An almost inevitable part of yoga practice is the interest in “mastering” advanced asanas. Of course, yoga isn’t about who can stand on their head. It’s about your journey to stilling your mind (after all, asanas began as preparation for extended seated meditation). However, advanced asanas can act as a path to the true goal of yoga and to your deepest spiritual goals as well.
I started teaching yoga a few months ago. Kind (and brave!) friends and family members have volunteered as my students so I can gain some experience. I have developed a teaching practice where I have my students pick an advanced asana that they want to be able to do one day, an asana that represents some kind of real achievement or an overcoming of an obstacle to them. Then I work with them on the spiritual, psychological and emotional foundation of the pose before attempting the physical asana itself. Eventually, we begin physical preparation work, but not before the spiritual foundations have been set. My hope is that, once they achieve the asana, they will associate it with the virtue they have cultivated along the way. In this way, the asana can act as a philosopher’s stone, activating that quality when they need it most.
Here is an example of advanced asana and its prerequisite spiritual/emotional foundations (from my point of view):
Supported Headstand (Sirsasana) – To get into a supported headstand, one has to diminish any pre-existing notions of what one can and can’t do in order to go upside down. She will need to develop strength in her arms to create a stable foundation, which requires mental fortitude. She will need to cultivate the ability to open up the crown chakra in order to press the top of her head down and protect the health of her neck, thus establishing a point of stillness. So all-in-all the pose requires: trust in oneself, mental fortitude and stillness.
I created a new page for the Fourth Chakra website called the Asana Gallery, where I have begun documenting the asanas I have achieved along with the spiritual and emotional journey that helped me get there. I captioned every photo with the lessons I had to learn along the path to the realization of the pose. As I improve on my asanas and learn to execute new ones, I will upload new images with their corresponding lessons.
I hope the gallery will inspire you to explore your own asanas on a deeper, more meaningful level.
May you be filled with peace,