As a yogi you learn many things along the journey, including how to hold a headstand for several minutes at a time, but also your tongue when someone says something you don’t necessarily agree with. You learn how to do complicated binds and twists, while also intuitively knowing when to let go in relationships, and under certain life circumstances. As other advanced yogis, you may be able to practice some deep backbends, but you have also developed a great heart, that is not protected and closed-off, while also respecting your personal boundaries when others want to take advantage of your kindness. You radiate peace and knowing, but also great humility because even after a decade or more of yoga practice, you realize there is so much more to learn.
What Exactly Defines Advanced Yogis?
With more and more people calling themselves ‘advanced yogis’ it gets hard to distinguish the true sadhaks and gurus from the charlatans, but here are a few signs that you have reached a more advanced level in your yoga practice, or that a teacher you may be considering learning from is the real deal:
A true master is a clear channel for higher awareness
Advanced yogis do not act from ego, but from a clear consciousness from having done their own work. You can smell a faker from miles away. They will not walk their talk. While they are telling everyone else what they should do to be a better person, they do not do these things themselves. A true master has mastered themselves before they try to dish out wisdom for others.
A true master is not perfect
While a true guru or advanced yogi will have mastered many of life’s bigger conundrums, they are not perfect. Advanced yogis realize they are a work in progress and admit that openly to themselves and to others.
A master / student are interchangeable roles
We learn from teaching and teach from learning. An advanced yogi realizes this.
A teacher’s expectations can affect how a student performs
A true guru will lead with the expectation that their students will someday pass them up, and will need a new teacher to bring them further along their path. They never expect to be their teacher for ‘forever,’ knowing that people come into our lives and move out of them as needed, and determined by our higher wisdom.
A great teacher isn’t ‘on’ everyday
A true guru won’t be at their peak everyday, but they do have a consistent level of performance. Maybe they teach a more active class one day, and a meditative one the next, but their level of commitment to their student’s learning is apparent in every class they construct and teach. Students will feel the commitment of the teacher no matter what the lesson being taught is composed of.
A true guru or advanced practitioner teaches without teaching
Just like little children, we will follow someone who is modeling the behaviors we would like to incorporate into ourselves without even being aware of it. If you want to be more positive and outgoing, then you will likely be drawn to someone who embodies these qualities. Likewise, a true guru will bring into their periphery, a group of people who have similar qualities to their own. You can tell a lot about the type of teacher that someone is by observing their students.
A tip of the iceberg of a true yoga practice
Advanced yogis can do lots of ‘advanced’ yoga postures, but they understand that these are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a true yoga practice.
Yoga means union, after all, or to ‘yoke’ oneself to the Divine. This cannot be done simply by bending oneself into odd shapes, or standing on one’s head. These are simply tools to strengthen the physical body in preparation for the spiritual journey which yoga leads a person down. When a person has been practicing yoga for ten years or more, they have often done a lot more than just how to do endless Sun Salutations or sit in Full Lotus Pose (Padmasana). They have also probably studied Patanjali’s Yamas and Niyamas and tried to put them into action.