Photo by Katie Bush

Yoga Levels – What Yoga Level are you?

One of the best things that we here at YogiFocus find about Yoga is that it is not an ultra-competitive form of exercise. Although seeing someone do a really impressive hand balance on Instagram may spike your competitive juices, but Yoga levels can sometimes be somewhat unclear.

It is good to understand what level of Yogi you are though. This can be really helpful when understanding which class you should attend or if the Yoga retreat that you are planning on attending will offer you a challenging enough experience.  

The other great thing about Yoga is that depending on the muscle engagement and variation that you chose. A class can be significantly harder for one person compared to another. For example, when you’re holding the staple Yoga pose that is downward facing dog depending on the position of your elbow creases, the hold can go from easy to very difficult.

A slight rotation of the forearm to bring your elbows facing the ground makes the hold significantly more difficult. This is because you use less of the power in your upper arm and shoulder muscles and put more focus on your forearms. Little tweaks like that are things that you will learn throughout your yoga journey. 

The three main categories when it comes to Yoga levels are

  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced

As you progress is not like typical advancement is something that you learn that when you complete a stage you never go back to it. There is a lot of benefit for intermediate and advanced Yogi’s going back to a beginner class to hone on their foundational Yoga poses. In a lot of ways doing that is like a refresher course on alignment and posture.  So, don’t be afraid to mix in a variety of levels of classes as you advance. 


Typically beginners are people that are in the early stages of their Yoga journey (i.e. practicing for less than a year) and people that have never practiced yoga before. Also, Yogis have recently started Yoga or have done a few classes here and there throughout the years.

A beginner’s class should be relatively slow-paced with a strong focus on alignment and posture cues. The instructor will need to spend some time making manual adjustments and the class will focus on the foundational Yoga poses. If you are doing a Vinyasa flow or Hatha yoga class there will also be a heavy emphasis on the use of breath and being mindful throughout the class. 

What Asana will typically be included

  • Downward Facing Dog 
  • Plank Pose 
  • Forward Fold 
  • Cobra Pose
  • Triangle Pose

Moving on up 

It’s safe to move to intermediate once you are comfortable and familiar with the mat. By this, we mean that you understand the position of your body on the mat in poses. That you are starting to think more about what muscles are engaged when you are in poses. You have grasped the foundational poses and need slight physical adjustments in poses. As a whole, it really comes down to alignment and posture, if your body is naturally going into sound poses with strong alignment then you know you’re on the right path. If you’re unsure, don’t be afraid to ask your Yoga teacher if they think you could attend an intermediate class.  


Yogis who have a strong grasp of the foundations of Yoga can be considered in the intermediate category. If you are attending an intermediate class, Yoga instructors will assume that you have an understanding of the correct form and posture. Poses will be becoming easier for you and you will be able to focus more on engaging a wider range of muscles in holds.

That understanding of muscle engagement might actually make poses more difficult than you felt before.  As you are engaging different muscles that you may have been missing the whole time, but don’t get put off. That is progress. 

You know your progress in yoga when you can move you thinking away from what muscles you are engaging and start thinking about your movement and the breath. There can also be the expectation that inversions will be done in class.  Deep bends are also a common element to an intermediate class. As an intermediate Yogi, you will know how to make adjustments and variations to poses to tailor the difficulty of your time on the mat.  

What Asana will typically be included

  • Side Plank Pose (Vasisthasana)
  • Plow Pose (Halasana)
  • Shoulder stand (Salamba Sarvangasana)

Moving on up 

Once your focus has moved away from what muscles you are engaging over to your breath and clearing your mind then you are ready to move to advance. Muscle engagement comes naturally. You are comfortable enough with a wide range of poses and know exactly what they entail. Your flexibility and strength have taken a noticeable difference since you began your Yoga journey and holding the foundational poses has become significantly easier than when you first started. 

You also know how to make these foundational poses more intense with slight adjustments of the body. You also have a keen awareness of moving on breath cycles. This is a surprisingly hard thing to do and is a sign you are progressing. Again if you are unsure, feel free to confirm with your instructor if you can move up to the advanced class.


When people think about an advanced Yoga class the assumption is that it will entail super complicated poses that involve hand balances, twists, and serious backbends. While you may be doing some of those things the main elements of an advanced Yoga class is your focus and mindfulness.

Regardless of the type of Yoga that you are practicing, If you can successfully block out the noise and focus on the class and your breath you can consider yourself on the path to being advanced.

The pace of the class will be noticeably different compared to intermediate and beginner classes.  There will be no waiting around for people in an advanced class. The yoga instructor will be assuming a certain level of knowledge when it comes to poses, so physical adjustments will be sparse and the cues will be focused on getting the most out of each pose. 

What Asana will typically be included

  • Crow pose (Kakasana)
  • Lotus pose (Padmasana)
  • Head/Hand Stand 

How to position yourself to progress 

  • With anything really, progression comes from repetition. The more time you can spend on the mat and with a Yoga instructor or watching Yoga videos on Youtube the better you will become. 
  • Try to dedicate certain days a week that you will dedicate to Yoga. 
  • Find a teacher that you like. Yogis tend to create strong bonds with their Yoga instructors, so finding a good one that fits with your ethos is an important step to really committing to a Yoga journey. It will make the process a lot if you’re practicing with someone you like. 
  • Be patient. Yoga isn’t really like a lot of other forms of exercise where there is a linear form of progression. Some days you may feel like an advanced Yogi and others you may just want a stretch, so don’t put too much emphasis on where you’re at. The progression through the yoga levels will come with dedication.  

Self Practice 

A word on self-practice. Practicing in your own time outside that of classes can be a great way of getting that extra time on the mat to hone your skills. Youtube classes can be a great way of getting this time in especially if you feel that you need to be taken through a practice.  Just find yourself an instructor that you are comfortable with and use it as a secondary source of learning. The primary source should always be an in-person class with a regular instructor. When classes become a thing again.  

Bottom Line 

No matter what level you fit into, it’s important to understand that Yoga is a process. By spending more time on the mat you will naturally get better. You will see the progress you are making, so don’t focus too much on what category you fit into. This should only be used from a practical sense of what class/ yoga retreat I should attend. 

Yoga is a really great workout for the entire body. You will naturally start to notice muscles in places you never noticed before. It’s important to acknowledge that no matter what level you may be categorized as. The basic poses such as downward dog, chair pose,  shoulder stand, etc don’t necessarily get easier as you progress. 

The thing with progression in Yoga is that it’s more about body understanding. By this, we mean understanding the muscles that you need to engage in certain poses.  By knowing that a small rotation of the forearms can make downward dog significantly more difficult.  Be patient,  respect the alignment and postures, and know that yoga is a fulfilling and great workout for the mind and body.

Written by Adrian

An avid Yogi, I have been practicing yoga for a number of years. Enthused by all things yoga and love writing about my experiences and learnings


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