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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

consent of instructor

if you've ever taken a class at either of bryan kest's power yoga studios in santa monica, i.e., the east studio on santa monica blvd or the west studio on 2nd st, you'll know that most of the classes are described as being either level 1-2 or all levels (which is somewhat puzzling to me because if you read the class descriptions, both levels have exactly the same description: "This class is for anybody and everybody". hmmm... i should probably ask someone about that the next time i volunteer at the west studio... but i digress) .

if you look closely, you'll see that at the east studio, a few of bryan's classes are described as level 3-4. he teaches these classes on mondays, wednesdays, and fridays at 4:30pm only. so if you're a 9-5er, you can attend one of these classes only if you take the day off (or call in sick). however, even if you somehow manage to get to the studio at the appointed day and time, there's an added restriction:

level 3-4*
*Private Class. Permission needed prior to the day attending.

when i first saw that, it brought back memories of the "consent of instructor required" classes i had in college, where i had to convince the instructor that i had satisfied all the prerequisites before i could enroll in the class. it was a way for the teacher to ensure that all of us who signed up were on the same page, so to speak, when we first walked into the door.

but i've found that in the yoga world, no one really enforces the class level rule. it's pretty much self-monitored; if you've never taken a yoga class before yet insist on taking an advanced class, you may find yourself dazed and confused. not to mention frustrated. in some cases, though, you could also end up being a distraction to the other students in the class. or worse yet, an annoyance, because instead of the teacher being able to lead the class in the usual manner, he/she may end up slowing down the pace just so you can keep up with the group. in other words, you'll pretty much know when you don't belong.

anyway, kest's level 3-4 thing intrigued me. was it really that much harder than the level 2-3 classes at other studios? after all, with all the yoga wandering (and wondering) that i've been doing, i've progressed enough in my practice that i can now keep up with most level 2-3 classes. i may not be able to do everything gracefully, especially inversions and arm balances, but at least i'm good enough at pretending to know what i'm doing :)

of course you know that i just had to find out...

the first step was to get permission from bryan. i knew that my face was familiar to him by now; not only does he see me in his level 1-2 classes, but he also sees me on the days that i volunteer. but was my practice familiar to him? apparently not, because when i asked him at the end of one his level 1-2 classes if i could "move up" to his advanced class, he said i had to ask him before my next class so he could watch and decide.

so i showed up the next week and as instructed, i asked him to confirm that i was "level 3-4 worthy" before the class started. and after what seemed to be a particularly grueling class, he gave me his blessing. alleluia!

so today was my first experience with his more difficult class. and was it? yes, but not by much. there were no inversions nor arm balances involved, so the increased difficulty seemed to have more to do with holding balance poses for longer periods of time and twisting and stretching just a little bit more. in fact, i would say that his 3-4 classes aren't any harder than most teachers' 2-3 classes. but then again, i really won't know for sure until i take more of his classes at this level...

regardless, it feels great to know that i've passed muster and have essentially been given the secret handshake to get into bryan's "private class". woo hoo!


Blogger Yoga Chickie said...

Here's the dirty little secret of the yoga teaching world: the difference between class levels can often be an illusion, driven more by who is in the class than by the teacher's "plan". Also, there is a basic problem when it comes to defining a vinyasa class by level: is the level determined by the aerobic tempo? Or by the difficulty of the asanas?

I know of only one studio here in NYC where the asanas determine the class level - Dharma Mittra's studio. Other than that, class level seems to be largely a function of how much flow there is and how much knowledge is assumed.

It would be so much fun to get to teach a Level 3/4 class where the asanas are really challenging, or the transitions between them are more complicated. But usually, the students who take the "advanced" classes around here are mainly "advanced" in their physical fitness, not their ability to get themselves into twisty poses!


9:13 PM  

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