Is becoming a contortionist the primary objective of Yoga? Is advanced Yoga performing nearly impossible poses for the applause of crowds? Is an expert Yoga practitioner an example of good health or just another “health nut?”
There seems to be some conflicting ideas about what a beginner, or what is an advanced Yoga practitioner, are. In all forms of Yoga, energy within the body is channeled for maximum potential. Many types of Yoga focus on mental, emotional, and spiritual growth. The physical styles of Yoga strive to harness nervous energy through self-mastery.
When advanced teachers work with beginners, or new Yoga teachers, it is easy to spot nervous energy. Their minds are still disconnected from their bodies. They need to purge the body of excess nervous energy to appreciate the valuable aspects of a Yoga practice.
Pranayama should bring the mind and body together, but this new “High-Tech” mindset is addicted to constant stimulation. This is why Vinyasa is so popular with new students. This is also why the concept of “advanced” Yoga has become warped.
In truth, the advanced practitioner has a trained mind and is fully present for Yoga practice. This is hard to explain to an ego-driven child or a competitive gymnast, but perfect asana is not an indicator of a trained mind or an advanced Yogi.
If you desire to be an advanced Yoga practitioner, please observe the Eight Limbs of Yoga as stated by Maharishi Patanjali, within the Yoga Sutras. Below is the Eight Limbed Path.
1. Yama: Moral Codes
2. Niyama: Observances
3. Asana: Postures
4. Pranayama: Yogic Breathing
5. Pratyahara: Preparation to increase mental power
6. Dharana: Mental Concentration
7. Dhyana: Devotion to God (The Divine)
8. Samadhi: Union with God (The Divine)
Please note that the third limb (asana) is just one of eight. While physical mastery is important, it is just a part of the whole. Physical mastery, without moral guidance, can become an egotistical pursuit. When the ego is allowed to run wild, it has no need to pursue mental, emotional, or spiritual growth.
Therefore, the sum of all eight limbs is Yoga, but asana alone is just a physical exercise. If Yoga were just a matter of performing splits and standing on one hand for medals, we would leave it to the Olympic gymnasts.
For the “advanced Yogi,” the practice requires a lifetime of study. There is more to be learned about Yoga than one lifetime will allow for. The advanced Yoga practitioner is, in fact, a student for life.
© Copyright 2009 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications