In the world of social media we are being bombarded with pictures of amazing yogi’s in ever-impressive postures. Its hard not to judge yourself against these practitioners and find yourself lacking.
I see students in classes pushing and straining their bodies in the aim to get into these impressive asanas doing things their bodies really shouldn’t be doing but they are pushing because they get caught up with how the posture is ‘supposed’ to look or doing every posture.. Reaching their hands to the floor in standing poses or collapsing into their shoulders and lower back in Chaturangha just so they can say ‘look i’ve got my knees off the floor!!’ We try to copy the teacher, the photo we saw on Instagram or Facebook or the person next to us who just makes everything look so damn easy!
But really what is advanced yoga? The word “yoga” itself means union, to join, it’s about creating a connection with yourself. Whilst advanced asana are impressive to watch, and they certainly create impressive pictures, this has nothing to do with advanced yoga practice.
Don’t get me wrong these asana are fun to play with and its great to have goals, I certainly do. Just don’t get so caught up in achieving your goal that you lose the connection to yourself right at this present moment.
I see students who have been practicing regularly come into class and whilst on the outside the asana looks impressive I notice when they disconnect, when are just going through the motions. Like driving when we first learn we are so focused on all the things we need to do but after a while it becomes second nature and we don’t even have to think about it, we just get in the car and get to our destination, sometimes without even really being aware of the journey along the way! Shock factor…. Sometimes BEGINNERS are the most advanced yogi’s out there! Because they are present through each part of the class.
The other thing to remember is that we are not carbon copies of each other. We each have our own unique bodies, with our own unique abilities. I say this to my students all the time. “Being able to do a handstand (insert any posture here) doesn’t define you, it doesn’t make you a better person, it just makes you someone who can do a handstand.”
We all have our own unique body and we al have our own unique story. Sometimes we are working with injury or illness, we’ve had a rough day, month, year or there are some personal issues going on in our lives. These can all affect our mental state and more importantly affect our physical body. Don’t be fooled into thinking your emotions or mental state have no impact on your yoga practice. They do!!
Advanced practice is about listening to the body, breath and mind. When we practice with citta (consciousness) we allow the shape to meet the needs of the body. If that means modifying a posture, if it means taking rest or even if it means taking your legs behind you head great go ahead there’s no right or wrong.
Our yoga practice is all about connecting to ourselves on a deeper level. To create a ‘union’ of body, breath and mind as one. You can be doing the most basic asana but when you practice it with awareness, awareness of every breath, every minute movement, every fluctuation of the mind. That’s advanced practice. When we truly listen to our own body and modify the practice to where our body is on any given day, in the moment. Not living in the past and what we’ve been or not been able to do, nor reaching into the future striving for that elusive asana we’re just aiming to get. There is only connection, listening to your body, listening to your breath and listening to your mind, not your ego.
That’s what Advanced Yoga is.