Advanced Yoga 101Feb 04, 2023
What in the heck is “advanced yoga” anyway? Does it mean you can put your leg behind your head? Or, touch your feet to your head in a backbend? Can you do a Handstand?
Does it mean that you meditate for 8-hours a day? Are a vegan? Never look at a glass of wine for fear it will ruin your yogi-ness?
I’m gonna say ‘no’ to all of this. At least that’s not my definition of advanced yoga.
And, I thought I’d clear this up for all of us this week… as best I can.
For me, Advanced Yoga is all about mindset.
It has very little to do with crazy postures or who is a better meditator (if that’s even a thing). It has nothing to do with your diet.
It is all about you and what you think is possible.
This has been true for me since way back when I first began diving into more advanced asana and it’s still true today.
The first “advanced” posture I ever worked towards was Full Camel, or Kapotasana.
Every day after I moved through a Beginner Level Yoga class, I’d stay on my mat and see if I could learn a little more about the posture, explore the shape, and figure out how to get just a tiny bit further.
I learned a lot from that one posture.
I learned I had to believe it was possible.
I had to have oodles of patience.
I had to take a break on the days when I was just too worn out physically and mentally to give it one more try.
I had to notice when it didn’t feel so great and seek out the answers as to why and work to apply my findings to the physical work of achieving it.
And, all of that. Everything it took to get me into Full Camel… that’s Advanced Yoga.
Sure, it was a HUGE moment when I finally grabbed my heels and pulled my body down into it for the first time.
I remember running out of the studio doors and finding someone – anyone – to share the news with, jumping up and down with a huge grin plastered to my face.
But, I wasn’t suddenly an “advanced practitioner” because of the accomplishment.
It was all of the work that got me there, that leveled up my practice into what can be called, or labeled “advanced.”
So, let’s start with step one of what is advanced yoga. For me, it’s all in the beginning.
The beginning is the most important part. It’s where the mindset kicks in.
I consider someone an advanced yogi the moment they decide they’re not a beginner anymore.
And, that they’re ready to take that step out of beginner level yoga and work for something brand new within their practice.
But, it’s the biggest step.
I see it every time someone shows up for my class. They decided it was something they were going to try on for size. And, not just once, but again and again.
Because there are plenty of people that take that first advanced class – whether its with me or with someone else - and can’t do everything perfectly right away or are not willing to feel like a newbie and kind of out of sorts for the first couple of months and then they go back to their beginner class, claiming it was too hard, or not for them. Even when they didn’t really give it a go.
They made the first step, but then got all freaked out about the changes they were going to have to embrace and work for, and went back to their comfort zone.
Because the person that can do a Headstand, or a Wheel Pose, or whatever posture you think is advanced… is not the same person that couldn’t do it. Big changes happen along the way. And, not with just your yoga practice.
So, everything is right there in the first step.
You choose to step forward and you decide advanced yoga, building something new for you – regardless of age, or body type, or any perceived limitations of your arms are too long, your legs are too short, or your thighs are too big – is what you want for your practice. And you decide to stay the course even when you feel wildly uncomfortable with the process.
You decide to stay because the comfort zone of the beginner level classes – even though they are fun and they still challenge you – isn’t where you want to be a year later with your practice, or 5 years later.
So, you bravely step forward.
That’s the most important step.
The second most important step when it comes to having an advanced practice is patience.
Your body knows how to do the postures you’ve taught it to do.
But, there are so many different postures to explore now.
So, at first it feels like NOTHING is ever going to come together.
You can only understand step one of each posture. And, it can feel hopeless sometimes.
But, then there will be a magical day where you understand what it will take to fly in your first Crow Pose, or how to walk your leg up your arm for Compass Pose, or how to start floating in Half Headstand.
And, that’s when things get really, really fun.
Because if you have the patience to wait around for these magical moments and work towards your practice goals, suddenly the postures that didn’t seem even kind of related to each other are in the same family and absolutely attainable.
If you fly in Crow Pose, you are going to fly in Firefly… they’re kind of the same posture with tiny differences.
If you extend the leg in Compass Pose, you are going to extend the leg in Half Flying Warrior, start to hook the shoulders behind the knees for Guillotine or Firefly, and you might even fly in Scissors.
If you get into Half Headstand and can hold it like a champ, you’re going to find yourself in Headstand in the middle of the room, no assistance needed. And, then kicking in Forearm Stand or Handstand will begin to feel doable too.
But, the patience factor – it’s a big one.
I’ve had students tell me they were unsure if they were in the right place for up to 2 to 3 months. They would click into class and shake their heads at the audacity to try this stuff again.
What happens when they stick with it though?
They can do things in their day to day life they haven’t been able to do in years.
They feel younger in their body and their minds.
They no longer feel like aging is some horrible thing.
They feel freer and easier in their body regardless of what they have accomplished on their yoga mat, or what they’re still working to attain.
So, we have the mindset of knowing these postures are possible for you and the patience to stay the course. That’s what’s required for advanced yoga.
But, there’s one more factor here. And, that is the willingness to continue to learn and knowing that you’ll never know it all.
You have to be okay with that.
There will never be a day where you wake up, move through your practice and claim: I know everything about yoga.
That would be like stating you know everything about life.
It’s impossible to know it all.
So, there will be moments when a posture that once was “easy” is now so difficult or near impossible. There will be times when a shape that felt so darn good, feel soff or even awful at times.
And, that’s when you have to call on the life learner inside you and seek the answers from an instructor or authority you trust.
From there, be open to taking on the adjustment or correction needed to get you back on track. Or, take the advice to back off for a bit, allow the body some time heal or realign, and when you feel better go back to working deeper.
So, when you hear me refer to ‘advanced yoga’ this is what I’m referring to.
Advanced yoga requires the mindset to step into something new, the patience to stick with it even when it feels ridiculous or “hard,” and the humble nature of knowing you will never know it all, but you’re willing to keep learning and stay open.
It’s not about Wheel Pose. It’s not about Handstand. It’s not about Flying Pigeon.
It’s about you. It’s about having the wild audacity to work for something more, to evolve your practice and your Self into something greater than you ever dared possible, and to live your practice and your life to it’s fullest.
No more limitations and all possibilities. That’s advanced yoga.
And, sure. When you take on this kind of practice, you’ll cultivate mindfulness which will make you want to sit and meditate and eat better foods. You’ll want to hydrate. All of the good things we’re told to work for? They start with that first step on your yoga mat.
Take that step day after day and you’ll surprise yourself with how far you go.
Tori Hicks-Glogowski has been practicing yoga for almost 20 years and has been teaching for well over a decade.
With over 1000 hours of yoga education under her belt, she knows all too well how the practice of yoga can transform your life.
Beginning as a Bikram Yoga Instructor in 2011, Tori also sought out certifications in Level II Traditional Hatha Yoga and CYoga, among many others.
She is a Certified RAD Yoga Mobility Specialist with expertise in self myofascial release techniques and was a USA Yoga Coach, assisting yoga athletes to train for competition.
Tori published her first book in 2018, "Views from the Podium: The Life & Times of a Hot Yogi," which chronicles the first part of her teaching career as a Bikram Yoga Instructor.
Her superpower is to take a student stuck in "Beginner Yoga Land," and assist them to build into something much more empowering and fun, helping them tap into their limitless possibilities on their yoga mat and in their lives.
Discover it's never too late to learn how to fly, float, & bend in a whole new way with my effective & transformational online yoga program.
2-Week Trial Membership for $30 USD. Learn more about why you should join here.
Don't miss a post!
Sign up below to become a Meet Me on Your Mat Insider and get the first scoop on new blog posts, podcast episodes, workshops, live events, freebies, and special promotions.
I hate SPAM. I will never sell your information, for any reason. And, I will never send you junk. When you sign up you become part of my inner circle of yoga family and frends.