Agama may be the only yogic school in the world today awarding degrees, in a tradition resembling the honors of colored belts in martial arts.
We call them sashes and they build upon each other as a student proceeds through the curriculum. To obtain a sash degree, a student must pass both practical and theoretical exams as well as a direct evaluation by advanced teachers. As expected, the exams increase progressively in their level of difficulty as well as in the range of techniques verified; the higher levels of examination also touch exceptional levels of accomplishment in Yoga which border on masterliness. These exams are not only a challenge to one’s self and an opportunity to set goals for one’s practice, they are an objective opportunity to verify one’s progress with an external confirmation.
Passing the first exam, held for beginners at the end of three months’ study, earns a student the Red Sash Degree and the title of Yoga Aspirant. Intermediate-level exams for the Orange Sash (Yoga Disciple), held after eight months’ study, and the Yellow Sash (Yoga Practitioner), held after 13 months’ study, conclude the first block of curriculum teachings. The Green Sash Degree marks the completion of the Kundalini program after 23 months and confers the title Yoga Senior Practitioner. The Blue Sash Exam assesses proficiency after 39 months’ practice, culminating the special tapas that represents the third block of study in the curriculum, and awards the title Yoga Adept. The Violet Sash Degree, with its title of Yoga Master, is held at the end of the subsequent period, and constitutes the highest Yoga education, consisting in the study of tantric practices from Kashmir Shaivism. Finally, the White Sash Degree, with the title of Yoga Guru, marks the ultimate stages of one’s education; it is awarded personally by another living guru after extensive evaluation rather than a testing process.
Students may not proceed to the successive levels of the curriculum without having first completed the preliminary exams. Thus the exams have an admissive value within the course structure.