If you’ve ever been to a yoga studio (online or in-person), you’ve likely seen terms like Level 1 yoga or advanced yoga, Level 3 Ashtanga, or Intermediate Yoga. All of these phrases can make it feel confusing about where you stand in the yoga world (surprise, you stand wherever you are!... How’s that for yoga philosophy?). There are different types and levels of yoga classes, so how do you know which of the levels of yoga you’re at?
In this article, we will dispel myths about what level yogi you are. Advanced yoga doesn’t mean you are a limber gymnast who can fold into a pretzel, and Level 1 doesn’t mean you are clueless about all things yoga.
Each yoga level has benefits for people with different abilities, body structures, and knowledge. By understanding what each of the yoga levels means, you can better understand how they might fit into your practice.
All levels will focus on the breath, presence, and mindful movement. Bendy folks need to understand the foundational yoga poses like Cat-Cow Pose, too, because proper alignment means keeping your body safe and longevity in your practice.
Within all levels of yoga, you can set intentions on tuning into your body and becoming more aware of your mind (how you speak to yourself and view the word) — both with an openness to grow.
There’s no right or wrong answer, so let’s take a look at what each of the options means.
Yoga Level 1 - Beginner
If you see a Yoga Level 1 Beginner class, you may be wondering if it’s only a class for true beginners. The reality is that Level 1 yoga assumes a basic understanding of some of the foundational poses found in yoga, like supporting your spine in a Cobra Pose.
If you’ve never done yoga before, it’s a good idea to look into the beginner’s series that many yoga studios offer — where you’ll learn the proper terminology, shapes, and more to understand what’s going on in later classes.
Many new and advanced practitioners return time and again to Level 1 Yoga classes. All future postures (a.k.a. asanas) are built on these foundational poses. Below, we’ll share what a Level 1 class might look like, common beginner yoga poses, and when you might advance to Level 2 yoga.
Level 1 Class Description
A Level 1 Yoga class will likely include a “slower” rhythm focused on the basic asanas found in a typical yoga flow.
Your instructor will likely call out the English and Sanskrit name for the poses (as opposed to only Sanskrit) to make the class more accessible. If you’re a more advanced practitioner, you can still benefit from Level 1 classes because they focus on foundational work that sometimes falls by the wayside after many years of practice.
Many Level 1 Yoga classes will introduce postures that are precursors to intermediate postures so you can start building muscle memory and body awareness to move into different shapes.
Level 1 - Beginner Yoga Poses
Standing Forward Fold
When to Advance to Level 2?
If you feel good within each of these shapes and know how to support your body safely through the postures, you might be ready to advance to Level 2. As you build confidence in the foundational poses, you might be ready to string them all together into flows like Surya Namaskar, a.k.a. Sun Salutations.
For those who are more advanced taking Level 1 classes, enjoy the experience of going back to the foundation of what makes every other pose beyond this.
It’s always a good practice to approach things as a beginner, even when you aren’t. We always have something to learn, and you may glean new information about your body and how to move in different ways.
Yoga Level 2 - Experienced-Beginner
Level 2 Yoga poses will take everything you’ve learned in Level 1 and elevate it to more advanced postures — a place we can call "Beginnermediate".
There may be more focus on connecting your breath to your movements, as is common in Vinyasa classes (one breath to one movement).
If you love to “flow” — the consistent movement between poses — you’re going to love these classes.
Level 2 classes will assume that you have a basic understanding of yoga. It’s on the foundational poses of Level 1 classes that Level 2 builds.
You may learn different arm balances (or the prerequisites to getting into them), faster-paced classes, and potentially fewer alignment cues than you’re used to in a Level 1 class.
Level 2 - Class Description
In a Level 2 yoga class, you can expect your instructor to behave a little differently than foundational classes.
They may walk around the room offering verbal cues or hands-on adjustments, use Sanskrit at times to describe the postures, and offer time to explore more advanced shapes within the body during class.
As a student, it’s up to you to determine what you’re ready for. Even if you are a little nervous in a Level 2 class, you’ll likely be fine! Modify as you need to, listen to your body, and have fun getting wobbly in different poses and balances. You may learn hand mudras, pranayama (breath) techniques, and how to utilize “bandhas” while in class (i.e., internally sealing energy into the body by engaging parts of the body).
Level 2 - Experienced-Beginner Yoga Poses
Handstands At The Wall
When to Advance to Level 3?
You know you’re ready for level 3 when you feel relatively safe and comfortable in the typical poses that might be introduced in a Level 2 close. It’s important to remember that the poses aren’t always going to come easy.
You’re likely going to wobble balancing in Half Moon or Eagle Pose. Handstands at the wall might mean kicking up and back down, building those conditioning muscles. The point is feeling more in-tune with your body, knowing when to push and when to back off.
If you think you’re ready for Level 3 Yoga, head down to the next section to see what you might expect.
Yoga Level 3 - Intermediate-Advanced
Welcome to Level 3 Yoga! Here you’ll expand your skills and take things to the next level. Intermediate to advanced classes requires a strong knowledge of form and alignment to keep your body safe. It requires understanding how far you can push your body, when you need extra support, and when you need to slow down.
Now is the time to push yourself mindfully. Level 3 classes will teach you about perseverance — mastering handstands alone is a day-by-day process! Have fun, connect with the community, and don’t be afraid to take safe risks.
Level 3 - Class Description
Yoga levels are often different for each studio, instructor, and class. Some may say intermediate, while others would consider Level 3 extremely advanced.
All bodies are unique, with varying abilities, so it’s ok if you don’t want to learn handstands or get into deeper backbends.
A more intermediate-advanced class can push you to your edge while still providing an opportunity to learn about your body (and how to say, “You know, I’m going to step into Standing Forward Fold instead of floating into it from a handstand.”).
The best part about more advanced classes is the teachers are often full of a wealth of knowledge about anatomy. If you want to target a specific muscle in a stretch, they can probably tell you how. If you want to make different shapes in a handstand, they can probably tell you how.
Level 3 - Intermediate-Advanced Yoga Poses
Handstands away from the wall
Eight Angle Pose
When to Advance to Level 4?
Level 3 and Level 4 will be challenging classes that are probably a lot of fun and a lot of work. If you never want to experience these shapes, that’s quite alright.
You’ll benefit from Level 1 and Level 2 classes for the rest of your life.
Advancing to these yoga levels doesn’t make anyone a better yogi.
Everyone has different goals when it comes to their practice. Someone who sits and meditates, only taking restorative poses, is still a yogi.
If you’re ready to try longer handstand holds, more precarious arm balances, and dive deeper into a more demanding practice — both mentally and physically — then step into an advanced yoga class and see how you like it!
Yoga Level 4 - Advanced
It’s now time to level up the intensity of your yoga practice. Yoga Level 4 is sometimes associated with movement artists, acrobats (acro yogis), handstand enthusiasts, and all of those circus types who like to push the boundaries of what their bodies can do.
If you’re new to this type of movement, it might feel entirely out of reach (and perhaps it is, for now). But if you’re at all curious about some of those wild shapes and stellar handstand movements, it’s worth it to work your way up to these skills and see what you think.
Of course, it won’t happen overnight.
These skills take a long time to build and require maintenance. A master handstander only remains so if they continue to practice handstands regularly. Are you ready for the challenge?
Level 4 - Class Description
Balance and strength are required for most poses within this yoga level. Some might not even call it “yoga,” but rather advanced physical movements that carry foundational elements of yoga to get you there.
Some require extreme flexibility, while others need stability in the wrists, elbows, and abdominal muscles.
Within a Level 4 class, you’ll likely notice how much your emotions impact your practice. It might be harder to maintain more challenging shapes when you're having a mentally tough day. When you feel on point, your practice will likely be on point too.
Level 4 - Advanced-Intermediate Yoga Poses
King Pigeon Pose
Advanced Handstands Like One-Handed Handstands
Forearm Handstands (Pincha Mayurasana)
All yoga levels offer benefits to the practitioner. You don’t have to take advanced classes to enjoy yoga. With care, awareness, consistent practice, and a commitment to listening to your body, you can practice yoga for the rest of your life if you’re lucky!