There's lots of talk about levels in yoga. One's, 2's, 3's, 10's. And of course, level 14.5. I find it all a little confusing. Leaving 14.5 aside for now, is one level more advanced than another? Am I more advanced because I can pose more? Are Cirque du Soleil performers by far the most advanced of all yoga people?? My guess is this isn't the direction we're going with yoga, so maybe a different definition is useful, one that isn't pose-based. It's possible that in yoga we'd rather be movers than posers. This may also hold true for life.
My wife Tara always tells me to lead with the positive. Don't define something by what it's not, just help people move into what they are! So I'll get to that. But very quickly, it may be helpful to see what advanced yoga is not, especially if we're looking at yoga as a way of being healthy, happy, and living a great life!
What it's not:
Poses. Poses aren't advanced. As long as we're learning poses, we're all beginners. Which is a great place to be! Also, all our bodies are different. Your shape in a pose is not aiming to be my shape in a pose. There are no universal angles or shapes, just your angles, curves and shapes. Your yoga, your life. Which leads us to "advanced" yoga.
What it is:
Moving into you. Every inch of you. There is no inch of you that is any less important than any other inch. No picture of a pose is a better place to be than each millimeter along the way, from one position of your body to the next. There is no moment that is less worthy of your attention and interest than any other. Think of your moving in yoga like a Japanese tea ceremony. Give your greatest attention to things that appear smallest. The universe is in those small things.
When you become the world's most attentive interested person - in you - that's advanced yoga. Connect to you in this way, and you connect to everyone. That's reality. We're all connected, and it's not even mystical to say this any more. It's physics. So whichever way you like to go there, it's yours. We're one!
When you get here, things get easier. You practice yoga as practice for life, because it's the same thing. How you yoga is how you live. Explore this a little.
If your yoga is forcing, pushing and struggling to get into some kind of pose - maybe because someone told you it's advanced, or because Bob is doing it - then you're practicing struggle, impatience, and discontent with you, where you are. Ignore Bob! Pay attention to you. Everything you need is right there, waiting for you to tune in. t's not in a pose, it's in you.
If your yoga is calm, easy, relaxed - if you're practicing all the things you actually want in your life, like feeling good right where you are in your own body - this is when the good stuff happens. Rather than being good at doing everything the hard way, you become good at doing hard things the easy way. Rather than always thinking you need to smash through fears and obstacles, you learn that you can be calm and capable in any situation, no smashing required. Doors open for you, because people want you in there, and because you learn to open them for yourself - on your own calm, capable feet.
All this is a way of saying, "advanced yoga" is changing your mind to change your life. Poses, breathing and concentration aren't separately practiced, but integrated as one complete whole. Just like in life, we often need to move, breathe and pay attention all at the same time! When we orient our minds in a healthy way, we get healthy in our bodies and capable in our lives. Suddenly those poses that seemed so tough aren't tough at all. How we move in our bodies, and in our lives, is only limited by our creative capacity to invent ourselves. When you believe in you, your power to be the originator of your own yoga, and your own life, is limitless. And it's available to all of us.