In the earliest days of my yoga classes, I used to think that “advanced” yoga students were those who could easily do one-armed handstands in the middle of a room – people who always chose to take the Level 2/3 option in a class of Mixed Levels. I used to think that “advanced” students would eat only healthy and wholesome foods like goji berries and quinoa, wake up early in the morning to practice yoga for two hours at least and study Yoga Sutra and Bhagavad Gita before going to bed every night. Now I realize that it was just a silly and naive perception.
And although I'm pretty sure that there are some people out there that who may be that much disciplined in their yoga study, but actually I've never met any of them – may be because they live in a cave somewhere. However, I met several people who wanted others to believe that they live in this way. They talk a lot about organic, local produce and use Sanskrit words in their day-to-day conversations. I guess they also had the same perception about being advanced that I once used to have and are trying to lift the stereotype.
But after a long time of practicing yoga I've realized that truly advanced practitioners are the ones who honor their bodies. They're not the ones who try to impress other classmates with their perfect diet or stellar poses. In fact, that guy who stands on one hand in the middle of the room is not looking for inner peace at that moment; instead he's looking for showing off his strength to others. (I'm not sure about it because I never had that experience. I attempted and fell on my head, but never balanced in one-armed handstand for more than a split second.) Now I perceive that being advanced at yogaasana practice means following your intuition, feeling the sensations of pose that you're doing at the moment and using those poses as a tool for learning more about yourself.
Being an advanced yoga practitioner does not just end in the yoga class – it runs a lot deeper and extends into your daily life too. The yogis I admire most as advanced yogis are those who know that they do not have all the answers. They know that it's about how we live our life. Neither it's about the poses, nor about the food; it's about how we live. And they've no problem in admitting this fact. You may start doing the most jaw-dropping poses in the world while still being unkind to yourself and others – so where's the point of being advanced in it?
In my opinion, the moment when you stop thinking about becoming an advanced yogi, you start your journey towards being advanced. And one day you'll realize it yourself. Remember, being advanced means achieving the peace in your inner space.