A Guide to Yoga Levels: Which Yoga Retreat to Choose?
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If the ultimate goal of yoga is to help you become a mindful, happier, and more loving person, does your level of practice really matters?
Maybe not so much as long as you enjoy every moment you spend on the mat. That said, you should know that there are three main levels that yoga retreats use to build their programs: beginner, intermediate and advanced.
Each one of them is designed to meet different needs and to help you improve your learning process. When looking for your next yoga vacation, you’ll find that most of them welcome all levels of practice. However, it’s always good to know what to expect from each in order to choose the best option for you.
Let’s take a look at what each yoga retreat level has to offer!
Image credit: Amandas Yoga
Naturally, if you’ve just started doing yoga, a beginner retreat is the way to go. On this type of retreat, the main focus will be on making you feel comfortable and familiar with the common yoga postures.
You’ll learn the names of the poses, you’ll practice the basics of yoga asanas – such as where to put your right foot and what to do with your left hand –, and you’ll also practice paying attention to your breath trough the session.
Who can attend a beginner yoga retreat?
Usually, on a yoga retreat for beginners, all types of levels are welcome. However, it’s specially designed for those who have had little or even zero exposure to yoga. It’s also a good option for more experienced yogis who are recovering from an injury as the sequences will be less intense (if that’s your case, let the teacher know).
More seasoned practitioners like intermediate or advanced can also benefit from going on a beginner yoga retreat as many advanced asanas are rooted in the basic ones. So, working on the finer points of alignment in basic postures will help you improve your overall practice.
Plus, teachers often give options and cues for more advanced positions. Therefore, no matter what your level is, there’s plenty of value on a retreat like this.
What to expect from a beginner yoga retreat?
- Less intensity
- Slow-paced direction with a great level of detail
- Teachers give modifications to each student
- Teachers demonstrate postures
- Teachers call the postures in Sanskrit name but also give the English translation
- Forward bends, gentle backbends and twists
- Basic Pranayama
- Seated meditation practices
- Use of props
- Introduction to postures that prepare you for the intermediate ones
Lastly, remember that yoga isn’t about flexibility, but about knowledge and experience. So, it doesn’t matter how flexible you are; if you’re new to yoga, you should always start with a beginner yoga retreat to learn the foundations of the practice.
Image credit: Claudia Gallo Yoga
Say you’ve been practicing for a while and feel ready to take the leap and become a more dedicated student, but you’re wondering how to do it. Well, an intermediate yoga retreat might be your answer!
On these retreats, you’ll start working on slightly more complex positions and learn more about the philosophy of yoga with the guidance of professional instructors. It’s the perfect bridge between beginner and advanced.
Are you an intermediate practitioner?
Perhaps the main difference between beginners and intermediate practitioners is that, while beginners aren’t as constant when hitting the mat, intermediates have a routine and show up on a daily basis no matter what.
For intermediate yogis, the practice of yoga extends far beyond the borders of their mat and they want to lose any chance to keep exploring the different aspects of it. Plus, they deeply value the practice of meditation and have incorporated it into their daily life.
Moreover, they have a good understanding of the basic yoga postures, recognize the key points of alignment, have begun to explore more styles, know the relationship between breath and movement and consider yoga to be more than just a physical exercise.
In terms of physiological differences, the main distinction might be their ability to move from the core. Intermediate practitioners know how to use their core strength to stabilize and perform difficult poses safely and with less effort.
If you feel like you check some of the boxes above, then an intermediate yoga retreat would be perfect for you.
What to expect from an intermediate yoga retreat?
- Teachers expect practitioners to understand and execute the essential points of alignment
- Instructors give modifications to each student
- Teachers call the postures in Sanskrit name and not necessarily in English
- Explore inversions
- Hold balancing postures
- More advanced Pranayama techniques
- Practitioners are expected to focus on their breath for the most part of the class
Lastly, be patient and listen to your body as it takes time to adjust. Pushing it too far could be risky. Try not to become attached to the result and rather enjoy the process of becoming an intermediate yoga practitioner!
Image credit: India Yogvit Yogshala
If you’ve been practicing yoga for a long time now, you’re familiar with the eight limbs of yoga and you’re trying to incorporate them into your daily life and improve your technique. Then you must be ready to go on an advanced yoga retreat.
Who can attend an advanced yoga retreat?
Typically, anyone who practices asana and meditates every day, masters the connection of breath with movement and lives truthfully, harmoniously, lovingly and humbly is a good candidate to enroll in an advanced yoga retreat.
On this type of yoga retreats, practitioners are expected to be fully present and aware of what’s happening in their body and mind, and to perform and hold difficult asanas comfortably for longer periods of time.
Please notice that, if the retreat is exclusively for advanced students, it’s absolutely not recommended for new practitioners to enroll. If you’re new to yoga, it’s better to go on a retreat for beginners.
What to expect from an advanced yoga retreat?
- Arm balances and deep backbends
- Headstands and handstands
- Poses that require a higher degree of flexibility like Hanumanasa (Monkey Pose)
- No props
- You’ll practice with fellow yogis who are already instructors or are preparing to do a yoga teacher training
Remember that the aim of yoga isn’t to become a contortionist, but rather to understand things about yourself as you engage in the postures. In other words, when it comes to yoga, to be relaxed is to be advanced.
Always keep in mind that yoga is a path to liberation and enlightenment. It helps you to deeply understand yourself and to achieve transformation in all levels through the practice of asanas. Embrace the journey and don’t get obsessed with your “level of practice”. This guide is just for you to know what to expect from each retreat.
In the end, it doesn’t matter if you’re doing Mountain Pose or a headstand, because when you truly live by the five major principles of yoga, you can find the same joy in both of them; being able to do so is what really makes you an advanced practitioner!
Can’t wait until your next time off from work to go on a yoga retreat? Check out these short breaks and weekend yoga retreats.