Yoga is all about self improvement, so it makes sense that you would want to push yourself during class. Once you've gotten out of the safety net of a beginner's class, you might be tempted to move into a more advanced practice of yoga. But before you work on contorting your body, make sure you know how to avoid turning yourself into a pretzel. Advanced yoga poses have different facets that you'll need to master if you want to enhance your skills and get your advanced zen on.
Grab yoga props and the right type of mat for your practice so you're prepped for advanced poses. A thicker or stickier mat may help you feel supported and stable, while a strap can help you get a deeper stretch and a block can extend your arm's reach until you can attempt the pose sans props altogether.
Ask your instructor for modification ideas. No yogi walks into a class and suddenly assumes the extreme hummingbird pose on the first try. It takes plenty of practice to work on balance and posture before you're ready for advanced poses. As you master each incremental modification, you inch closer to being able to try something more advanced.
Practice posture above all other facets of your practice. While you might be anxious to take on the full bridge pose, your work means little if you don't get into the right posture beforehand. Yoga is about precision almost as much as it's about flexibility. If you're unsure about a difficult pose, ask your instructor for some tips, and don't push yourself into a pose for which you're not ready.
Breathe and focus through advanced yoga postures. Some require a high degree of strength, which could cause you to hold your breath to help you maintain a pose. However, breathing continually through the nose is a necessary part of yoga practice. If an advanced pose is so difficult that you're holding your breath, release the pose and take a modified version.
Focus on a specific spot on the floor when you're in a pose that requires a high degree of balance. One-foot poses or inverted headstand poses require that you're completely focused in order to maintain perfect balance. Spotting, or picking an immobile spot in the room and zeroing in on it, can help you ignore distractions and keep your balance.
- "Yoga: The Art of Balance: A Practical Guide to Yoga for the 21st Century"; Jim Gaudette; iUniverse, 2008
- The Expanding Light: Tips for Teaching Continuing-Level (Advanced) Yoga Classes
Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.