Happy Memorial Day!
Lately, advanced yoga postures have been on my mind. This past week I attended a remarkable six-day advanced posture training here in Eugene, Oregon, and I’m not sure I have ever sweat so much!
It was nice to step back from teaching yoga classes in order to fully participate as a student. I find when I do this I always learn something new, and last week was no exception.
In the course, we had a discussion about what it means to have a truly advanced practice. Each person shared a different perspective. What struck me is that none of our answers were directly based on physical aptitude or even attaining advanced postures. Rather, the milestones mentioned by the group were internal.
In the days since the training, I find myself returning to this question. After all, it’s not merely certification, years of practice, or the types of classes you attend that turn you from an intermediate to an advanced practitioner.
So what are the signs your yoga practice is deepening (or is already super deep)? Read on…
You approach each practice with a beginners mind, observing your body/mind throughout practice
No matter how many times you’ve done Downward Facing Dog, there’s still more to unpack, and still another level of stillness to experience. See if each time you practice you continue to notice more and grow into either expansion or stillness.
You’ve experienced change in your physical practice, and yet you still practice
This change could be progress forward or a setback from an injury. When progress forward occurs, it's easy to perform postures without fully giving yourself to your practice, without leaning in as you used to. Likewise, when you experience a setback, it's easy to skip your practice because things are more challenging or 'don't look like they used to'. The fact that you’re returning to your mat, day after day, putting in true effort is a sign of an advanced practice.
You experience mindfulness happening when you least expect it
Maybe you do a body scan while you’re sitting in traffic, or begin to notice the taste of your meals more. Perhaps you’re able to read emotions in other people more easily because you’re paying attention a little more. This is a sign of yoga working its wonders!
Your yoga practice shifts from being change-focused/goal-oriented to being a reason in itself
This isn’t to say you can’t have goals or work toward growth, but an advanced practice is a reason in itself. We only live in the present, and in regular life we’re usually giving of ourselves to others. Your yoga practice is an opportunity for you to really be with yourself. And you’re awesome, so why shouldn’t you experience your own company?
You practice even on your bad days
Sometimes we want to pause our meditation session when our mind isn’t settling like it should, or we want to skip a posture because it’s challenging (or easy) and makes us feel uneasy (because we're supposed to be working harder or because it is hard and bruises our ego). If you can find your practice even when it pushes up against your egoic self and challenges you to face shadows, then you know you’re on the right track.