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What does it mean to "advance" in yoga?

When we think about advancing in yoga we might think it has to do with intense postures and poses. A google search of "advanced yoga" yields the following images. Skinny flexible women doing intense movements:

Yoga has it's own definition of "advancing" in asana and complicated poses isn't it.

Advancing in yoga is a highly individual process that depends on many factors, including one's level of commitment, regularity of practice, duration of practice and supportive mindset. As well as community support in the form of good teachers and education. It can include complex asana but there's a lot more to it.

We can turn to the Yoga Sutras as written by Maharishi Patanjali, for deeper understand of asana deepening:

prayatna-śaithilya-ananta-samāpatti-bhyām ॥2.47॥

"By relaxing the effort and fixing one's attention on the infinite, posture is perfected."

Here Patanjali Maharishi is referring to asana and advancing in the practice. He outlines three key components of practice that are necessary for achieving a state of deepening in one's asana practice.

The first principle is "prayatna", which means effort or striving. This refers to the idea that one must apply intentional effort in order to properly execute an asana.

The second principle is "shaithilya", which means relaxation or ease. This refers to the need to mindfully release any unnecessary effort and soften into the asana, rather than forcing it into a particular pose.

The third principle is "ananta-samapatti", which means undisturbed awareness of the infinite or the Divine. This refers to the state of complete absorption and surrender to wholeness.

Collectively, these three ideas foster a harmonious and balanced approach to asana practice, highlighting the equilibrium of exertion and relaxation to guide the individual towards a more profound level of yoga.

Ultimately, advancing in yoga is more about how you feel as a practitioner rather than how you look holding shapes and poses. A long-time practitioner may feel more peaceful and at ease in their life. They may feel less reactive. Possibly more joyful and calm. One of my teachers once shared that yoga is "working" when you feel more "ease and flow" in your life.

Remember that yoga is more about the mind and your mindset than it is about the shape and form of your body. Seek peace, awareness and deepening in your practice over fancy poses and fitness for a more meaningful experience in the long run.

What do you think? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.


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