As yoga practitioners, we sometimes think in order to be an "advanced yogi" we need to be always working on hard poses we see in class or those shared on social media. Our yoga can become a list of postures to ace.
There are a lot of yoga poses I cannot do. There are also yoga poses I can "do" but choose not to practice them, because they don't feel good in my body. Let me repeat that. There are yoga poses I can do, but they hurt my body when I do them so I don't. For me, one of these can, but don't do poses is padmasana (lotus pose). It hurts my knees in areas where I know soft things are getting compressed between hard things and that is not good for the long term health and resiliency of my knees. I plan to still be running and doing yoga when I'm 60. Instead I do ardha padmasana (half lotus) or sukasana (easy cross-legged seat). BTW: Yoga is a lot of things, but it is not pain.
I respect all who come to their mat to move their body and I want you to respect your body too. As with any subject we take up and practice it is the process that is so valuable, and the time it takes to develop proficiency in that practice is not to be bypassed. It is through this process that we better learn about our body and it's unique physical makeup. It is also through this process that we learn what yoga poses serve us best and which ones we don't need. I'm not here to categorize yoga asanas as good or bad for you. Nothing in yoga (in life) is that simple. I'm here to give you permission to have an advanced practice that doesn't include every asana and arm balance invented. My teacher, Jason Crandell often says, "yoga is for everybody, but not every yoga pose is for every. body."
Think outside of the yoga pose!
Beyond the can I, can't I, should I do this asana discussion I've broadened my focus to consider movement patterns that are repeated often and those that are not. In modern life and in yoga we have a tendency to fold forward A LOT. As humans, we also have a tendency to practice the things we are already good at. Beyond the yoga poses you can and cannot do what movements do you do often and not so often? To me an advanced yoga asana practice is one that includes humble curiosity and a balance of movement through all three movement planes (sagittal, frontal, transverse). An advanced practice may or may not include arm balances. It may or may not include a high degree of flexibility, and it will likely have a strap and a block or two nearby. Just in case. The longer I practice and teach yoga, the more yoga asanas I'm ok not doing. I've retired poses, returned to and rediscovered poses just as one would in this non-linear crazy process called, life. There are so many good, useful yoga asanas to explore, embellish, modify and return to that I'll never run out of material.
Krishnamacharya had a saying: “Ninety percent of the benefit of yoga comes from the simplest ten percent of the practice.” To me, this means that in addition to the big, challenging stuff that’s engaging and exciting and Instagram-worthy, we need to remind our students that doing foundational postures with skill and focus creates a long-term, valuable impact. Let’s continue to build content that is relevant and accessible for our students—not just show the content that is inspirational. - Jason Crandell