What is Advanced Yoga?

What is advanced yoga?

Some would say - that doing challenging poses that require much exertion - such as inversions and arm balances constitute advanced yoga. Certainly they are not poses to be undertaken by someone who is wandering into their first yoga class, although I have frequently heard horror stories of folks being initiated into yoga by being told to do a headstand - often with little instruction. This is a pose that can be quite dangerous to a person new to the practice. And, there are those who should never do this pose because of special conditions or considerations.

Betsey Downing, an Certified Anusara Yoga teacher and one of my first yoga teachers, often likes to remind her students that doing the advanced form of a pose is doing it with a smile on their faces - particularly if it involves a challenging pose with a long hold!

Noah Maze, another Certified Anusara Yoga teacher, in his latest newsletter, recalls one of his first yoga teachers, Richard Freeman, telling him that the most advanced series or sequence of yoga, is living the life of a householder. Of course, this implies, that there is a direct connection between one's practice on the mat - and off of it. Seane Corn, a very well known national yoga teacher whom I had the blessing to study with in 2005, has dedicated her life to inspiring a whole generation of yoga practitioners to take their practice off of the mat, and into the world.

I like to tell my students, that advanced yoga is doing the practice mindfully. Taking one's time to embody principles of alignment - beginning with how one even begins the practice - how the hands or the feet are placed on the mat - mindfully and reverently - says a lot about one's practice and how it connects one's interior life with the exterior one.

Students often get intimidated or identified with "levels" of classes - saying they are a Level 1 or Level 2 student. And yet, all levels are not created equal - and what is classified as a level 2 in one environment, might be a Level 3 or a 4 somewhere else. Labels can be so limiting and meaningless at times.

It does not really matter whether one masters all - or even one pose that is considered advanced. It is the attitude and awareness with which that pose is practiced - and how it positively and transformationally impacts on one's daily living that makes it advanced. When I get off of my mat - am I a better person? Am I more compassionate? These are are the questions that truly matter. If we change for the better - if we grow - and encourage others to grow - if we help to change one little aspect of our lives - or have a positive impact on another life - then our yoga is truly advanced.

I believe that all yoga is advanced - or it is not at all. There is no inbetween. It is practiced from a place of awareness and dedication to growth as spiritual beings in an embodied state - or it is not. It is practiced with the intent to heal or transform - oneself or the planet - or it is not...

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