To most people, their yoga practice is seen as a relaxing yet invigorating activity that involves a limited amount of challenge or exertion. But some yoga practitioners decide to take their practice as far as they can, challenging themselves to more difficult yoga routines, styles, and classes. While much of the same benefits can be achieved through easier poses, those who gain the skill to perform advanced poses inspire others with their remarkable skill and devotion to the art.
Is it Necessary to Master Advanced Poses?
No matter if your yoga aspirations are to be a loyal student and gain the benefits or to get your 200 hours and become an instructor, there’s never a time when you’ll have to master the most advanced poses in yoga. It’s perfectly possible to get the benefits of yoga training without ever performing a Scorpion Headstand or other ridiculously difficult pose. The advanced skills of yoga are simply for those who want to push their yoga skills to new heights.
How to View Advanced Poses – Advice from Two Experts
To understand the role that advanced poses play in yoga practice, what better source to ask than a qualified yoga instructor? Experienced yoginis, Amy Hill-Johnson and Leanne Woehlke each have strong opinions on asanas that are considered advanced.
Yoga Instructor, Amy Hill-Johnson on Advanced Poses
Certified as a Registered Yoga Trainer (RYT 200) by Yoga Alliance and experienced at teaching in settings that span from classrooms full of kids to stressed-out office workers, Amy Hill-Johnson thoroughly understands the fascination with advanced yoga asanas.
“I think some people use advanced poses to show off the results they’ve achieved doing the more basic poses.” Amy explains.
“Also, I think you can make any pose an advanced pose if you focus on different aspects of it like refining your posture and proper breathing. There are a lot of ways to take even really familiar poses further.”
Owner of Epic Yoga Nashville Leanne Woehlke on Advanced Poses
As someone who went all-in on the yoga lifestyle and opened her own studio, Leanne Woehlke has a unique perspective on advanced asanas and the role they play in an effective yoga routine. She shared her thoughts on the mystique surrounding advanced yoga poses in a recent interview:
“Advanced training? I think that’s a misnomer. The more I practice, the more I come back to the basics. I think the beginner is more likely to be lured by “advanced” asanas. I can get just as excited about Warrior 1, as Handstand. The principles are the same. The illusion is that if a pose seems more like Cirque du Soleil, that the practitioner has a more illumined mind. That is total Bullshit…can I say that? And that is one of the problems with social media. We think that the outward expression is more important than what’s going on on the inside.”
Venturing Beyond the Masses – The Advanced Asanas of Yoga
Yoga experts agree that you can have a highly rewarding experience and reap all the benefits of yoga without the need to master headstands and other challenging poses. However, for those of you who love to challenge yourself and those who love yoga so much that there’s no stopping your progress, these advanced skills will definitely set you apart as an elite yoga practitioner who has taken their abilities above and beyond the norm.
1. Lord of the Dance Pose – Natarajasana
Requiring a combination of above-average balance and flexibility, the Lord of the Dance Pose is one of the more popular advanced poses you’re likely to see in your yoga practice. For some, it may take years of practice to execute this pose without holding on to a wall. But for those who choose to excel in their yoga training, the Lord of the Dance Pose is among the most graceful and beautiful in all of yoga.
2. Peacock Pose – Mayurasana
Advanced in that only those with excellent strength, coordination, and balance will be able to pull it off, the Peacock Pose is challenging on multiple levels. You may have excellent strength or a mastery of balance that lets you hold tree pose effortlessly, but you’ll require all of that and extra practice to make the Peacock Pose part of your yoga routine. Practicing the pose comes with numerous benefits, including an excellent workout for the arms and core.
3. Handstand – Adho Mukha Vrksasana
The quintessential advanced yoga pose requires not only masterful balance, but superior arm strength as well. Unless you have a background in gymnastics, the handstand pose is one that will prove challenging. Since maintaining balance is the most difficult aspect of this pose, practicing near a wall for support is an excellent way to get used to it and build up strength. With many variations for a continued challenge, practicing the handstand regularly will take your yoga skills to new heights.
4. King Pigeon Pose – Kapotasana
Not all advanced poses are difficult due to balance or strength requirements. For a challenging pose that tests your back flexibility to the max, King Pigeon is as tough as it looks. Obviously, it may take years of performing poses like the bridge before you’re ready to bend this deeply, but when it happens, you’ll know you’ve reached a level of flexibility that few yoga practitioners ever will. As you might expect, it’s vital to exercise caution while attempting the King Pigeon Pose.
5. Visvamitra’s Pose – Visvamitrasana
Arguably the pinnacle of elite yoga poses, Visvamitrasana combines several of the key skills learned in yoga. From hand balance and flexibility to the coordination to twist while in a difficult position, this is a pose that will challenge you to the core. Named after a king who became a legendary yoga sage, mastering Visamitra’s Pose will surely increase your skills beyond what you thought possible.
Is Advanced or Relaxing Yoga Better? There’s No Wrong Answer
If these poses seem intimidating, you’re not alone. The vast majority of yoga students will never be able to execute these poses – and the fact is, it won’t diminish their experience at all. There’s no responsible instructor that will make you execute anything you’re not comfortable with, and the reality is that many yoga instructors can’t or don’t perform advanced asanas themselves. But for those who are prepared to put in the effort, yoga offers numerous challenging skills that will greatly enhance your abilities and impress those who are content to stick to the basics.