I am teaching at a new studio, Bloom Fitness and Health, and one wall has floor to ceiling mirrors. I was talking to a friend about the new space and mentioned the mirrors. She exclaimed, “I would never do yoga in front of a mirror!” and it brought to mind the first yoga class I took with a wall of mirrors. I learned the visceral definition of discomfort. I felt like a bug under a magnifying glass in the full sun. I really enjoyed the teacher, so kept attending the class, but worked to find every possible space in the room where I could avoid the mirrors. I simply could not bring myself to look at my own body doing yoga.
There is a lot of debate in the yoga community over the use of mirrors in the studio. Many yogis argue that mirrors take away from the purpose of yoga- to focus inward and quiet the senses, finding the peace that rests deep inside. Mirrors turn on our competitive nature and distract from getting in touch with the inner guru. To a certain extent I agree. But I also feel that mirrors present a real life opportunity to practice something we all have to face day to day. We are stuck with ourselves. This is it, folks. This body right here, this belly, these hips, these feet. The opportunity arises- can you simply look in the mirror? Can you practice just seeing?
One peek at a time I learned to look at my body doing yoga. It helped to treat this as a function of exercise, noticing my body respond to alignment cues, observing what happened if I shortened my stance in Warrior II, or bent my knee a little in Triangle. But over time I have learned to feel wonder and awe at this belly, these hips, these feet and the stories that my ever changing somatic vehicle tells. Because at the end of the day we are anything but stuck with our body. Stuck implies things are static and unchanging. But the fact of the matter is our bodies are constantly changing, responding to the food we eat, the exercise we take, the life events that unfold. Even the simple act of breathing can make a drastic difference in how your body appears. Take the pictures above, for example.
On the left, I have inhaled deeply, relaxing my abdominal muscles to allow a full breath. On the right, I have exhaled and pulled my belly muscles in towards my spine. This is a breath practice called Uddiyana Bandha, or Upward Flying Lock. Same belly, the only difference is full lungs or empty lungs. I decided to include these pictures to demonstrate that neither state or image is preferred. I can’t live my life only inhaling or only exhaling, and also will not always be fit or unfit. Skinny belly or full belly. It’s all of the above.
I invite you to join me in exploring yoga with a mirror on Tuesdays at 6pm for Mama’s Flow and Restore. Sign Up Online with MindBody