This is a subject that certainly is begging for clarification. Certainly, as one gets more experienced in anything, one develops more insight and understanding pertaining to the endeavor or subject one is partaking in. Yet understanding more does not necessarily mean doing more and could very well mean doing less, especially pertaining to the physical yoga practice, when less is more optimal for health. Competition is a disease of our society, and doing more than before or more than them isn’t always aligned with wellness. There is a point when enough is enough, and an advanced yoga practice means recognizing this.
I rather use the word “mature“ than the word “advanced“ because mature is reflective of having experience.
This experience lends to insight and understanding and allows for optimal decisions. This leads to a yoga practice that’s healing, even if the yoga poses tend to be simple and non-contortive. Advanced yoga poses or an advanced yoga practice or even advanced yoga sequences tend to mean hard yoga poses or contortive yoga positions, which any gymnast can do but have nothing to do with yoga.
How To Do Advanced Yoga Poses: Listen to what you are feeling.
So when someone asks me how to do an advanced yoga pose, I say “listen very carefully to what you are feeling, and go into the pose to the degree that feels moderate.” This place is somewhere between too much and not enough. So you are not running away, which could facilitate atrophy, and you are not pushing too hard, which could facilitate injury! This is how you do an advanced yoga pose! This is a mature and therefore healing yoga practice! When someone asks me what a hard yoga pose is, this question is subjective as it depends on one’s physical abilities, as what’s hard for me may not be hard for you. I see this all the time. A beginner comes to my class and can easily do a pose that someone else who has been coming to my class for ten years has a hard time with, as each of these people is dealing with their unique body type.
So truly, what is a hard or very difficult pose? An advanced yoga sequence of poses is truly subjective. Our body types are a direct by-product of our life experiences and our genetic lineage, and this will dictate our physical abilities to a large degree. That’s why yoga and really everything is so subjective, and comparing and competing is absurd, unless you’d like to disrespect yourself. This is recognized by a mature yogi and therefore a mature yoga practice. So really, an advanced yoga practice is simply a mature yoga practice. A mature yoga practice is dominated by wisdom and not vanity or competitiveness. This allows the yoga practice to become healing, because you are honoring what you are feeling, which is why you have feelings. This is what I emphasize in my classes. This keeps you safe!
There are many yoga related injuries because of competitiveness and people’s misguided belief that there is some correlation between hyper-flexibility and wellness, of which there is none! This is not a contest or sport! The goal of yoga is wellness and not flexibility or contortions.