Reclaiming Advanced YogaOct 06, 2022
So, what in the heck is “advanced yoga” anyway? Does it mean you can touch your feet to your head? Or, balance your entire body on just your fingertips? Is it when you can do an inversion in the middle of the room, away from the wall?
Well, yes… and not quite.
I entitled this post “Reclaiming Advanced Yoga,” because it’s kind of been taken away from us. In more ways than one.
Right now, when most people hear “advanced yoga” they usually roll their eyes and sigh, letting the stress of those two words linked together sit in their brain and in their body in irritation. With the sigh alone you want to discredit it, as contortion, or impossible, or “Isn’t regular yoga hard enough already???”
And, wow, do I understand that.
But, because of social media we have a very odd sense of what advanced yoga is.
Scrolling through my feed on Instagram, I would believe that advanced yoga means that you have an impossibly trim body and you’re around 25 to 30 years old.
If you’re a woman, your hair is in the perfect top knot, or loose and wild streaming behind you on the wind. If you’re a man you’re definitely shirtless, muscles bulging. And, the landscape for advanced yoga practitioners is always a beach or a mountaintop.
And, though I would never discredit the work these people did to get into their postures or to manifest the perfect background to their life… this is not advanced yoga.
Most people that have an “advanced” practice rarely post their postures to social media.
And, for those of us that do, me included, we are instructors trying our best to show you what is possible when you open yourself up to taking the next step forward in your yoga practice.
So, let’s dig into this today. What exactly is advanced yoga? Because I think we got it all wrong. It somehow has gotten twisted up in our brain and labeled as “ridiculous” or “bad.”
And, for me, who teaches advanced asana daily, it is such a positive light for so many of my students that I want to clear the air here.
For me, there are 3 things that account for “advanced yoga”:
First and foremost, is when I say a class is advanced, all I mean by that is I think you have the basics down. You’ve practiced for a couple of months consistently. You know what Downward Dog is. You know the basics of Triangle. If I say, “Warrior II” even if you don’t know what that is yet, you can look at the shape I’m making and come pretty darn close to copying it with your own body.
Next, you’re not going to get too flustered if you are at the beginnings of working toward inversions or arm balances or deep back bends. You don’t feel as if you need to pull into the final step of the posture because you understand that there are building blocks to each posture and that you’ll always be refining your technique.
And, third, you have discipline. You know that yoga helps you through life and I don’t have to convince you to show up for yourself.
That’s it. That’s what I mean by advanced yoga. You have the basics, you don’t get flustered over not being able to do it all every single day, and you have discipline.
Advanced yoga simply means you’re ready for the next step and courageous enough to claim it for yourself.
And, that next step I’m talking about is not a body thing. It’s a mindset thing.
You have to change your mind about what you think your limitations are.
You have to be curious about the possibilities for your practice.
And, you have to know that if it’s for someone else and they are changing their life through stepping forward with their yoga practice, just maybe that can be inspiring enough to know that it’s for you, too.
Advanced yoga means that you’re ready to learn something new instead of repeating the same beginner level class over and over again.
Now look, even if you still want to repeat that class and now add some advanced work into the mix that is completely fine. I did that for well over a decade. Do what makes you feel good.
All too often through my years teaching intermediate and advanced classes I have heard, “Tori, your beginner’s class is tough enough, I don’t think I’ll ever get to the point where I can take your more advanced offerings.”
And, when you say that I won’t argue with you.
Because if you’ve made up your mind up about something, me telling you all the reasons you should still give it a try will just make you push harder against the idea of letting yourself wonder if it really is for you.
So, usually I just smile and say, “Someday I hope you decide to at least give it a try.”
Because, though I think beginner’s yoga is great and awesome, it’s usually not where real change happens.
Yes, in the first year of your practice there might be huge growth. But, then it kind of plateaus.
Your body gets used to the limited amount of postures you’re working on and breakthroughs happen… maybe once a year, if that.
But, when you decide you want to dive a little deeper into your practice and learn new things, you’ll have breakthrough moment after breakthrough moment.
One breakthrough always leads to a string of more breakthroughs because you are working on so many different postures. And, you begin to see how they’re all related.
And, what I love most about working in advanced yoga is that achieving one posture isn’t the end all be all anymore.
You know that you have so many other things to work towards. So, though you are excited as one posture starts to be realized in your practice, you also know that there’s always more to learn.
So, though advanced yoga has been demonized by some as simply something someone does for Instagram, I’d like to reclaim it this week.
Let’s go back to that 25 to 30 year-old yoga god you saw on Instagram.
Most of the students I work with, are in their late 40s, up to their late 60s. And, they are doing amazing advanced every single day. I don’t believe your age should define your yoga.
And, doing advanced work doesn’t have to look picture perfect. Usually, most days it will look far from it.
I know when I walk away from my yoga mat, I’m red-cheeked, hair a wreck, and sweat marks at weird places on my leggings and tank.
But, I also have a huge grin on my face because it was fun, or I was able to get through it when I wanted to quit, or I learned something new about my practice, or myself.
And, doing this work has empowered me, not only in my practice and in my teaching career, but in every aspect of my life.
You simply will not be the same person after you achieve something you once believed was impossible for you. And, once that happens for you, you’ll begin to wonder where else you’re selling yourself short in your life.
Since starting my online yoga program, where intermediate/advanced work is a daily thing, I’ve seen my students make some seriously bold moves within their lives.
They left jobs they’ve had for years, or even decades, to find something that fit the life they wanted to create. They moved into the kind of home they always dreamed of having for their family and their life. They developed new relationships with awesome people that support and inspire their dreams. It’s been kind of amazing to watch.
Did that all happen because of taking on advanced yoga? Maybe.
All I know is that they stopped settling for what life was giving them, and began creating the life they wanted to live.
Whether it was the yoga or something else I can’t say for sure.
But, I do believe that when you open yourself up to all of your possibilities and stop believing in the limitations you’ve put on yourself on your yoga mat, that has to have an effect on everything else you do, too.
So, I hope this gives you some food for thought. Or, maybe it helps to clear the air on the subject of advanced yoga. But, what I hope most for you, is that you be daring enough to give it a try.
This yoga is for everyone. So be bold and believe this next step was meant for you.
Sending you love & hugs,
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