Inner Reflections
November 13, 2023

All About Advanced Yoga Postures

Before we go any further, let me be clear: Any posture can be advanced. The goal of yoga—at least according to the Yoga Sutras—is to calm the mind so that we can perceive reality clearly, and that can be just as difficult to do in the gentlest of postures as it is in any arm balance or deep backbend.

That said, some postures definitely require more strength and flexibility than others, so from a purely physical standpoint certain postures can be considered more advanced than others. Of course, different people have different capacities, so what might seem advanced for some may seem relatively easy for others.

Because of this, it’s not really possible to say which postures are advanced and which aren’t. It all depends on the practitioner. But while there’s plenty of value in practicing any posture, it’s been my experience that there are a variety of unique benefits that come with practicing the ones that challenge us physically. In no particular order, they include: 

  1. Discovering Our Potential: Practicing advanced postures requires us to lean into our edges, and leaning into our edges requires us to get uncomfortable. Inevitably, this brings up resistance—physical, mental and emotional. As we learn to calm our minds, though, and move through our limiting beliefs, we begin to accomplish things that we may have previously believed were impossible. In this way, practicing advanced postures not only helps us build strength, stability and flexibility in our bodies, it also helps us cultivate a mindset that sees possibilities rather than limitations. If we never challenge ourselves and only engage with what’s comfortable, we never know what we’re capable of. That may not seem like such a big deal; many people have lived long, happy lives without ever learning to stand on their hands, after all. But the truth is, working to discover our potential has a lot less to do with how strong or flexible we become, and much more to do with how empowered we feel to deal with the inherent challenges of life. It’s the difference between feeling overwhelmed and helpless vs. feeling confident that you can find a solution no matter the situation. Whether you ever learn to do a full scorpion pose or not is irrelevant. What matters is that you learn how to stay open to possibilities and keep doing your best in the face of adversity.
  1. Cultivating Deeper Self-Awareness: Much as we might like to believe we know ourselves well, the truth is that we all have qualities, tendencies, personality traits and habits that hide in our blind spots, and in many cases these attributes are not fun or easy to look at. They’re often the cause of whatever struggles we may have—with work, money, health, relationships or life in general. Practicing advanced postures tends to confront us with the parts of ourselves that hold us back. It requires us to pay close attention both on our mat and off. In addition to teaching us to breathe through adversity and heightened intensity, it also invites us to look at the foods we’re eating, the people we’re spending our time with, the sleep habits we’re keeping, the way we’re showing up for ourselves, our work, our relationships and other commitments. Essentially, practicing advanced postures requires us to take full responsibility for ourselves—inside and out—because it teaches us to accept that if we want something to change, it’s up to us and no one else to make it happen.
  1. Healing: One day during my teacher training our teacher said, “Yoga is about healing.” I remember being so confused by this. As far as I knew, I didn’t have any injuries. None of my bones were broken, none of my muscles were torn. I couldn’t understand what kind of healing he thought I had to do. The more I practiced, though, the more self-aware I became and the more I realized how much my psyche had been conditioned by influences that, for lack of a better word, were toxic—influences that contributed to a variety of beliefs and behavior patterns I wasn’t even conscious of that were completely counterproductive to the goals I was trying to achieve. It may not be the motivating factor that makes most people want to learn to do advanced postures—usually we’re drawn in by the allure of becoming strong and flexible—but practicing advanced postures can be hugely helpful when it comes to healing both physical and psychological wounds, because one thing I’ve learned is that healing is not easy. It requires a tremendous amount of will, consistency, patience and determination. And sometimes it requires that we ask for help. Practicing advanced postures teaches us to cultivate all of these qualities, and it helps us to learn to be graceful in the midst of a process that is often messy and non-linear.
  1. Love: It’s very difficult not to sound trite when talking about love, but I think it’s fair to say that most people want to love and be loved. What that means to each person may be different, but in order to love others and let ourselves be loved, it seems on some level essential that we also learn to love ourselves. That doesn’t mean we get rid of all our flaws or make ourselves somehow “perfect.” It just means that we engage with the difficult work of trying honestly and earnestly to smooth out our rough edges. Practicing advanced postures is difficult by nature, but if we put our best foot forward consistently and compassionately, inevitably we progress, and the more we progress the more it tends to help us cultivate a sense of both pride and humility. We begin to make choices that better support our well-being. As a result, we tend to feel good about who we are and the efforts we’re making without becoming arrogant or entitled. In making a practice of doing our best over and over, we eventually come to realize that that’s all we can do, and that that’s enough. An inevitable byproduct of this is that we come to love ourselves deeply, and in loving ourselves deeply, we naturally extend the same to others, and we tend to gravitate toward those who extend the same kindness and respect to us.

Regardless of how strong or flexible you may or may not be, there will always be postures that challenge your comfort zone. Whatever they are, I humbly invite you to lean into them—gently and mindfully, but also with determination, patience and courage. There are endless possibilities out there waiting for you to discover them.     I look forward to hearing about your journey!

If you’re curious about advanced postures, make sure to check out Brent’s new Yoga Asana Advancement Training available exclusively on Inner Dimension Academy starting November 20th!


By Brent