Being an advanced yogi and advancing in your yoga practice in my opinion has less to do with complicated extreme asana. Instead it is about being able to listen inwardly on a deep and subtle level. Ganga White, author of Yoga Beyond Belief and I agree on this point that awareness is much more important that attaining more and more exotic postures.
Instead your yoga practice becomes an opportunity for you to listen to your own body, thoughts, emotions, energy and spirit. It is a time for your to gather and develop the tools for self-therapy and self-healing to keep your body in balance. Remember, that balance is not a state of arrival, rather a constant process of adjustment from moment to moment.
As you advance in your yoga practice it is a matter of refining more than attaining. Ganga White suggests asking yourself these questions: “Am I gaining a greater understanding of my body? Am I learning how to heal myself? Am I learning subtler and different ways of using the poses and how each asana affect my body to produce different results? Am I gaining an understanding of the energy fields in my body and how these energy fields flow? Am I beginning to get some control of my own autonomic nervous system and some of the unconscious processes of my body? Am I less rigid in my beliefs and less fixed in particular systems and structures? Am I alive and awake in my practice, constantly questioning and willing to vacate my position – figuratively and actually? Am I questioning, not only of others but of myself? Is my mind becoming more open, compassionate, more peaceful?”
I would add some of my own. When students come to me complaining that a practice is not difficult enough, I would ask them, “Are you aware of and connected to your breath in every asana?” Some other questions to consider, “Is my spine lengthening in each asana? Am I connected to a sense of grounding in each pose? Am I energized or exhausted by my yoga practice? What is happening at the level of my organ body in my yoga practice? What kind of information can I gather about myself emotionally in response to this asana?”
These are the guideposts of an advanced practice. So the next time you rigidly ask your body to contort into a yoga posture without ahimsa or compassion, back up and question the intention of your practice. Today we will back up and practice simple shapes with the mind of an advanced yogi.
Ganga White: Yoga Beyond Belief
Sandra Sabatini: Breath