Recently a student said to me “I really need a more advanced class”. I asked her what she meant by this and she responded that she wanted to do things like Headstands and other strong challenging postures.
I do teach in a gentle style, and understand that different styles of yoga suit different people. But is a physically demanding class a more advanced one? Physical postures are but one of the Limbs of Yoga (Patanjali’s Sutras). And they are traditionally used to prepare for meditation.
You may have heard the phrase ‘Beginners Mind’ – it comes from the book ‘Zen Mind, Beginners Mind’ … there is a lovely quote right at the beginning of the book “In the Beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few”. To me this means approaching everything with a sense of curiosity – whether it is something familiar or something new – by doing this, there is always something new to notice. And you can certainly apply this in yoga. Take a ‘basic’ posture like Tadasana (Mountain Pose) – how do the feet feel today, what is my balance like today, how is my breath, etc. By taking this approach, you are also ‘really present’ – your mind is not thinking ‘what am I going to have for lunch?’ for example. If you get this degree of focus and awareness in your yoga practice, this is to me what makes a practice advanced. And if you take this approach, you are always a beginner, never an expert!