what level are you?
surely, you’ve been asked that before. so, what do you answer? level one? two? three? (that’s clever yoga-speak for beginner, intermediate, or advanced).
how do you know? because you can do a handstand? because you can’t do a handstand? actually…neither factor matters one bit. and if you think it does, you’re a “one”.
here’s a simple five-point test to know if you’re a “three”.
1. are you breathing? by which i don’t mean “are you alive or dead”. i mean, are you breathing deeply and mindfully? can you last an entire practice without a single breath flying under the radar? consistent, constant, focused breathing is a sign of an advanced practitioner. your body can’t breathe ujjayi breath, for example, without your mind being focused and intent. as soon as your mind slips, so does the breath. pranayama is the meditative foundation for the entire practice. and you can be an advanced yogi without knowing the word pranayama…but look it up anyway.
2. do you have a life? while you’re practicing, the answer is no. at least no life outside of yoga. when you are practicing, your mind should be 100% focused on your yoga…not on your job or your hot date or your dinner or your hot yoga teacher. (hello! stop thinking about your hot yoga teacher for a minute and finish this paragraph). the focus starts with the breath and continues through the asana. that means that you don’t just go through motions. you pay attention. you don’t move through rote or memory, but through mindfulness and acute awareness. you work on refining even the really easy poses and don’t get sloppy when things get hard. your focus is intent and pure on the yoga only. okay…now you can think about your hot yoga instructor for a second. when you’re ready, read on…
3. do you fall? falling is a really good indication that you are trying. particularly in a more challenging class. if you are one of those people who prefer to lounge around during difficult poses and “learn through osmosis”, there is little chance you will fall. if everyone else is trying to stand on their hands, and you’re sitting on your butt, you’re a “one”. if you’re really trying to stand on your hands and you’re breathing and you’re focused and you’re falling all over the place, making loud noises as you fall and maybe even taking some collateral damage with you on the way, hey, you can still be a “three”. the integrity is in the effort. not the execution.
4. are you comfortable? an advanced yogi/ni is someone who is willing to work beyond his or her comfort zone. if you back off as soon as things get difficult, you’re still at square one. remember that you can never grow in life by receding into your comfort zone. the only way to grow is to push your edges, take risks, and step away from what is comfortable and complacent. not only does the advanced yogi/ni fall sometimes, s/he also gets right back up and tries again. and again. and again…
5. and this is the biggie…who are you? i mean who are you really? the advanced yogi/ni is a person who has taken the yogic precepts and ethics into his or her life and does the right thing as often as possible. s/he may not be perfect, but s/he sure as heck tries to be.
and that’s how you know when you’ve arrived. so…have you?