Thursday, March 17, 2011

on advanced yoga

Recently I was having a conversation on the phone with another yoga teacher. This was the first time we spoke and we had a delightful conversation. At one point he asks, "Do you have an advanced yoga practice?"

I sorta floundered around with my words... "I'm not the most flexible of yoga teachers.." I continued on...saying what...I'm not exactly sure. Blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada. Insert more yoga speak.

And then, then I came back to this....

"My yoga mat is like the most perfect home. My yoga practice helps me to be a better person. So yea, I do have an advanced yoga practice."

I've been thinking more about this lately. Thinking about how often I share this same concept with my students. Reminding them that the advanced aspect of yoga is something I can't quite see. It's not the beauty of the posture, it's not the perfectly timed breath, it's not standing on your head. It's not in chanting or knowing the Sanskrit language, or in the memorization of the yoga sutras.

I'm not saying that it can't be found, or be present within these, cause it most certainly can.

Also thinkin' about how it took me a few moments to get to this point in my phone conversation. Reminding me that while I got there, there was a moment of hesitation on my part. Which leads me to believe I have more work to do in this area. And that's so totally ok.

Mostly I'm thinkin' about how happy, how fortunate I am to really feel this in my bones. To know and feel so deeply that yoga is more than the ways in which you position your body.

To know that even though there are days I can't take my hand to the floor in extended side angle (safely), when I can't twist and fully open into revolved triangle, or hold side crow pose...I am still good. I am still an advanced yogini.

How so? Because yoga has helped me to become a better person. A more kind, peaceful, and patient person. I have a better relationship with myself, my husband, family, friends, and community. I know that how I choose to live today affects the future of many.

When my mind is spinning with stress and worries, I have the ability to bring myself back into the moment. And from the present moment I can greet my experience with mindfulness and compassion. When I act habitually in the same ways that are not serving me and my greater good I can pause, witness what's happening, and choose to do things differently.

Those are a few of the reasons that I go back to the mat, to the practice, again and again.

Does that mean that I don't get frustrated, pissed, and angry? Uhhh, no. But those moments come much less often than they used to. And when they do I can let go of them a lot more quickly. Life and yoga encompass a range of experiences and emotions. That too is part of the practice. Welcoming it all. Then beginning to untangle the web of emotions, stories, and such, one breath at a time.

This to me, is advanced yoga. On a good day I'm an advanced yogini. On a challenging day I'm back at the beginning. I'll take both, cause that means I'm at least on the path.

Cheers to you and your advanced, ever changing yoga practice. Cheers to this glorrrious spring-like day.

2 comments:

KentuckyACP said...

I love what you have to say here, for many reasons.

For those of us that aspire to be yoga teachers ourselves one day, it is comforting and refreshing to hear you say that being an "advanced" yogini is so much more than acrobatic poses and mastery of yoga history.

I especially love this...

" Does that mean that I don't get frustrated, pissed, and angry? Uhhh, no. But those moments come much less often than they used to. And when they do I can let go of them a lot more quickly. Life and yoga encompass a range of experiences and emotions. That too is part of the practice. Welcoming it all. Then beginning to untangle the web of emotions, stories, and such, one breath at a time. "

Thanks for sharing ;)

skw said...

terrific post. i can certainly understand fumbling with that question. when i was back with my old ashtanga peeps several years after having moved away from that exacting question i found myself wondering the same thing.

teaching gentle yoga in a university town, I try to explain this concept by saying that some days, "B" work is more "advanced" than "A" work and if you can recognize that, you're doing advanced yoga :)