How advanced are you?
This week has been interesting in terms of my own yoga practice. In fact it’s been a little bit humbling.
Back in March I went on an ‘advanced teacher training’, my teachers (the ever amazing Emily Stone and Jasmine Tarkeshi) made light of the word ‘advanced’ making it clear that it didn’t matter if you could stick a handstand or not, that being an advanced teacher was more about what and how you shared your knowledge with your students.
This week I put a notice up on a teacher’s board, as at BYS we were looking for someone to take on my advanced vinyasa class while I am away in the UK next year.
It had started me thinking, what is an advanced practice exactly? Do I have an advanced practice?
I can pretty much bust out any arm balance I have a go at, I can’t handstand in the middle of the room but I can bakasana to tripod to bakasana to chataranaga (do you care??)…so if pushed I’d say I have a fairly advanced practice.
But tonight in an arm balancing workshop that worked on ‘one legged crow’ (a pose I’ve never played with before), handstanding in the centre of the room and lolasana (I’d forgotten how much I hate that pose) I felt like an absolute beginner. I watched some amazing yogis explore these poses effortlessly and for all my years of training the thought popped into my head before I could stop it. ‘I’m not advanced enough to be a yoga teacher’
Don’t worry. I don’t suffer from victim mentality and I laughed it off as soon as it came in and got back to enjoying the play, the lila of making some new shapes on my mat.
As I was driving home I got to thinking about one of our teacher trainees who does not have an ‘advanced practice’ and struggles in a dynamic vinyasa class. I was reading her homework today, an essay on her reflections of doing a 40 day mantra meditation and it was so insightful and thoughtful that I was blown away thinking what an amazing teacher this woman will be when she shares this stuff with her students.
Earlier this week I had a coffee with a student who comes to my advanced class every week with her husband. She has a very strong practice but he does not. They are probably both in their late 50s. I told her how amazing it was to watch her husband practice, he is always so mindful in every pose, so focused on the breath, never forcing himself into a pose that he knows will not be good for his body and so to me he has a far more advanced practice than the student groaning and jamming themself into compass pose and making it look like a torture technique.
So what is an advanced practice? I think it’s being able to practice yoga mindfully both on and off the mat. To have a deep sense of self awareness and self knowledge that you know what is right for you on any given day. I think it is enjoying your practice and keeping it joyful, whether you stay in a beginner’s class for ten years or bust out a one-handed handstand because you can. I think it means understanding that yoga is more than just a physical practice and resting easy that just because you can’t do lolasana does not mean you suck. It means you have room to grow and you should have fun doing it.