How advanced are you?

This week has been interesting in terms of my own yoga practice. In fact it’s been a little bit humbling.

Back in March I went on an ‘advanced teacher training’, my teachers (the ever amazing Emily Stone and Jasmine Tarkeshi) made light of the word ‘advanced’ making it clear that it didn’t matter if you could stick a handstand or not, that being an advanced teacher was more about what and how you shared your knowledge with your students.

This week I put a notice up on a teacher’s board, as at BYS we were looking for someone to take on my advanced vinyasa class while I am away in the UK next year.

It had started me thinking, what is an advanced practice exactly? Do I have an advanced practice?

I can pretty much bust out any arm balance I have a go at, I can’t handstand in the middle of the room but I can bakasana to tripod to bakasana to chataranaga (do you care??)…so if pushed I’d say I have a fairly advanced practice.

Trying to bust out the splits in the surf... you have to laugh

Trying to bust out the splits in the surf… you have to laugh

But tonight in an arm balancing workshop that worked on ‘one legged crow’ (a pose I’ve never played with before), handstanding in the centre of the room and lolasana (I’d forgotten how much I hate that pose) I felt like an absolute beginner. I watched some amazing yogis explore these poses effortlessly and for all my years of training the thought popped into my head before I could stop it. ‘I’m not advanced enough to be a yoga teacher’

Don’t worry. I don’t suffer from victim mentality and I laughed it off as soon as it came in and got back to enjoying the play, the lila of making some new shapes on my mat.

As I was driving home I got to thinking about one of our teacher trainees who does not have an ‘advanced practice’ and struggles in a dynamic vinyasa class. I was reading her homework today, an essay on her reflections of doing a 40 day mantra meditation and it was so insightful and thoughtful that I was blown away thinking what an amazing teacher this woman will be when she shares this stuff with her students.

Earlier this week I had a coffee with a student who comes to my advanced class every week with her husband. She has a very strong practice but he does not. They are probably both in their late 50s. I told her how amazing it was to watch her husband practice, he is always so mindful in every pose, so focused on the breath, never forcing himself into a pose that he knows will not be good for his body and so to me he has a far more advanced practice than the student groaning and jamming themself into compass pose and making it look like a torture technique.

So what is an advanced practice? I think it’s being able to practice yoga mindfully both on and off the mat. To have a deep sense of self awareness and self knowledge that you know what is right for you on any given day. I think it is enjoying your practice and keeping it joyful, whether you stay in a beginner’s class for ten years or bust out a one-handed handstand because you can. I think it means understanding that yoga is more than just a physical practice and resting easy that just because you can’t do lolasana does not mean you suck. It means you have room to grow and you should have fun doing it.


2 Responses

  1. Trish Peacock says:

    LOVE this blog honey. It’s as though I had written this myself! NEVER doubt yourself. You are one of the most amazing teachers I have ever met in my 10 years of practice. I agree with every single word you have written and it was only today that I looked down at my 30 plus over 50 students and thought how ‘advanced’ they all are as human beings! My practice has changed so much over the years and to me it is so much less important as years go by that I can’t do so many of these advanced poses but I have grown so much as a human being because of my practice, and that has become the biggest reward ever! Keep on doing what you do best lovely and that is sharing your knowledge of yoga, teaching your passion and radiating your beautiful energy out to us all. Love you . xxxx

  2. laura says:

    thanks keren, its nice to hear this. my teacher probably couldn’t bust out ashtavakrasana but she was more enlightened than anyone I met who can. And she translated the ashtavakra gita which is probably a lot more useful. In fact i would say that most of the cats intent on busting extreme yoga moves were far more on the rajas scale of things, still so embedded in these ideas about shapes than finding a deeper truth. and is it really possible to be advanced in something that is about being totally present? its a good question that all yogis should ask themselves. When is the ego getting involved ( almost always) What is real? What is important to share? thank you


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