Are You Ready For Intermediate Yoga?

You’ve mastered that Vinyasa flow and you’re almost to crow. Should you sign up for intermediate level now?

Expanding your fitness boundaries can be equal parts exhilarating and scary. You’re trying new types of movement, signing up for workouts you’ve never heard of (what is Gyrokinesis anyway?) and building the confidence it takes to know that you really can do anything you put your mind to.

Everything to know about intermediate yoga

But what happens when you’re not quite a newbie anymore? When it comes to yoga, making the leap to an intermediate class can be especially nerve-racking. You’re a master at slow flow, and while any yoga class can be challenging at all levels, you’re debating whether you want to take the risk and try intermediate (or Level 2, as it’s often called).

When to move from beginner to intermediate yoga

Of course, before signing up for an intermediate class, you’ll want to make sure you’re comfortable and confident at the beginner level. Pushing your limits too early on can lead to injury or a negative experience. But if you think you can get through a beginner class with relative ease and feel good afterward, we say give Level 2 a try. Plus, you can always continue to mix up your class levels going forward, depending on what level of workout you’re craving that day.

To help you make the call, we’ve outlined some questions and concerns that might be holding you back, along with important information to help you decide whether it’s time to take the leap:

What if I don’t understand the Sanskrit pose names?

Chances are, Sanskrit isn’t your native language, but don’t let Ardha Chandrasana scare you away. Even advanced yogis require years of repeated practice to learn English translations for the seemingly infinite amount of yoga poses.

Do: Place your mat down early and try to secure a spot in the second row, close to the middle. This will ensure that you always have someone to watch regardless of whether you’re facing front, left, right or seeing the back wall through your feet in downward dog.

Don’t: Worry as much about the native names for the poses, but instead focus on the instructor’s breathing cues and follow along as the rest of the class moves through the sequence.

What if I’m not very flexible?

Contrary to popular belief, not all yogis are naturally flexible. Some practice a long time before they’re able to touch their toes or complete a full half prayer twist.

Do: Focus on reaching your maximum expression of the posture and taking a few deep breaths there. Maybe then you’ll stretch a little bit deeper, but don’t feel like you have to. Take the time to register how your body feels in these potentially new positions, especially in your first intermediate class.

Don’t: Be discouraged by any super-flexi fellow students. They may have looked just like you when they started practicing decades ago.

Never: Do a posture if you find it’s too painful, and always motion to the instructor, who will be happy to give you a modification to start with as you continue to gain flexibility.

What if I’m worried about embarrassing myself?

Yoga is a no-judgment zone, but regardless, we get it. Even with all that zen in the room, you’re still concerned about falling out of a pose and becoming an accidental focal point during the class.

Do: Introduce yourself to the instructor ahead of time so that she/he is aware that this is your first intermediate class. That way, she/he will be able to preemptively work with you on the more difficult postures and keep an eye out for any poses you might be struggling in.

Don’t: Let more advanced students intimidate you from trying new postures. They’ve all been there. Keep your focus on your mat and on enriching your practice from the inside out. If you leave knowing you gave it your all, there’s nothing more you can ask of yourself. And that is the most enlightening feeling of all.

Callahan is a fitness enthusiast who moonlights on the growth team at ClassPass. She's a certified fitness trainer, with years of fitness experience both inside and outside of the gym. When she's not working you can find her pursuing her passion projects as editor of Trek Montana, contributing writer to the Ultimate Nashville Bach Planning Site and Plan Your Bach.
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