When I first started yoga I wanted to be an advanced practitioner quickly. I was young, strong and I wanted my body to be able to do all the things I saw others do. I saw yoga as a competition, and I wanted to be the best. It took a long time and a lot of injuries for me to realize that none of that mattered. My whole purpose for practicing was misguided and my ego was stronger than I was. The practice and my body humbled me. It made me look deeply into myself and ask what was I trying to gain?
For me, now, advanced practice is more than the poses you are trying to master. It is the very way you go about practicing; it is the “how” of practice. The mindset, the breath, the ego, the transitions. They all play a major part in practice. Just because you can get into poses doesn’t make you advanced and just because you can’t get into them doesn’t mean you aren’t. Iyengar taught that it took 6 years for yoga to get into the body. Golf has taught me the same lesson. I’ve been playing longer than I’ve been practicing yoga. They both take years to learn. You are constantly adjusting and striving ….and you never get there. You have moments when you are close, so close in fact, that you can literally feel at one with it. Then the next day it’s gone.
It is natural to want to do your best – better than your best even. Wanting to push your limits and see what is possible is part of the greatness of the human spirit. Ego plays an important role in our survival. It isn’t inherently bad. When ego leads you to override your intuition or when it is your driving force it can be dangerous. However, it can also produce epic shifts. It can lead to great achievements.
Pushing limits and walking the razor’s edge has allure, but how long can you walk it before it cuts you? It is essential to learn to balance ego and reality.
There is one thing I do know about advanced practice – you won’t get there without mastering the beginning stuff. So maybe we all just need to focus on foundation first. If being advanced is what you desire, I have no doubt you can attain it. Do the work, be smart, patient and check in with that ego. You are its master, not the other way around. Now that’s advanced.