Approach to yoga is filled with a series of paradoxes. What is regarded as correct at one level is not necessarily correct at another. A few or more of the following levels may begin simultaneously. The levels therefore indicate increased maturity of approach rather than a linear approach to practice of yoga.
LEVEL 1: This is a physical or geometrical approach. It is considered foundational work for the beginner. It largely consists of outer alignment of the physical body in various postures. This alignment depends on generally accepted anatomical concepts of how an ideal body should look. For every individual an allowance is made to accommodate any differences between the left and the right sides, as well as any pain resulting from stiffness, weakness and injury. The mind is actively engaged in correction of outer geometrical patterns of the musculo-skeletal system. Most postures can be held for about a minute.
LEVEL 2: This is physiological approach. In this approach the muscle is educated to work in a much more efficient manner by transferring the weight bearing capacity to the bones. The breath and the mind begin to function with greater ease. It is an essential prerequisite to deeper penetration. Most postures are held for between one to two minutes.
LEVEL 3: This is organic approach. The health (as distinct from strength) of the body is determined by health of the pelvic organs, the abdominal organs, the heart, and the lungs. Physical and mental efforts take on a different mode of observation and corrections through receptive actions rather than directive actions of the previous levels. Postures are generally held for three minutes or longer. Physical alignment of the levels one and two may have to be modified to seek better organic effect.
LEVEL 4: This is pranic approach. As the mind becomes more passively alert the student is able to recognize various locations where the energy of prana does not flow freely. Attempting to increase the muscular effort often results in a negative effect. Even as the foundation of the prior levels is held, the mind now has to learn how to let go and stop interfering with the natural ease that is inherent in a healthy body. The nature of inner alignment changes as the mind learns to be alert even as it lets go of inadvertently held tensions. The mind that has learned to stop interfering is able to distinguish between useful thought activity to organize the external world and the useless often damaging activity of the internal world.
LEVEL 5: This is the sensory approach. The senses are called the window of the mind. Each sense allows a perception to take place. The untrained mind is not still and is not able to see the perception as it is. It colors the perception with pre-conceived notions, ideologies and agendas. A still mind is able to clearly see that it is a collection of thoughts, a collection of the past, and its exercise of will is necessarily partial. It is partial in the sense of not being whole as well as in the sense of being driven by preconceived agendas.
LEVEL 6: This meditative approach. The "doing" of the first level culminates into the "non reactive recognition" of the fifth level. The use of the will that is essential to the first level becomes an interference to the last level. Every effort to seek inner freedom gets resolved into a meditation which knows that the actions resulting from that meditation are choiceless. Real unconditional freedom finds itself resting on the ground which offers choicelessness - oddly enough that is the end of all struggle, an amazing ultimate paradox