First let’s look at the word “advanced” so we can understand what we mean.
One meaning is “highly developed or complex.” Another is “having reached a comparitively late stage.” In the first example, the implication is a state of complexity relying on previous stages of development. In the second example, we are really talking about nearing the end of something.
So, an advanced hatha yoga practitioner could be either able to perform complex asana, or be just about done with hatha yoga and ready to move into more subtle practices. In the second case, once the hatha yoga practioner stops hatha yoga practice altogether, that would be more advanced than performing a complex arm balance the day before.
So what do we mean by “advanced practice”?
Our bodies’ capabilites change daily and throughout our lives. The recognition and appropriate response to this would be one aspect of more advanced practice.
When you look at what give us the abiltiy to do anything physically, it is fact that we are alive. Our aliveness relies on breathing. No breath, no life. We didn’t choose to take the first inhale, and the date and hour of our last exhale is unknown. Therefore, the appropriate relationship to the gift of our breath, and to this experience of life, is one of gratitude and surrender.
The radiant health and peaceful disposition hatha yoga encourages is a byproduct of first surrender to, and then particpation with, our breath. The root guru of our hatha yoga pracitces—T. Krishnamacharya—incorporated pranayama, or expansion of the breath, into hatha yoga practice. He was not only a yogi but an Ayurvedic physician, and understood the relationship between physicality, awareness, and health.
A flower does not “try to bloom”. The moon does not “try” to refect the light of the sun. A human does not “try” to love, to breathe, or to move.
Hatha yoga practice is an opportunity to focus on what has been given to us—our breath, our senses and our bodies – and move in participation with the breath, creating shapes that expand our ability to breathe with compassion and clarity.
If you were the first person even to place your hands and feet on the ground in an inverted V and breath fluidly, what you’d be doing would have the same benefit as if it were created a thousand years ago. Engaging your creative nature with gratitude for the breath through movement is advanced yoga practice.
Dan Clement is the director of Open Source yoga 200/500 hr. teacher training in British Columbia, Canada and author of “Teaching Hatha Yoga”. In addition to training teachers in this inclusive and evolving method, Dan writes and records songs, plays the banjo and enjoys a good session of Frisbee with his dog. Dan has been teaching yoga since “times of yore”. For more information visit here.
Editor: Ryan Pinkard