The above is question is one I get asked often. Not necessary in the same words but with the same curiosity. So what is an advance yoga practice?
Let me start with what it IS NOT – conversations about progression in yoga often revolve around physical poses. It is definitely NOT contorting your body into a pose like a elasti-girl or boy. It is NOT the ability to be flat as a pancake in a seated forward bend. It is NOT holding your feet in bow backbend. I think you get the picture. In fact, progression in yoga practice has little to do with what angle you achieve in a pose.
Is it about the breath practice then? Yes and no – sounding like a politician here. An advance practice is NOT forcing the breath to the point that a hypertensive situation is created – like overdoing the Ujjayi breath resulting in hardness of throat or over extending your exhalation to be in the Guinness world record books for longest exhalation or holding the pause in your breath till there is a sense that your eyes are about to pop.
The breath can cultivate attentiveness to be deeply present in all aspect of life when practice is not forced. Simply being aware of your inhalation and exhalation can ground you quickly when you find yourself in a tricky situation.
Advance yoga practice is a practice that serves you in your life – providing you with the mobility that you need, providing you with mental resilience to deal with the challenges that life throw at you, providing you with mental clarity to respond harmoniously to situations.
Your own discernment and trust in your own intuition can assist along this journey. Inherently, we all know what is good for us and what is not. However, often judgement is clouded as we often associate the familiar with the healthy. It is insane to keep doing the same practices that you were doing when you are going through cancer treatment. Same insanity for wanting to belt your body physically the same way you did in your twenties when you are in your forties. There are physical and breath practices that are suited for all life stages and states.
Trust yourself first! – as once said tome by my teacher, Judith Hanson Lassater.
How you approach your yoga practice will be what you will get out of it. If you force and push your yoga practice because of some internal need to strive or because Hannah next to you is doing it – it is likely that you will cultivate discontent and dissatisfaction with yourself. If you practice from a place of welcoming and accepting – you will cultivate serenity and peace of mind.
Let the time of your practice to be the time you pay attention to YOU and understand from what mindset you are operating from. Yogi philosophy believes that what we seek is well and truly within us. We just need to tune in. The more tuning in the more advance your practice is!
In the words of Judith again.
“Yoga is not about touching your toes but what you learn on the way down.”