically structured fitness endeavor.

As shrewd consumers we should not be fooled by a marketing trick. I propose yoga teachers take it one step further and I suggest that even if classes are taught in a level system; that within that level system there is the opportunity for a chronological learning series. In this way learning can be facilitated for accurate yoga posture practice and correct yoga breathing techniques.

I have been very fortunate to have been offered the opportunity to teach yoga at the Cambridge Cardiac Care Centre for Dr. A. Shekhar Pandey’s patients. Each week when I teach patients at the Cambridge Cardiac Care Centre I screen for new students. If we have new students then I go back to the pre-designed first class in the series of BIM Yoga System Level 1 and teach that lesson with the appropriate modifications for cardiac care patients.

Often I will have returning students who attend classes while new students arrive. For students that have been to class previously I simply state that you cannot build enough foundation and the review of that first lesson in BIM Yoga System Level 1 is an excellent way to improve their overall yoga practice. The medical team at the Cambridge Cardiac Care Centre has expressed their approval of the approach I take with the BIM Yoga System and its step-by-step learning series.

The willingness of local medical professionals of all kinds such as Physicians, Chiropractors and Physiotherapists who refer patients to our studios is an expression of trust that patients will recieve the appropriate standard of care. This is only possible through a graduated learning process that includes stipulations for each medical challenge presented. It is clear that a so-called all levels class cannot offer an appropriate standard of care.

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