There is a lot of talk nowadays about “advanced” Yoga. There is a studio down the block from me that has a large banner that says “advanced teacher training.” I wrote a post about a woman who would not attend classes at my studio because the highest level is labeled “intermediate 2” and she wanted something more “advanced” even though she did not practice on her own. So what exactly considered “advanced” in Yoga?
Yoga Sutra 1.22 says mrdu madhya adminatratvat tatah api visesah, or the time necessary for success further depends on whether the practice is mild, medium or intense. Of course every practice in the beginning is “intense,” or at least “intense feeling.” The ego is quick to identify this as “intensive practice” or even “advanced.” But does that make one “advanced” at Yoga?
A raw beginner at yoga needs at least two years of standing poses done two or more times a week before that practitioner just gets a “glimpse” of what the body is supposed to do in Asana. From my experience as a teacher and practitioner, that figure is more like 5 years. Keep in mind I am only speaking in terms of Asana and not the other limbs.
The progression from what I can perceive is as such: first you learn how to do the asanas while maintaining the yamas and niyamas. Then you learn pranayama. Then you begin your own practice based on what you have learned and study the sutras. Then you start to have realizations that asanas are not merely physical postures and pranayama is not merely “breathing exercises,” but create certain effects in the mind and behavior. Then you have realizations that the practice is slowly stripping away parts of your self perception that don’t correspond with your own true self. Then, eventually, there is only the true self practicing. You are no longer doing asanas and pranayama, they are doing you. At this point, then one can say they are “advancing” in Yoga and not necessarily “advanced.”
If this does not fit into your concept of Yoga, then good! You will not have the aforementioned experiences in a yoga studio, in teacher training, in workshops. You will only experience these on your own in your own practice. Are you mild, medium, or intense? That’s up to you. Are you advanced? That is not for me to judge.